The Entertainer (film)

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The Entertainer
Directed byTony Richardson
Produced byHarry Saltzman
Screenplay byJohn Osborne
Nigel Kneale
Based onThe Entertainer
by John Osborne
StarringLaurence Olivier
Brenda de Banzie
Roger Livesey
Joan Plowright
Daniel Massey
Music byJohn Addison
CinematographyOswald Morris
Edited byAlan Osbiston
Distributed byBritish Lion Films
Release date
25 July 1960
Running time
107 min., 37 sec.[1]
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box officeless than £64,000 (UK)[3]

The Entertainer is a British 1960 drama film directed by Tony Richardson, based on the stage play of the same name by John Osborne. It stars Laurence Olivier as a failing third-rate music-hall stage performer who tries to keep his career going even as the music-hall tradition fades into history and his personal life falls apart.[4]

The film was adapted by Osborne and Nigel Kneale from Osborne's play, and was produced by Harry Saltzman.[5] It was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Olivier).[6] It was filmed on location in the Lancashire seaside town of Morecambe.[4]


Jean Rice, a young London art teacher, travels to a seaside resort (not specified but partly filmed in Morecambe) to visit her family. She is emotionally confused, having had a row with her fiancé, who wants her to emigrate with him to Africa. She also is deeply concerned about the Suez Crisis, having seen her soldier brother go to the war. She has attended a peace rally in Trafalgar Square, directed against prime minister Anthony Eden.

She finds that the resort has declined from its pre-Second World War heyday and is now drawing waning crowds, despite being in mid-season. The music-hall act of her father Archie Rice (Olivier) plays out to a small number of increasingly uninterested spectators. Her family is deeply dysfunctional. Her beloved grandfather, once one of the leading stars of the music hall, lives in quiet retirement with his daughter-in-law and grandson.

Jean goes to the theatre where her father is playing. As well as being an undischarged bankrupt and a semi-alcoholic, he is desperately short of money and is hounded by creditors – the income-tax people as well as his unpaid cast. He is adored by his cynical son and watched with mild amusement by his father; but his relationship with Phoebe, his second wife, is strained. He is a womaniser, and she is well aware of his tendencies, openly commenting on them to the rest of the family. She is often found drinking heavily.

With his latest show drawing to a close, Archie is desperate to secure a new show for the winter season. While acting as master of ceremonies at a Miss Great Britain beauty contest, he charms Tina Lapford, the young woman who finished in second place. Soon he is conducting an affair with her. Her wealthy and ambitious parents want her to have an entertainment career and are willing to put up the money for Archie's new show, if it includes her. They shake hands on the deal.

While this is going on, the radio reports that Archie's son Mick has been captured by the Egyptians at Suez after a major firefight. Archie seems oblivious of the news and the distress of his family. He is fixated with his dream of restarting his stalled career and his affair. His daughter discovers the affair and tells her grandfather. He, acting out of what he believes are his son's best interests, goes to the girl's parents and tells them that Archie is already married and a bankrupt. They swiftly break off all connections with him, ending their financing for his next show.

While he is still digesting this turn of events, news arrives that Archie's son has been killed in Egypt. His body is returned and a civic commemoration is attended by the whole town. It is reported that he will be awarded a Victoria Cross for his actions. Archie is still too busy fixating on his career to notice how his family is falling apart at the news. His brother-in-law wants to help the family to relocate to Canada and help him run a hotel but Archie rebuffs him. Instead he persuades an impresario to promote a new show, with his father as the headline attraction. His father, despite his age, is still extremely popular, and there is a public demand for his return.

On the opening night, his father collapses and dies, completing the estrangement of the family. His wife and son are determined to go to Canada, and Archie is set on staying in Britain, even if it means going to jail. The film ends with Archie making an apparently final performance to an apathetic audience.



The film was based on the play of the same name, written by British playwright John Osborne.[7] The play was produced in 1957, and the first performance was given on 10 April 1957 at the Royal Court Theatre with Laurence Olivier in the leading role of Archie Rice.[8] Osborne wrote the play at Olivier's request.[7] Osborne's 1956 play Look Back in Anger was adapted into a film in 1959, directed by Tony Richardson, and starred Richard Burton in the leading role.[9] Osborne, with Nigel Kneale, wrote the screenplay for the film.[10]

Osborne then decided to adapt The Entertainer, and co-wrote it again with Kneale.[11] Richardson again was assigned to direct the film, and Canadian producer Harry Saltzman produced it.[5] Olivier reprised his role as Archie Rice, along with Brenda de Banzie, who played Phoebe, his hapless wife.[5] They were the only members of the original cast to reprise their roles in the film adaptation – though Joan Plowright, who had replaced Dorothy Tutin when the stage production moved from the Royal Court to the West End Theatre, was once again cast as Archie’s daughter Jean.[8] Olivier, whose marriage to Vivien Leigh was in a state of disintegration (they had married in 1940), went on to marry Plowright in March 1961.[12]

Roger Livesey was cast as Archie's father Billy, despite being only one year older than Olivier.[13][14] George Relph, the actor who originated the role in the play, died in April 1960.[15] Alan Bates played Archie's cynical son Frank.[4]

Key cast and crew agreed to £45,000 of deferments, including £20,000 to Olivier against 17% of profits, and £5,000 each to Osborne, Saltzman and Richardson.[16]

The film was budgeted at £193,000 but went over budget due to a variety of problems in production and post production, including noise from seagulls in Morecambe.[17]


The film was a box-office disappointment.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "THE ENTERTAINER | British Board of Film Classification".
  2. ^ Petrie, Duncan James (2017). "Bryanston Films : An Experiment in Cooperative Independent Production and Distribution" (PDF). Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television: 7. ISSN 1465-3451.
  3. ^ Petrie p9
  4. ^ a b c "BFI Screenonline: Entertainer, The (1960)".
  5. ^ a b c "The Entertainer (1960)". BFI.
  6. ^ "The 33rd Academy Awards | 1961". | Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
  7. ^ a b "How John Osborne's Entertainer still speaks to a broken Britain | Stage | The Guardian".
  8. ^ a b "Production of The Entertainer | Theatricalia".
  9. ^ "BFI Screenonline: Look Back in Anger (1959)".
  10. ^ "Look Back in Anger (1959) - Tony Richardson | Cast and Crew". AllMovie.
  11. ^ "The Entertainer (1960) - Tony Richardson | Cast and Crew". AllMovie.
  12. ^ Carter, Maria (31 August 2017). "What Laurence Olivier Wrote to Vivien Leigh Before Her Death Is So Sad". Country Living.
  13. ^ "BFI Screenonline: Livesey, Roger (1906-1976) Biography".
  14. ^ "Laurence Olivier". BFI.
  15. ^ "George Relph". BFI.
  16. ^ Petrie p 8
  17. ^ a b Petrie p 9

External links[edit]