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I wish I had seen the original Broadway production of Camelot. As a lad
the Broadway cast album was a treasured staple in our house, played
over and over again by my parents. Can you imagine a cast led by
Richard Burton, Julie Andrews and introducing Robert Goulet as
So why couldn't Warner Brothers sign the original cast from Broadway for the movie? Robert Goulet had in fact come to Hollywood and didn't set the world on fire, but the other two were already big box office names by 1967. Julie Andrews had won an Oscar for Mary Poppins and just did the Sound of Music. And Richard Burton was one half of the most noted show business couple of the Sixties with his wife Elizabeth Taylor.
Jack Warner, usually a smart guy, said that he didn't think that anyone would believe that two guys like Arthur and Lancelot would put a kingdom at risk for the love of Mary Poppins. So Julie wasn't even asked and Vanessa Redgrave got the call. She's certainly sexy enough, but she opted for the Rex Harrison talk/sing in doing Guinevere. If you have the video or DVD of Camelot play that and then listen to Julie Andrews sing from the original cast album. My favorite song from the score is I Loved You Once In Silence and Julie Andrews is at her best singing that song. Vanessa doesn't come close.
Ditto for Richard Burton and Richard Harris. Though in the case of Harris I think he was toning it down a mite for a clearly handicapped co-star in the vocal department. Harris later in his life toured extensively in various productions of Camelot as Arthur, virtually taking over the role originated by his close friend Burton.
The biggest hit from the Camelot score was If Ever I Would Leave You, sung by Robert Goulet. In 1961 you couldn't get away from that song being played on the radio right in the midst of all the rock and roll. Goulet also toured in various stock companies of Camelot and like both Burton and Harris revived it on Broadway. I don't think anyone ever asked Franco Nero to tour.
But Redgrave and Nero certainly created their own screen magic, they got involved with each other on the set. But folks this is a musical and musically they don't measure up.
David Hemmings takes over the role of Mordred from Roddy McDowall who did it on stage. His Mordred is a clever schemer, but a coward as well. For myself the best Mordred ever portrayed on screen was in Knights of the Round Table by Stanley Baker. Baker's interpretation of Mordred is light years from Hemmings, he's a schemer, but he's definitely no coward.
I love the score of Camelot and when it was filmed I only wish the singing was half as good as the Broadway show.
a fine atmospherc sreen adaptation of lerner and loewe's classic. Richard Harris is quite simply magnificent as arthur,the best actor to play the role on stage or screen. redgrave is compelling,although julie andrews singing is sorely missed. the film adds more of a tragic feel,not like the original broadway version which had more humor. lerner himself rewrote his stage production after the film screenplay. franco nero is mis cast as lance ,even his dialoge was dubbed!! but david hemmings comes across quite well as mordred, too bad his song (along with 5 others) was cut. yes, at times it gets a bit long but its well worth it for the final inspiring scene when arthur passes on the camelot story to young tom of warwick. Harris is at the heart of this film and he keeps you glued to the screen.
Now that movie musicals are in vogue again, maybe somebody at Warner
Brothers will give the green light to remake this Lerner & Loewe spectacle
that was poorly filmed in 1967.
This version is really a shame, considering how beloved the original 1960 Broadway musical is. Lerner & Loewe wrote some of their best songs for this show: "If Ever I Would Leave You", "Camelot", "What do the Simple Folk Do?" and "Fie on Goodness". But when making the film, producer Jack Warner chose tone-deaf actors, one of the worst directors in the medium, and had Alan J. Lerner rewrite his script, stressing the drama over the comedy (to the narrative's detriment) as well as throwing out half the score (including, sob, the show-stopping "Fie on Goodness"). Richard Harris and Vanessa Redgrave ARE great actors, and in their dramatic scenes, they are quite effective, but they most certainly are NOT singers, especially poor Ms. Redgrave (although, her orgasmic rendition of "The Lusty Month of May" has to be seen to be believed). Franco Nero, a beautiful, beautiful man, has a great opening with "C'est Moi", but then goes downhill from there. David Hemmings manages to bring some mirth to the film, but he's only in the last third, and by that time it's nearly too late (plus, they cut his only song!).
