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I don't know what movie the other reviewers were watching, or why they are
so bitter. I agree completely with the contemporaneous reviews, which
praised the movie highly. Two fine actors spend the entire movie, out of
their normal characters, showing off to each other and producing a gem as
result. The contrast between Burton's prissy old woman and Harrison's
swish -- that so embarrassed the Burton character -- was wonderfully
portrayed. Yet they managed to demonstrate that querulous yet enduring
relationship that often results between an aging couple that experience
other's foibles, constantly express annoyance at them, and yet have too
basic affection to part. This is a marvelous movie, and I regret that I
can't find it on video to share with others.
Maybe it's that I'm not gay that allows me to appreciate the fine craft it exhibits, since it doesn't threaten me personally.
The film came out in 1969 and was based on a popular play by Charles
Dyer. The Great Stanley Donen got a hold of it and decided to bring it
to the big screen with two BIG stars! The only flaw is it's not really
big screen material. Please let me make it clear I enjoyed the film .
I'm just not sure even with it's two great stars it was a film for one
and all - It's appeal was too limited. That being said it is definitely
worth watching for the stars alone. Try to see it in it's wide screen
format. Stanley Donen (as always) does a beautiful job directing a
story about two gay middle-aged barbers in the back streets of seedy
old London. Richard Burton is excellent as the more quite one - His
Harry is very sympathetic - Taking care of his bed-ridden mother as
well as his long time mate, Charlie (Rex Harrison). He keeps his bald
head wrapped in a towel turban to protect his business and is also
self-conscious about his weight ( Watch as he tugs at his clothes
throughout the film - Nice touch!)which, Charlie loves to tease him
about. It's one of Mr. Burton's overlooked roles - Too bad! Now for
Rex, I'm biased because he's my favorite actor (Please read my comments
on the original Doctor Dolittle) - Rex Harrison does an outstanding job
as his role of Charlie - The more showier of the two he really stands
out. Things to watch for are his excellent body language - Watch his
sway in walk and pulled back shoulders, yet this is a very insecure
man. The emotional scenes are right on the money - and he has several
of them throughout the film! Donen the director gets a performance out
of Rex I've never seen and it's impressive. Remember this is the same
man who gave us Caesar in the Burton/Taylor Cleopatra, Henry Higgins in
My Fair Lady & the lovable Doctor Dolittle to name a few. Charles Dyer
(Screenwriter) gave the character of Charlie this trait in his speech
pattern, where he always repeats himself. Normally this would drive me
up the wall and to be honest I don't think it was needed. But Rex makes
it work - another less seasoned actor (Or any modern actor living
today) would not be able to pull it off. The music by Dudley Moore is
interesting, It now comes off dated. I'm not saying it doesn't work for
the film, I just think I would have liked a more sympathetic score -
maybe something from Michel Legrand. I think another reason I enjoy
this film is because in 1969 two leading men took a BIG chance going
against type and actually pulled it off.
As a film on a whole it's not bad and if your a fan of either star all I can say is - WATCH IT! If your gay - You'll say "Damn, we've come a long way" - If your straight you'll say "Huh?" Just kidding - actually you might say "Not Bad"
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Because they can't see story. And because it's about OLD men in love who swish a bit and we all know that gay men never swish. Watch this film as soon as you can. And you will see that Harry is not a hairdresser but a BARBER, and Charle a has been/ never was actor who helps out around the barber shop as he has no other employment. Harry does not hate his bedridden mother, but loves her deeply and is moved to tears because he can't help hurting her when changing her clothes. You try taking care of an elderly person, I have. It's Charlie's mother who hates him. And motivation? Look for this Harry's self worth is wrapped up in his sex appeal, which was all in his beautiful hair. Hair which fell out overnight, crushing him emotionally. He's now impotent, making Charlie frustrated, and Harry is the only one Charlie wants, Charlie doesn't care about the hair but can't make Harry believe it. Much has been written about the fact that the pair live on a street which dead ends at a grave yard, but dear, we all live on that street. The last image in the film his Harry and Charlie walking together to face a hostile world while Harry's mother looks at them beaming with love for her son and joy that he has a life mate. I am too.
I happened on to this film on TV years ago after it had been on for a few mins. so I did not get the title. I was transfixed! I searched for a long time and thanx to my pc, I found the title. I loved this film! The parts were played brilliantly by the entire cast. It is both comic and drama; the realism of another lifestyle at it's most human elements.
I have searched for this film for years. I am updating my comment of
My opinion of this film has not changed, I still love it & want to purchase a copy.
I want to say that with the added years & the experience of learning about human beings, this film is a masterpiece of reality done so well by two of the greatest & most highly regarded actors of our time.
I cannot comprehend any negative views about this story or the portrayal of it. This is LIFE!
I am not gay, nor am I judgmental. I am an 72 year old greatgrandmother of 16 with an open mind!
