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The Entertainer

4.2 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

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

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Laurence Olivier, Brenda de Banzie, Roger Livesey, Joan Plowright, Alan Bates
  • Directors: Tony Richardson
  • Writers: John Osborne, Nigel Kneale
  • Producers: Harry Saltzman, John Croydon
  • Format: Black & White, Closed-captioned, Letterboxed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
  • DVD Release Date: June 19, 2001
  • Run Time: 96 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005AUK8
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,904 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Entertainer" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on July 28, 2003
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
"Hmm -- a movie called *The Entertainer*, with a smiling Laurence Olivier on the DVD's cover. He looks like he wants to give us all a big hug. There are even chorus girls dancing behind him. This looks like fun!" -- Nope: it's one of the most depressing movies ever made. Well, there IS some fun to be had by watching Olivier totally INHABIT the character of Archie Rice: truly a case of the 20th Century's greatest actor playing one of the best roles in 20th Century drama. Let it be said at once that this is Olivier's best film performance, and never mind all those Shakespeares. (He thought so too, calling the role of Archie Rice his all-time favorite and the one he most closely related to.) The movie is based on the original stage play, written by the original Angry Young Man, the great playwright John Osborne. The superficial thing to say about *The Entertainer* is that Archie Rice symbolizes England itself after World War II. This story encapsulates like no other (including Osborne's earlier *Look Back in Anger*) that "British post-War malaise" you've heard so much about. Much like England in 1960, the man harbors illusions of grandeur based on a speciously "glorious" past. And like the country, Archie is in reality outdated, irrelevant, dingy, unpleasant, past his prime, desperate, pathetic -- in a phrase, he's very much like the sleazy seaside resort town wherein he plies his trade as a vaudevillian. And you can draw an easy parallel between Archie's attempts to keep his bankrupt show afloat with England's senseless, imperial involvement in Palestine at this time. (Or was it Suez? -- it's been a while since I've seen the movie. In any case, it was someplace where they no longer belonged.) But these exercises are for film theory class.Read more ›
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Format: DVD
"Why should I care,

Why should I let it touch me?

Why shouldn't I sit down and try to let it pass over me.

Why should they stare, why should I let it get me...

What's the use of despair if they call you a square?

You're a long time dead like my old pal Fred

So why oh why should I

Bother to care?"

Archie Rice sings this depressing and cynical second-rate song as part of his depressingly bad music hall routine in The Entertainer, a depressing but skillfully acted movie. Archie Rice (Lawrence Olivier) is a third-rate, aging vaudeville entertainer, headlining his own show in the run-down English seaside resort of Morecomb. He's just about at the end of his string, playing to half-empty, bored audiences, running up debt, and desperate to stay in the business. He has a wife, Phoebe (Brenda De Banzie) who loves him and drinks too much, a daughter, Jean (Joan Plowright), who also loves him but has no illusions about him, two sons, Mick (Albert Finney), who joined the Army and is being shipped off to Suez, and Frank (Alan Bates), who works for his father in the music hall, and his own father, Billy Rice (Roger Livesey), once a headliner but now aging and retired. In the course of the movie Archie one way or another uses them, fails them or both.

The Entertainer is grim stuff. It's redeemed, I think, by two elements. First, it represents the reaction in the Fifties by British playwrights such as John Osborne to the polished, upper-class and unrealistic theater in Britain following WWII. Playwrights such as Christopher Fry and Terrence Rattigan produced hugely popular works that many thought were out of touch with reality.
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Format: VHS Tape
That's what has-been vaudevillian Laurence Olivier says to daughter Joan Plowright when commenting on his frustrating, failed life in "The Entertainer", and when he says it and you look, by golly if he doesn't look dead indeed.
This movie makes me uncomfortable and I really don't like to watch it, but that cannot make me deny that it is one of Olivier's greatest jobs. I think part of the way he can convey this male menopause pathos derived from his own life at the time, the way Gable's own tragedies inform "Homecoming". At this point, yes, Olivier had won an Oscar and gained a knighthood, but his personal life was a shambles. He was married to Vivien Leigh who was sickly and suffering from mental illness. He once described it to Lauren Bacall in this fashion: The first ten years were heaven, the last hell. The strain was beginning to show in Larry, and that's what is communicated in his depiction of Archie Rice, the entertainer who hasn't got any joy in his own life. Archie's made a mess of things: he's a bankrupt, he's got a wife who's stupid and tiresome, he's got to play in these tawdry seaside resorts. He manages to seduce a naive young girl, and is hoping perhaps to shake off both the wife and this bad luck that's been plaguing him, but everything always falls through. Life can't help being lousy, I guess is the message of "The Entertainer", and does one heck of a job showing us the seamy side of a two-bit talent's life.
Of course, the great irony is that in real life, Olivier began an affair with the actress playing his daughter, Joan Plowright. What might have been just another example of life imitating art--of Olivier playing out the seducer element of "The Entertainer"--actually worked out to his benefit.
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