On the plus side, the film DID deserve the 3 Oscars it won: Best Scoring (if you take the voices out, the music sounds magnificent), Best Art Direction/Set Decoration, and Best Costume Design (the flick IS sumptuous). And the cinematography is rather breathtaking at times. (If you do watch it, try to see it on DVD, where it's letterboxed.)
So, if anybody from Warner Brothers, or any other studio for that matter, is reading this, give it another go: go back to T.H. White's original source novel and Lerner's original B'way script, keep ALL the songs intact, and hire actors who are proven singers, say, Ewan McGregor (he demonstrated his pipes in Moulin Rouge!) as Arthur, Kate Winslet (who scored a British top 10 hit last year) as Guinevere, and Hugh Jackman (who got his start in a West End production of Oklahoma!) as Lancelot. Please....
One of the reviews I once read of this marvellous film dismissed it as 'kohl and overacting'. No way. It has so many scenes that live in the memory as I write, not having revisited the movie for quite some time. The wedding sequence with all its lights; Guinevere, beautiful in her wonder of the magical land where leaves 'blow away altogether, at night, of course'; If Ever I Should Leave You (not sung by Franco Nero, as I understand, really, but you'd never guess); How To Handle A Woman ('what's wrong, Jenny? where are you these days? I don't understand you ...'); creepy Mordred; and the ending (run, boy, run) which is terrific. I have heard Burton as Arthur and have to say I was disappointed. They made the right casting choice for the movie. A pity some of the songs got cut (except it would have been even longer then, good for us who like it, intolerable for those who don't). Also interesting to compare with other Lerner/Loewe movies with their themes of magic, understanding, and change (My Fair Lady, Brigadoon, Gigi and Paint Your Wagon). As they sit together as a body, Camelot is one of the best.
CAMELOT is, of course, the story of King Arthur (Richard Harris), his Queen,
Guenevere (Vanessa Redgrave), and Sir Lancelot (Franco Nero), the best and
brightest knight of Arthur's treasured Round Table. To Arthur's infinite
sorrow, his queen and love falls hard--irrevocably so--for his friend and
ally, and he is forced to choose between indulging the hatred that
overwhelms him as a man, and the nobility that accompanies his stature as a
king. Choosing the latter, Arthur must live with the whispers of 'poison in
the court' as the other knights bristle at Lancelot's stolen kisses with
Guenevere. All this while the king clings to his flame of hope, the idea of
establishing a civil court to establish law and order where once there was
violence and bloodshed. When Arthur's illegitimate son Mordred (David
Hemmings) devises a plan to get Arthur out of the castle and the knights
into Guenevere's room to trap the clandestine lovers, 'Jenny' and 'Lance'
are found out... even as they're pledging to part in order to honour their
love and loyalty to Arthur. The eventual demise of each of the three main
characters, which I'm emphatically *not* going to reveal but you might
suspect anyway if you know any Arthurian folklore, is heartrending and quite
'Tis a tale rich in ironies, this tale of Camelot, and in the end a story about two ideas--that of an ideal i.e. the peaceful lawful Camelot as envisioned by Arthur, and that of love. Neither are 'real' in the sense of being tangible, can't be seen or felt or heard, and yet both are worth fighting to the death for. They can bring a king to his knees, but they can also make heroes of men. It's a shame that the film doesn't do handle this too well; whenever it sets out to do so, it becomes a tad overdone. Take for example the quandary Arthur finds himself in--should he turn a blind eye to the adulterous pair's trysts? Arthur's dilemma is expressed by a soliloquy superbly delivered by Harris. It's a great piece of acting and a solid writing job--it's just not something that works on film, even in a musical (when one is more inclined to accepting an actor directly addressing or serenading the camera than with other film genres). The point is made *too* overtly, and the film and characters suffer as a result.
It probably isn't helped by the fact that the majority of the lush, beautiful shots in the film (see the 'Lusty Month Of May' number) are marred by some equally jarring shots that seem completely out of place, or just wrong. During the montage of shots to Nero's solo 'If Ever I Would Leave You', there is one sequence in which Guenevere enters Lancelot's room--it would make a perfectly lovely shot if done in an understated fashion, making the point that it is Guenevere who comes to Lancelot and not (always) the other way around. Unfortunately, in an attempt to create 'romance' (something that doesn't need overt manufacturing if the actors are capable of generating that atmosphere sans special effects), both actors are subjected to a wind machine, and end up looking like the melodramatic lover-idiots of a Mills & Boon dramatisation. Arthur's chat with young Tom as well is great in the conception, and suffers in the execution--something is lacking from that scene (I think the ability to underact by Gary Marsh as the boy), and it spoils what would otherwise be a great message and ending. (The too many 'Run, boy, run!'s also wears on the nerves after a while.) CAMELOT is caught uncomfortably between being a stage production and a film, and that shows in how it rigidly keeps to the 'Overture/Intermission/Entr'Acte/Ending Music' structure... while *annoucing* it with captions!
