Screen legend Laurence Olivier (Wuthering Heights) delivers an OscarÂ(r)-nominated*,"smashing performance" (Time) in this riveting film that brought him his "greatest contemporary role" (Pauline Kael). Co-starring Albert Finney and Alan Bates (in their screen debuts), this powerful, thought-provoking and vividly theatrical film, true to its name, is supremely entertaining. Career first. Everything else second. According to vaudevillian Archie Rice, the show must go oneven if it means stringing along his fellow performers, exploiting the hopes and money of a starlet and neglecting his own family. This is Archie's world but not everyone wants to live in it. His only daughter (Joan Plowright) will do everything she can to break through and bring him around if only she can make him listen. *1960: Actor
Laurence Olivier broke with the theatrical poise of previous roles to play seedy music-hall entertainer Archie Rice in John Osborne's acclaimed play, The Entertainer
, reprising the role in Tony Richardson's 1960 screen version and earning an Oscar nomination for his performance. Olivier gives his all as the gap-toothed vaudevillian living in the shadow of his music-hall-legend father Billy Rice (Roger Livesey), spitting out pithy wisecracks and mugging pathetically for bored audiences in seaside dives. Under the life-of-the-party patter, however, is a pathetic music-hall dinosaur trying too hard for his moment in the spotlight, nursing his wounded humiliation in trysts with naïve young girls and pouring out his passion in his finale tune, "Why Should I Care." "I have an affinity with Archie Rice," Olivier once opined. "It's what I really am. I'm not like Hamlet."
Shot on location on the boardwalk carnivals and holiday camps of the British seaside, the shabby show-biz world is beautifully photographed but never quite shakes off its origins on the stage. It's the vivid performances that drive the drama: Joan Plowright (who married Olivier in 1961) as his pragmatic daughter; Alan Bates and Albert Finney (making their film debuts) as his sons, a next-generation show-biz hustler and a soldier shipped off to the Suez, respectively; and Brenda de Banzie as Archie's long-suffering wife. "You've been a good audience. Let me know where you're playing tomorrow and I'll come see you." --Sean Axmaker