Despite success on the field, a rising rugby star senses the emerging emptiness of his life as his inner angst begins to materialize through aggression and brutality, so he attempts to woo his landlady in hopes of finding reason to live.
On the far side of middle age, Archie Rice lives in a British seaside resort with his father, retired successful vaudevillian Billy Rice, second wife Phoebe Rice, and doting son Frank Rice. Following in retired Billy's footsteps, Archie is a song-and-dance music hall headliner, with Frank supporting his dad as his shows' stage manager. The waning popularity of Archie's type of shows, a dying form of entertainment, is not helped by Archie's stale second rate material, which brings in small unappreciative crowds. Archie clings to his long held lifestyle, including heavy drinking and chronic infidelity, of which Phoebe is aware. What Archie has not told his offspring is that Phoebe was his mistress while he was still married to their now deceased mother. His want to be a music hall headliner is despite his financial problems, he an undischarged bankrupt who now signs Phoebe's name to everything. Phoebe wants them to escape this life to something more stable, such as the offer from her ... Written by
Part of Laurence Olivier's performance was based on the Music Hall comedian Max Miller a.k.a. "The Cheeky Chappy" ("They'll never be another one like me"). Miller was anything but third rate, having been the highest-paid variety show entertainer of his time at 1,500 pounds per week, plus a percentage of the takings. (Olivier purposely toned down the act because being third rate was part of the story.) Miller never performed in Blackpool however, because he believed his humor wouldn't travel to the north. See more »
Jeannie, love. Shall I tell you something? All my life I've been searching for something. A draught Bass you could drink all night without running off every ten minutes, without feeling sick, and all for fourpence. The man who could offer me that would really get my vote.
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That little song that Laurence Olivier sings through out The Entertainer as part of his musical hall act really does sum up his philosophy of life.
Outside of the classics this is Olivier's greatest role and some would not even put that qualifier on his performance. Olivier retained great affection for his role as Archie Rice. He said it contained more of the real him than any other role.
That's hard to believe because what Archie Rice is is a third rate song and dance man. His father played by Roger Livesey was a great performer back in the day. But Archie never has and never will make it to the top. Think Frank Sinatra and Frank Sinatra, Jr. and you get some idea.
He's more like Willy Loman in that he's facing his midlife crisis, knowing full well he's not really accomplished all that much. Still he plods on. Unlike Willy the luckless middle-aged salesman, Archie's full of tricks. His credit is all gone, and he's planning to woo and win a young beauty who's an airhead like her mom with the object of getting their backing for a new show. He's ready to throw over wife Brenda DaBanzie without a by your leave.
The only one who Olivier has any kind of human feelings for is his daughter played by Joan Plowright. It was in the original cast of The Entertainer that Olivier first met the woman who became the third and last Mrs. Olivier. When he was made a peer in fact Joan became Lady Olivier.
In fact from the Broadway production, Olivier, Plowright and DaBanzie were the only ones from that cast who were in the film. But some rising young talent like Alan Bates, Albert Finney, and Daniel Massey all got some good first notice in The Entertainer playing Olivier's two sons and Plowright's fiancé.
The Entertainer is a downer of a film. There ain't a middle aged man who doesn't know what Archie is going through. But our sympathies are never with him. Usually that would mean one big box office flop if the audience can't sympathize or empathize. But it's Olivier's skill as a player that makes us want to see what does become of Archie.
It's an ending, but in a very minor key. Well deserved I thought.
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