Whatever problems there might be with direction and execution, however, there can be no faulting of the score and songs written with the distinctive stamp of songwriting team Lerner and Loewe. Every song has its own charm, but I particularly enjoyed 'Camelot' (a sweet and fitting theme tune for the love between Arthur and Guenevere, and Arthur and his kingdom); 'Then You May Take Me To The Fair' (Guenevere's deviousness put to glorious song); and 'If Ever I Would Love You' (with smashing lyrics but spoilt somewhat by Nero). The actors, or at least the two leads Harris and Redgrave, do a creditable job by these songs... Harris in particular. He is consummately King Arthur, the vulnerable man and the noble king, and he brings the character off (dodgy blue eyeshadow or no!). The role of Guenevere is a tough one to make sympathetic, and even now I don't know whether I like her... but I do know that Redgrave did as good a job as can be expected with a woman who falls *instantly*( in love with her husband's best friend after trying her best to get him killed in (not one but three!) jousts. Neither Harris nor Redgrave are singers by profession, and it's rather a shame that Julie Andrews (who created the role of Guenevere on Broadway) didn't reprise her role for the film, but neither of them hinder the beauty of the Lerner/Loewe music. I'm afraid the same can't be said of Nero, whom I thought annoying as the puffed-up prat Lancelot. Watch and you'll notice that he emotes, in between a bad attempt at a French accent, by flaring his nostrils. Hardly attractive, especially in close-up!
CAMELOT is far from a perfect film or even a perfect musical. (That adjective can probably be applied only to the score, and that has nothing specifically to do with the film.) It would have been interesting to see it onstage, or to have the main Broadway cast reprise their roles in this version--yet the film *does* have its own quaint charm. The costumes are breathtaking, for certain, and Harris really works very very hard at trying to make the film one worth seeing. For his performance, despite the rest of the film and the uneven writing for his character, it almost *is* worth it. And I cannot deny that the ending still made me cry. So don't take it from me alone that CAMELOT isn't a great film--there *are* many things about it to like. But be warned that liking it, as I do, doesn't translate into loving it. 7.5/10
It's hilarious that one reviewer here on IMDb singles out Franco Nero
as the best singer out of the three leads. He obviously wasn't aware
that Franco Nero didn't do his own singing ad was in fact dubbed by
Gene Merlino! Richard Harris and Vanessa Redgrave did do their own
Overall, Camelot has a melodious score by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe and some first rate production values but it drags in spots. It's also very much a product of the 1960s as "The Lusty Month of May" is turned into some sort of pseudo hippie medieval love-in.
As for the performances Harris is a little too fey for my tastes as King Arhur. Vanessa Redgrave, although a good actress lacks the beautiful vocal renderings Julie Andrews gave the part and Franco Nero is hopelessly wooden as Lancelot. David Hemmings is a delightfully devious Mordred and almost steals the film from the rest of the cast.
Camelot is ultimately a very good example of the over-produced, over-stuffed musicals the studios were turning out during this period.
The legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table has endured for centuries, and has inspired many movies. One of them is the musical "Camelot," based on the stage production by Lerner and Loewe. Richard Harris stars as King Arthur, with Vanessa Redgrave as Queen Guinevere and Franco Nero as Sir Lancelot. The story follows the classic legend, Arthur creating the perfect land of Camelot, but suffering betrayal by his queen and favorite knight. The eyes are presented with a lavish sight of dazzling scenery, lush locations and beautiful costumes. There are memorable songs, such as "If Ever I Should Leave You," "What Do the Simple Folk Do?" and of course, "Camelot." This epic offers a lot for both the eyes and the ears.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'm not big on musicals. When people break out into song, it just seems
so awkward. You become acutely aware that you are watching a movie.
