Laurence Olivier

What’s on TCM: April 2013

Olivier, Laurence_01Looks like we’re in for another busy month on TCM!  TCM has finally broken their long streak of making actresses the Star of the Month by giving the honor to Laurence Olivier in April.

Starting this month, every Friday night will be dedicated to a new series called Friday Night Spotlight.  Each month, Robert Osborne and a different guest co-host will introduce films dealing with a particular theme.  The first Friday Night Spotlight co-host is Cher, who has selected a number of movies with strong female characters, focusing on themes such as motherhood and women in the workplace each week.

If you’re a fan of TCM Underground, be sure to note that starting this month, it has been moved from Friday to Saturday nights.  The 2:00 AM start time remains the same, though.

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What’s on TCM: May 2012

Happy May, everyone!  It certainly looks like it’s going to be a busy month on TCM.  Joel McCrea is the star of the month, which is something I know a lot of people have been wanting to see for quite some time.  He’ll be featured every Wednesday night this month.  Every Thursday night will be all about movies based on true crime stories.  Plus there’s the annual 48-hour war movie marathon for Memorial day will run from May 27-28.  So without further ado, let’s get to the schedule:

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My Week With Marilyn (2011)

Anyone will tell you that the hardest part of the movie industry is getting your foot in the door.  Things are no different for 23 year old Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne).  He desperately wants to work in the film industry and eagerly waits around the offices of Laurence Olivier’s (Kenneth Branagh) production company, ready to take any job at all that comes along.  Eventually, he ends up getting a job as the third assistant director on Olivier’s new film, The Prince and the Showgirl.  The production of The Prince and the Showgirl was anything but smooth sailing, with Olivier and Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) constantly at odds with each other.  When Marilyn’s new husband Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott) leaves England to visit his children in America, Marilyn becomes desperately lonely but begins to find a true friend in Colin.  The two of them become very close, and although their friendship is brief, it leaves a lasting impression on Colin.

Although the movie was good, I don’t expect it to get a Best Picture Oscar nomination come award season.  Maybe at the Golden Globes, but not at the Oscars.  However, I do see it doing well in the acting categories.  Michelle Williams totally nailed it as Marilyn.  When I first heard about her being cast in this film, even though she isn’t a dead ringer for Marilyn, I was happy since I knew she would give a very thoughtful performance and I was not disappointed.  She really did her homework and it paid off big time.  Michelle has talked a great deal lately about how she got into character and I’ve been enjoying hearing what she had to say about that process.  Not only did she read biographies and watch her films, but she also studied the things that Marilyn studied as well.  She read the same books on body language and how to present yourself that Marilyn studied and used to shape her image.  Michelle has also discussed how it was a challenge for her to find Marilyn’s natural voice.  You can listen to plenty of recordings of Marilyn’s voice, but just because she spoke that way in films doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the same way she would speak to a friend while having lunch.  And there aren’t any recordings of Marilyn just having a casual conversation with a friend, so Michelle had to imagine what that voice sounded like and I think she did a good job of figuring that out.

The rest of the cast is also very strong, particularly Kenneth Branagh as Laurence Olivier and Judi Dench as Dame Sybil Thorndike.  Between Michelle Williams and Kenneth Branagh, it’s easy to forget that they’re not playing the main roles, Eddie Redmayne is.  He was good, too, but is totally eclipsed by Branagh and Williams.  The only casting choice I didn’t care for was Julia Ormond as Vivien Leigh.  Julia looked older than Vivien Leigh did at that time.  When it comes to portraying real people in films, I think you can get away with not casting a dead ringer if they compensate by giving an amazing performance.  But if it’s a small part, then you’re better off going for a lookalike since there isn’t much time to make up for it performance-wise.  Since the part of Vivien Leigh isn’t terribly big, I think they could have tried a little harder with that casting.

The important thing to remember about My Week With Marilyn is that it is not a Marilyn Monroe biopic.  If you go into this expecting that, you will be disappointed.  However, if you saw 2008’s Me and Orson Welles and liked that, you’ll probably enjoy My Week With Marilyn as well.

Disclosure:  I saw this at a free advance screening, the passes were given away by a local television station.

The Entertainer (1960)


It’s not uncommon for people to want to spend time with their families when they’re under pressure.  So when Jean Rice (Joan Plowright) is overwhelmed from dealing with a fiancé who wants to move to Africa and her brother being off in Egypt fighting in a war, she takes a trip to see her family.  But when she gets there, she realizes things aren’t quite what they used to be.  The resort town they live in isn’t as crowded as it ought to be and her father, music hall performer Archie Rice (Laurence Olivier), isn’t drawing the crowds he used to.  Considering that music hall was on its way out, a lot of people would try to move onto something else.  Not Archie, though.  Archie is kind of like the Norma Desmond of music hall performers — once popular, but he refuses to accept that times have changed and simply won’t give up the stage.  He’s chronically in debt (he’s spent the last twenty years dodging the Income Tax people), he drinks a lot, and makes no efforts to hide his womanizing from his wife Phoebe (Brenda De Banzie).  After judging a bathing beauty pageant, Archie starts having an affair with the runner-up in hopes that her rich parents would finance his new show.  He meets with her parents and they’d be happy to fund his new show, as long as their daughter gets to star in it.  Meanwhile, Archie’s son has been captured in Egypt, but he can’t be bothered to care too much since he is so focused on reviving his career.

When Jean finds out that Archie is thinking of divorcing Phoebe and marrying this new girl, she is furious and tells her grandfather, retired dance hall performer Billy Rice (Roger Livesey).  Billy is equally furious and finds the girl’s parents and tells them all about Archie’s marriage and financial problems.  Of course, they immediately pull their backing and leave Archie a frantic mess.  When he thought the show was a sure thing, he signed some checks in his own name, which he isn’t supposed to do because of his bad credit.  Billy, feeling guilty, agrees to come out of retirement to appear in Archie’s show so he will be able to get funding.  However, this new show is plagued by tragedies.  Billy collapses and dies right before going on stage  opening night and then Archie gets word that his son has been killed in the war.  Most of the family is ready to move on to Canada and take an opportunity to run a hotel.  But not even the threat of going to jail for tax evasion is enough to make Archie want to step out of his spotlight.

Laurence Olivier’s performance as Archie Rice is nothing less than inspired.  When it comes to movies about has-been stars, the two big ones are What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and Sunset Boulevard, but The Entertainer really ought to be mentioned alongside those movies.  Olivier manages to go from pathetic to infuriating to downright heartbreaking without missing a beat.  It’s hard for me to even articulate just how genius he was in this movie.  It’s one of those things where the performance itself speaks more than words ever could.  Just watch this scene to get a little taste:

One of my favorite scenes in the movie was the final scene where Archie is performing, but quickly realizes that he’s doing his last show ever.  It very much reminds me of the famous final scene from Sunset Boulevard:

Laurence Olivier gave a lot of outstanding performances in his career, and his performance as Archie Rice easily ranks as one of his greatest.

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