BBC Play of the Month: Season 8, Episode 6

Candide (Mar. 1977)

TV Episode  |   |  Drama
7.8
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Title: Candide (Mar 1977)

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Cast

Episode credited cast:
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Angela Richards ...
...
Emrys James ...
Kathleen Helme ...
Old woman
Clifton Jones ...
Cacambo
Leonard Maguire ...
Martin
...
Young Baron
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Anthony Collin
Rita Davies
Robin Hunter
Elspeth MacNaughton
Geoffrey Matthews
Douglas Milvain
Johnnie Wade
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March 1977 (USA)  »

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Telecast in the U.S. on "Great Performances". See more »

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Remake of Candide (1960) See more »

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A Pretty Faithful Adaptation of Voltaire's Novel.
16 February 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This was a monthly episode/dramatization of a series on classic plays and literature. They had also done one of Arthur Pinero's better known plays, TRELAWNEY OF THE WELLS (which I commented on the other day). This was a little more interesting - CANDIDE is a novel (a small novel, to be accurate) regarding the state of corruption and evil in the world, and attacking the philosophy of the German Leibnitz, in the persona of "Dr. Pangloss", who insists that this is the best of all possible worlds, and that the acts of cruelty and sundry natural disasters are all for the best. Voltaire wrote the novel ZADIG in 1749, and it had suggested that the efforts of a good man (the Persian philosopher Zadig) could change conditions. It has been suggested that Voltaire's mistress at the time made him more optimistic. But in the ten years following three things happened. Voltaire tried to influence the court and policies of his pen-pal, King Frederick the Great of Prussia (and their relationship became quite strained as a result - until Voltaire left Prussia after an embarrassing period in a Prussian jail). Then his mistress died. Then (in 1755) Europe was shocked by the terrible Lisbon Earthquake and tidal wave that killed nearly 40,000 people. This last disaster was the straw that broke the camel's back on Voltaire accepting Leibnitz seriously. In 1759 he wrote CANDIDE and mercilessly pilloried Leibnitz theory. He also made sure to bring in the Lisbon Earthquake in the novel (Dr. Pangloss takes the opportunity to discuss the scientific origin of earthquakes while his student, Candide, almost dies from shock and starvation).

CANDIDE is a wonderful, cynical novel, and it's solution - that we have to try to "tend our own garden" to find some degree of personal happiness and purpose on our Earth - is not a bad one. But it was not planned as a play (although dramatizations of it began almost from the start - none by Voltaire himself). The best known attempt is the musical by Leonard Bernstein (with libretto # 1 by Lillian Hellman, and libretto # 2 by Hugh Wheeler). It's best known tune, "Live and Be Gay" became the theme song for Dick Cavett's talk show.

But this forgotten little adaptation was not bad. Frank Finlay appeared as Voltaire, from time to time, doing the portions of the story that were needed for continuity or to inform the reader of what was going on. This actually worked quite well, and the rest of the cast (including Ian Ogilvy as Candide)handled the off the wall plot wherein Candide and his companions go out of one frying pan into another fire time after time after time. It managed to hit the best moments of the story quite well, and keep the audience's attention. I see it is on video, so it is still available for current audiences to sample and enjoy.


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