Camelot, on the other hand, is so professionally and cleverly done, that the songs seem to be a natural part of this beautiful, magical world. Instead of bogging down the action or interrupting the plot, the songs propel the plot forward.
It is a brilliant way to allow the characters to say things they could not get away with in regular conversation. For example, Lancelot could never recite lines of dialog revealing himself as pompous and arrogant as his song, "C'est Moi" (Besides bragging about his greatness and incredible perfection, he declares himself "The godliest man I know", among other outrageous assertions). How could Guenevere better portray how absurdly selfish and self-involved she really is if she couldn't sing about "the simple joys of maidenhood" which include her desire to have love-struck, heartbroken knights jump to their death.
There are so many things to admire about this movie: action, drama, intrigue, romance, great music and astounding lyrics. I love listening to songs such as "C'est moi" and "What Do The Simple Folk Do?" In the entire history of musicals, there has never been anything to approach the sheer genius of Camelot. Since I'm not a big fan of musicals, I would never run out and buy the soundtrack to one. But I have the soundtrack to Camelot! In 38 years of listening to it, the songs have never lost their appeal.
(The following is not really a "spoiler", but it reveals some general plot elements from the end of the movie, so don't read this if you don't know how this movie ends!!!) Camelot also has another amazing distinction. Think of all the sad scenes you have ever seen, then compare it with Guevere's final scene in Camelot. It is the true Classical Greek meaning of the word "tragedy". Because Guenevere contributed to her own downfall, and since everything she loved is irreparably lost, there is no hope for redemption. It is a sad and bitter end for her.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I am a huge, huge fan of musicals, especially the overblown kitsch ones
with wobbly sets from the 1960s and 70s, so I really thought I had
found my dream in Camelot.
Even if, like me, you actually enjoy a camp classic once in a while, Camelot is such an unwatchable stinker that you'll be fast-forwarding in wide-eyed disbelief well before the intermission.
Camelot is a truly dreadful musical, with a totally forgettable score and one of the clunkiest scripts I've ever sat through. Richard Harris presents King Arthur as a drooling, retarded, camp flibbertigibbet, prancing about in purple eyeliner like a profoundly stupid and tone-deaf child. Franco Nero plays Lancelot as a vain, preening Muscle Mary, whose sexual tension with Arthur so overshadows any hint of romance with Guenevere that the entire film briefly promises to take a far more interesting direction.
Meanwhile, Vanessa Redgrave plays Guenevere as a spoilt, tiresome and vaguely sadistic halfwit. Stick a bodice and a garland of mayblossom on Paris Hilton and you'd get roughly the same effect. I nearly tore out my own eyes in horror during her ghastly rendition of "The Simple Joys of Maidenhood", a song that seems to have been written with the sole purpose of torturing anyone with an IQ over 60.
At the end, when Guenevere was rescued by Lancelot from being burned at the stake, my friends actually booed.
The thing that is most striking about watching Camelot these days, apart from a sharp pain in your frontal lobe, is the degree to which it provided all the material for Monty Python and the Holy Grail. All the elements of the Holy Grail are right here: Arthur is a prig, Lancelot is a comically violent moron, all the supporting characters are either Brave Sir Robin or Wise Sir Bedevere, some of the songs are virtually identical (though significantly worse), Merlin is a dead ringer for the Old Man From Scene 24, etc etc. These parallels almost redeem the film, but really you'd still be far better off just watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Worst of all, this dire mess goes on for three interminable hours. I don't believe anyone with a soul could actually get through it alive. I really did want to love it, but this isn't so bad it's good; it's so bad it's terrible.
Beautiful music and strong performances from Richard Harris and Vanessa Redgrave, however they are not singers and it hurts the picture mightily, leaving you wondering how much better it could have been with Richard Burton, Robert Goulet and especially Julie Andrews. True Burton wasn't a singer either using the talk singing method that Rex Harrison employed on My Fair Lady so Harris' replacement isn't as glaring as Redgrave/Andrews or Nero/Goulet. Where the picture really runs into problems through is the lumbering pace set by director Logan. A fine director of drama but with no skill at setting the right tone for a musical although that didn't stop the studios from handing him several throughout the years ending with the disaster of Paint Your Wagon. Some of the costumes are truly amazing and justly famous but this can be a trial to sit through.
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