The Entertainer opens in New York
The New York premiere of Tony Richardson’s The Entertainer gave Americans a taste of the “Angry Young Men” school of drama that was all the vogue in Britain. A few years earlier, Laurence Olivier, the great classical actor, had solicited playwright John Osborne (whose drama Look Back in Anger lead this movement) to write a vehicle for him. Staged in 1957, the play casts Olivier as Archie Rice, a washed-up song-and-dance man who holds on desperately to his stale routines, even as his personal life is falling apart around him. The dramatic metaphor of England as a dilapidated music hall, playing the same old tired music, was not missed by audiences or critics, who loudly debated the play’s significance. After much acclaim, Olivier took the play to Broadway, where he was nominated for a Tony in 1958. Shortly after, up-and-coming director Tony Richardson agreed to help bring the film to screen, with Osborne co-writing the screenplay and Olivier assuming the lead. Indeed Olivier supposedly turned down a handsome Hollywood movie deal to make this film on which his fee was deferred. While the film wasn’t a box office hit, it was a huge critical success, garnering Olivier the sixth of his ten Oscar nominations. But moreover it helped establish him as a actor versatile enough to embody Shakespeare’s grandeur and a sad sack’s squalor.