Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 20
October 3, 1960
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.


More Flashbacks
Harold and Maude Dec. 20, 1971
Harold and Maude Opens

Hal Ashby's iconic black comedy Harold and Maude opened in theaters on December 20, 1971.

Read more »
December 20, 1979
Bob Fosse's All That Jazz

For denizens of the New York theater scene, Bob Fosse’s semi-autobiographical All that Jazz provided them the guessing game of the season. What scandals was Fosse going to spill in his expose musical? The film, which tells the story of a Broadway choreographer/director Joe Gideon (Roy Scheider), whose excesses in life and work bring him to the edge of a collapse, was clearly modeled on Fosse’s own life. Some actors (like Ann Reinking) play characters very similar to themselves; other figures (like ex-wife Gwen Verdon, producer Hal Prince, and others) are played by others; and other actors (like Jessica Lange) who were close to Fosse play oddly mythic figures. Fosse, who’d started choreographing for film in 1954, was soon pulled to New York to choreograph and eventually direct such musicals as Pippin, Chicago, and Sweet Charity. In 1969, he started making films as well, winning an Oscar in 1972 for Cabaret. A demanding taskmaster and infamous womanizer, the chain-smoking Fosse suffered a heart attack in 1975. It was during this period that Shirley Maclaine (according to her) suggested he create something about his brush with death. The resulting film is a breathtaking musical sleight of hand as Fosse’s alter ego Joe Gideon reveals his innermost fears and desires only to cover them in the next moment with all that jazz––surreal show stopping dance numbers and Felliniesque romps into his libido and unconscious. In 1987, life imitated art as Fosse died from a heart attack, just moments before his revival of Sweet Charity was to open at the National Theater.

Read more »