Thursday, 14 April 2011

Best Actor 1960: Laurence Olivier in The Entertainer

Laurence Olivier received his sixth acting nomination for portraying Archie Rice in The Entertainer.

The Entertainer is an effective character study in the kitchen sink style British film, about the troubles of an aging third rate vaudevillian.

It is quite interesting to see Laurence Olivier in this role as the very much down on his luck washed up, Vaudevillian. Olivier after all commonly plays Princes, Kings, and rich fellows but not this time. The great part though is he is just as believable in this part than many of the Kings he portrayed. As almost always with Olivier he very much creates a more unique character than even written. The first time one sees Archie Rice is when he performing on stage in a not particularly successful show. Olivier is completely believable as this vaudevillian fully creating a stage character as a fast moving comic performer. Olivier is particularly good here because not only is he believable, but he also makes Rice's performance lacking just enough to make him third rate.

I really loved his stage persona Olivier created for Rice though with his quick talking, and very specific almost stilted mannerisms on stage which fit perfectly for Rice. Olivier is excellent because he does not show Rice flubbing his performance, nor does he show him completely putting his complete an whole self into it. Instead Olivier properly suggests, a performer who knows his routine, knows how to do it, and does put effort into, but has been doing over and over again, probably far too many times.

His cheerful stage persona though hides Archie rather poor personal life with his family. Olivier is quite interesting here because he shows that Archie tends to just put on another facade again when dealing with his family. A slightly happy man, but not major problems going on in his mind, is what Olivier shows on the outside of Archie, but deep within there is far more to him. Olivier shows Archie to almost always being in denial, and for this moment trying to hide his deep sadness and concern over the capture of his son who is in the army, by acting like he barely even knows it happened.

The one thing Archie does care about though is his career, as he is trying to open an another show well his current one is unsuccessful. Olivier shows once again another the facade that he puts on in which he tries to convince people to invest with him. Olivier shows another different one that is a slight change from his stage persona, sorta realistic stage persona. Olivier shows in Archie, a charm he gets out from talking quickly, and again always smiling. Olivier though still shows beneath Archie a true sadness which resides within him.

Olivier shows that through these facades is the only way Archie at all gets through his life, and that he really cannot do without them. He shows that Archie is almost never truthful to anyone really, and when he is it is only for brief moments. He usually though goes right back to a facade. I think one moment in particular that is great is when Archie's wife freaks out over her son, and Archie does let on to himself a little bit, but only briefly quickly going back to being energetic, and charming, which he only does to hide himself from reality.

Only a few times does Archie really break off all his facades and absolutely shows who he is deep inside himself. One scene is when his financial backing falls out for his new show, and he completely finally is unable to put on any facade in a truly fascinating scene by Olivier showing completely honest angry emotions for once from Archie. The other scenes involve moments alone with hid daughter, where he breaks all his facades talking tenderly with her, as well as showing the deep sadness of the man behind all his acts, the man who he himself refers to as dead already.

Archie really is an awful person, who is certainly quite selfish, but Olivier finds humanity in Archie nonetheless. It is an amazing portrait of a man who refuses to face reality, and uses the one thing he knows to protect himself from it, which is performance. Olivier truly shows a complete portrait of a man, who refuses to live his life without his act, and I think his performance is best summed by his last scene on the vaudevillian stage. He once again hides his life problems with song and dance, but this time he cannot do it all the way, showing finally on the stage where his facade was the strongest, his bitterness, and sadness as he makes his final walk of stage in an outstanding final moment to this great performance.


dinasztie said...

I really blew my predictions. Here we go again:

dshultz said...

Oh, wow. I did not see this coming. This might be the Stuart Whitman in The Mark kind of upset from 1961. wow.

Anonymous said...

I agree - I saw this fairly recently and he was terrific.

Groggy Dundee said...

Olivier's best performance definitely. I find myself humming the "Why Should I Care?" song quite frequently.