Playful, occasionally moving, often funny comedy about a gay hair-stylist and his lover/business partner living in London, an aging couple going on 30 years together, who each jab at the others' ego like two bitchy woodpeckers--but who consistently lean on each other (and feed off each other) like two halves of the same person. Richard Burton and Rex Harrison were reportedly unhappy making this film, and perhaps were only present for their large-for-1969 salaries, but they actually get a rhythm going that is rather infectious. Charles Dyer adapted his own "intimate" British play--and was probably reeling once his quaint, humble material got blown up on the big screen with major stars--yet his theatrical and literary pretensions are worked out charmingly, and some of his lines get big laughs. There are times when Burton seems more apt to go the distance personally with his character than Harrison is; then, in the very next scene, they flip and it's Harrison who takes off. The "plot" doesn't amount to much (Harrison's Charlie must attend court after being caught in lascivious garb at the same moment his estranged daughter is planning a visit), but to director Stanley Donen's credit the focus of the piece seldom wavers--we never even meet the daughter, which in this case is a blessing. The gay text is not handled madly or foolishly; Donen pairs the scenes down to quick, efficient little episodes, and this keeps the pacing brisk and gives the lead performances a nice edge (we never tire of them). Much ballyhoo was made over two heterosexual stars "camping it up" on screen, but I saw very little swishing. Dyer gets a few dramatic moments perfectly right, and he's written some good lines (such as when Harrison tells Burton, "I need someone new now and then"). The finer sequences are not trampled on by Donen, nor by his editor. "Staircase" is pithy and beguiling and should resonate with audiences who don't mind a tentative mix of sassy humor, self-pity, impatient wisecracks, and a tearing down of vanity. **1/2 from ****
I can see why this might have been disappointing from a 1969
perspective, especially if it was the first relatively mainstream gay
couple movie. They behave like an old embittered married couple, hardly
promoting the concept of gay relationship harmony. If you're gay, you
may have hoped for people with more obvious emotional strength and
dignity, to start things off.
But from this end, nearly 40 years later, there's a great deal to admire. Most of us can see them as just people, yes, suffering the issues of the day in certain respects, but otherwise going through the same relationship struggles experienced by any two people who've been together for a very long time.
With only a few mild changes, this movie could be set today, because it's confronting the aging process, a somewhat unequal relationship, the problem of elderly parentsjust plain real life stuff told with pathos and humor.
As to the swishiness of either character, say all you want about the womanizing ways of these two actors, they both swished and preened through many of their other previous roles as well. It was enhanced in this movie, but not unnaturally so. There's now enough water under the bridge for us to understand this isn't the Singular Gay Trait, but it certainly does exist, and it's not necessarily the evidence for self-loathing by these two characters. Anyone can have doubts about themselves, and most of us do, in one way or another.
It's not a great movie, because it moves in fits and spurts and there are moments that seem a little emotionally vacant. But it's a decent movie because the characters are believable and you do grow to care for and about them.
This film was one of the best for its' time and subject matter. I salute Rex Harrison and Richard Burton for taking on such unconventional roles in 1969. I really loved this movie, and came to understand and appreciate what gay life was like in London in those days.
I saw this film when it opened in 1969. It did not do well at all,for
obvious reasons, it was pretty "out there" for the time. There is this
very interesting and off beat opening with two drag queens singing a
song titled "staircase." The story, as I remember it, is about two
older gay men who are lovers and own a barber shop. Richard Burton is
quiet and sensitive and Rex Harrison is loud and insensitive.
A perfect pairing that reflects what so many relationships are about, opposites attract. There is a real caring warmth between these two older men, even with the philandering of one.
It's a small movie that really evokes life in the late 60s. Donen creates a very realistic, very British, middle class environment for his characters. The added twist is that this is a very moving story about two men who have been together as lovers and partners for many years.
One of a only few films dealing with men in a homosexual relationship that rings true and captures the reality of such a union.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The novelty of "Cleopatra's" Rex Harrison and Richard Burton playing British homosexuals may have seemed like an interesting acting exercise, but the result is a depressing and somewhat offensive story. They are a gay version of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf's" George and Martha with Burton cast as "the wife" and Harrison "the husband", both unlikable and stereotypical, making the friends of Mart Crowley's "The Boys in the Band" seem totally real in comparison. Burton spends the entire film wearing a Norma Desmond like turban (actually something that more resembles a large dish cloth), braying like real-life wife Elizabeth Taylor did in "Virginia Woolf" with Harrison giving hateful attacks on Burton every chance he gets. With Stonewall just around the corner and the fight for gay rights already underway, this is to gay themed films what Stepin Fetchit and Willie Best were to characterizations of black characters in the 1930's. Cathleen Nesbitt, who had earlier played Harrison's mother in "My Fair Lady" on Broadway, gets to do nothing but babble here as his demented mother who is obviously being mistreated in her nursing home. There's nothing to recommend here even as a curiosity piece, the result being more like a gay horror story than a serious drama about two lovers who obviously hate each other but are too miserable to try and find happiness elsewhere.
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