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Bernard Shaw wrote GREAT CATHERINE (WHOM GLORY STILL ADORES) back in
the teens, and it is occasionally revived. Not all of his plays get
revived. In particular his "short" plays. GREAT CATHERINE is a one act
play, and it runs about ninety minutes (short, in comparison to say
PYGMALION or MAJOR BARBARA). As it is a historical play, one has to
note that Shaw - while he tried to be accurate on his history in his
plays - based his history on the current state of knowledge, which was
usually not as correct as we now know.
Basically, GREAT CATHERINE is about how a young British officer is sent to the court of Catherine the Great of Russia, one of the most fascinating rulers in Europe in the 18th Century. He is involved not only with her, but with her crafty chief minister, Potemkin (whom the battleship in the classic Eisenstein silent film is named for). The officer attracts her attention because he is handsome, and the British Minister is fully willing to let him see the Empress, as he may hear something of use and he may "ease" Anglo-Russian relations. As it turns out, the young ninny is such a believer in middle class morality that he blows a great opportunity, loses a chance to witness a great figure in world history, and even - unwittingly - so misunderstands things that he accidentally insults her. Only her own sense of values keeps her from taking up an offer from a furious Potemkin to have the young man killed.
The basics of the play are kept in the movie, but it was jazzed up a bit. Jeanne Moreau makes a very attractive, sexy, alluring Empress. Peter O'Toole is a proper aristocratic numskull. Akim Tamiroff is a comic guard, browbeaten by his boss Potemkin (played with relish by Zero Mostel - a nice historical part for him for a change). Also, in one of his last roles, the now tragically silenced Jack Hawkins, giving his all as the British Ambassador.
I have given the film a 6, for it's attempt to record a minor play by Shaw, for it's cast, and for a scene I liked that dates the play - when O'Toole is supposed to show how the battle of Bunker's Hill was fought. The confrontation ends with the total demolition of the model of the battlefield. It is a minor sequence, but I did like it. But for all I do like about the film, if you are interested in the best work of George Bernard Shaw I would not go to this film first.
One of those movies that I saw ages ago, want to see again, to see if it has the same effect. Trying to capture Peter O'Toole's Whats New Pussycat flavor (although more buffoonish)& including a great array of character actors, Mostel, Hawkins, Tamiroff & Griffith the critics probably wanted this to be better than it is. But it is French legend Jeanne Moreau that is so wonderful. It was one of the first times I had seen her, actually probably the first, & she is not afraid to mix her sexiness with slapstick. With such a male cast it would have been easy for her to be just be scenery but she accepts her pratfalls brilliantly eg getting shot in the seat of her dress by clumsy O'Toole. if anyone has a copy of this gem please post this info
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A rollicking slapstick farce played to hilt by Peter O'Toole, Jeanne Moreau and especially Zero Mostel. O'Toole is a British soldier seeking an audience with amorous Russian Empress Moreau and has to deal with lunatic Mostel first. Once he gets to Moreau things get even wackier. Who knows what GB Shaw had in mind with all this craziness, but the movie is very fun. O'Toole is completely exasperated, Moreau is very funny and Mostel is utterly out of control. It's a sumptuous affair directed with a lot of class by Gordon Flemyng. It helps to have music by Dimitri Tiomkin, costumes by Margaret Furse, and cinematography by Oswald Morris. Jack Hawkins plays the British ambassador and there's a great role for Akim Tamiroff as one of Mostel's conniving underlings.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
George Bernard Shaw? If you say so. Historical? Umm...maybe hysterical. Educational? It has a decidedly fresh take on the Battle of Bunker Hill. Farce? Yes!!! Whatever the original material looked like it has been turned into the broadest and most exuberant farce for the movies. The bottom line is if you're paying good money to see a flick at the local Bijou it had better be entertaining. 5.0 IMDb rating? C'mon! You're kidding me! Slip out of those new shoes that are pinching your bunions and snap loose the suspenders. This is a very funny movie. I laughed a whole lot. In fact, I guffawed (I don't get to guffaw often). All of the actors are truly into the spirit of this enterprise, quite happy to be buffoons. Zero Mostel not only chews the scenery but the paint off the soundstage as well. Peter O'Toole is a revelation as a comic, unless you've been lucky enough to have seen "My Favorite Year". His laugh, believe me, inspires much more laughter. Even Jack Hawkins is funny! And Moreau...well, she's Moreau. Rhymes with "sublime". She stirs up some pretty subliminal feelings in O'Toole (and in me). Then there's the party at the palace that starts out as a mannered Grand Ball and degenerates...oops! No spoilers, here. There's a wild dance sequence featuring a horde of drunken Cossacks that's the highlight of the movie. And included in the admission price are the talents of some of the brightest in the movie business: Dimitri Tiomkin (music), Anne V. Coates (editing), Oswald Morris (photography), etc. Great production values never hurt a good comedy. There's a real sense of shared enthusiasm by all concerned, and it shows. And now, my little mothers and little fathers and my little sleepers in cradles of red roses, all the sweetest of my little darlings...enjoy!
This is an off beat movie against which you can measure all others my
cherubs, my little angels, my little white ducks. Yes this one is Zanny,
Odd, Wild and, quite well done. The Music is so awesome to it I'd love to
have a soundtrack. The sets are lavish and, the people wild. Unlike the
Soviet era russians these guys and, ladies could rock they knew how to
This is another of the movies I love that has no moral at the end its just fun to watch. But unlike other mindless movies this movie does at least engage you on a few different levels of throught. Potemkin is the best act in the whole movie as he stays politically drunk through the whole picture. If it were available on video or DVD I would say its a must have but alas the folk that make these decisions has not released it on DVD / video yet.... When they do you should order yours right away so you can be in line right after me.
Great Catherine is the last Shaw play to have been made into a movie. And no wonder considering the slaughter these people made of this one. Not only is this the worst filming of a Shaw play ever created (though Sophia Loren's and Peter Sellers' The Millionairess gives it a good run in the awful department) it is for me one of the worst films of any kind that I've ever seen. If you think that people falling down drunk throughout a film (Zero Mostel's Potemkin) is amusing this film is for you. I however think this sort of baloney action is tedious and very unfunny. The only redeeming feature in this film is the Tiomkin score and the Russian peasants' greatly choreographed free for all at the ball. I used to think that what killed this film was the director's slowing down the action of the repartee from trippingly fast to turgidly slow but now having seen the film all the way through on TCM recently I've decided that every other part of the project likewise contributes to its stinkeroo lack of quality. Moreau and O'Toole swimming around fully clothed in the water of the destroyed model Bunker Hill battle---give me a break! To think of O'Toole participating in such a fiasco after Lawrence of Arabia, The Ruling Class, My Favorite Year, and countless other films in which he acts up a storm leaves me very unhappy and disappointed. I agree with another of your reviewers: if you want to see a film of a Shaw play this one should not be the one you see first! Both thumbs as far down as they can get.
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