Archive for Laurence Olivier

The Sunday Intertitle: Burning Blue Soul

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on March 5, 2017 by dcairns

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Finally watched all of William Wyler’s THE STOLEN RANCH, which I mentioned a while back.

Wyler’s claim that, during his days churning out B-westerns, he spent sleepless nights trying to think up new ways of showing a man getting on and off a horse, is borne out slightly by this one — particularly when the hero mounts his steed with an impressive sideways leap that almost topples the poor creature ~

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The story is pretty childish, dependent on the villains conducting all their covert business in a room adjoining the kitchen where they KNOW the hero works. Everything is overheard, and without the need for a “wire tapp.”

Faced with such generic and fatuous material, and probably a pretty tight schedule, Wyler does pull off a few nice angles, particularly when he makes use of the actors’ dorsal views — it’s something he continued to exploit in later films — CARRIE springs to mind (not the Spacek) where he exploits Olivier’s ability to express strong emotion with his back to the camera. The intense relationship between two men which SHOULD be at the heart of the story is swiftly diverted by the addition of twin romantic interests (and the obligatory, unconvincing misunderstanding), but not before we’ve had this ~

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And the Oscar goes to…

Posted in FILM, Television with tags , , , , , , , on February 27, 2017 by dcairns

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For a moment there I was feeling a good deal of sympathy for Warren Beatty. As he said, he was handed the wrong envelope. Finding a card saying “Emma Stone, LA LA LAND” he was understandably nonplussed. Had he looked at the ENVELOPE, it would have been clear what had happened, but in the heat of the moment, it’s understandable that he froze and didn’t think to do that.

Except that won’t quite do, because the card doesn’t just say “Emma Stone, LA LA LAND” it also says “Best Actress” or “Best Actress in a Leading Role” or something. Which means it might as well have said “This is the Wrong Card.” Which would be a surprising thing to read, but not actually a confusing one. You might be thrown by it, but you wouldn’t hand the card over to Faye Dunaway to read out.

I don’t blame Faye, who must have thought Warren had lost it, taking so long to read the damn card. So that when she got a look at it, she thought time was of the essence and blurted out the name of the film printed there.

The same thing ALMOST happened in 1985.

Larry Olivier was given the job of presenting. He omitted to read the nominees’ names. Which caused a couple of the organizers a moment of panic — did Olivier read the name of the winner or did he just read the first name, alphabetically, on the list of nominees.

The organizers rushed up to him afterwards and asked him this. “I have absolutely no idea,” Sir Larry blinked. There was then, as I recall, some kind of CAR CHASE to find the only person who actually knew what was supposed to be in the envelope. It turned out that, by luck or good judgement, the right film won. And I think, actually, the best film of those nominated, which God knows is unusual enough

The Murderers

Posted in FILM, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 8, 2014 by dcairns

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“Larry is deeply, and I mean deeply, stupid,” says Orson Welles to Henry Jaglom. But it can’t have been altogether true, can it? Of course, some great artists may be brilliant in their own field and painfully naive outside of it, but I’d hold up Olivier’s first three films as evidence that he had something on the ball. Of course, they each have one foot in theatre, and so does their star — how could it be otherwise? But when a filmmaker like Polanski comes out and says Olivier was a great movie director, one should take notice.

I enjoyed Olivier’s RICHARD III in its splendidly restored Criterion release, looking brand new and almost painfully crisp. Fiona disliked his nose and didn’t stay for the rest. “It’s not human!” she protested. I pointed to Douglas Wilmer, down the cast list a bit, sporting a comparable schnozzola. “I think Larry saw that and said ‘Get me one of those.'” Both snouts proceed at a thirty degree angle like an exact continuation of the actors’ foreheads. I was still marveling at this feat of nature and the makeup department when Stanley Baker shows up with his brow overhanging dangerously, a cranial escarpment that defies gravity. His eyes look like they’re straining to hold it all up.

Olivier apparently felt he made a mistake casting Ralph Richardson, and wished he could have gotten Orson for the part of Buckingham. I see his problem — Richardson is a shade too real. While Gielgud makes a song out of everything, and Olivier is Mr. Punch made flesh, Richardson plays a political villain with no hint of artificial “characterisation” — he just says the words beautifully, guided by their rhythm, letting his steely, slightly mad stare hold our attention. Explaining his decision to use theatrical sets in HENRY V, Olivier said he feared otherwise the audience would say, “So that’s a house, and that’s a tree, and that’s a field; why is everyone talking so funny?” Heightened artifice in the production design matches Shakespeare’s blank verse. So the problem with Richardson is that his very convincing-ness isn’t in keeping. It’s not that he’s naturalistic — Richardson was slightly unreal even in real life — it’s just that he’s not one the (putty) nose, like everyone else. If Olivier’s Richard is a villain, what is Ralph? I expected him to turn out to be a good guy.

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We also get a nubile Bernard Hepton (I think I spotted him blowing a bugle), also credited quaintly for “sword play”, but most enchanting are the murderers, played by Michaels Gough & Ripper, two giants of the Hammer horror realm which doesn’t even exist in 1955. But who could be better? I’m reminded that Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing are both in Olivier’s HAMLET, separately. Presumably, when I watch HENRY V again, I’m going to suddenly recognize Madeline Smith and Ingrid Pitt.

Towards the end, Richard draws the positions of his troops in the dust using his sword-point. And Olivier cuts to a wide of Bosworth Field, and the full-scale army is painted into place by a giant sword-tip, descending lightly from the heavens. Maybe it’s the kind of thing that, when you have something like it, you need to have a couple more things like it to make it fit into the overall style. But it’s brilliant and bold and breathtaking — this man is not stupid.