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Despite the current description, this live TV drama from the late '50s
is not in color, although it does include a color introduction by
Richard Thomas, who played a bit part as one of Nora's kids.
There are also interviews with Robards, Plummer, Harris, and director Schaefer that are a bit more candid than one usually expects. For instance, Plummer and Robards got so hammered the night before the broadcast that they both showed up late for the dress rehearsal. Plummer even adds that he vaguely remembers being with a girl he'd picked up, but had probably been unable to "perform" with her.
Meanwhile, Robards and Harris can't help smirking a bit about Schaefer, who would regularly fall asleep in a wheelchair midway through rehearsals. He didn't *need* the wheelchair -- he simply didn't like walking!
In any case, the whole group came up with a first rate, streamlined version of the play. Harris is believably superficial and dishonest early on, and doesn't overplay her final act epiphany. Robards, who may well still have been drunk, has no trouble appearing "under the weather" but is also believably low-key in his hushed admissions of love.
Plummer is a bit too smooth, perhaps, as Torvald, the sometimes smug, sometimes insecure husband. Honestly, I kept thinking, "He's far too charismatic and attractive to play a moralizing, stick-in-the-mud banker."
Best of all is Hume Cronyn. As with everyone in this production, he's obviously (and wisely) been directed to steer clear of melodramatics. And even though, on paper, he's the least sympathetic character (a blackmailer), in performance he's the most understandable and convincing.
In all, this is better than the more familiar, easily available versions from the '70s (with Claire Bloom and Jane Fonda). Worth seeing if you can find it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Actually I was able to see this about three years ago - it was shown in
a rerun on a cable station, and was worth catching. Any television
version of an Ibsen classic, with a cast including a young Julie
Harris, Eileen Heckart, Hume Cronyn, Christopher Plummer, and Jason
Robards Jr. has to be worth watching, and the performances (for a
change) lived up to the material.
A DOLL'S HOUSE today is remembered by theater fans because of the revolutionary conclusion that Ibsen put at the end - when Nora repudiates her "good little wife" position in Torvald's view of his home life, and walks out on the ungrateful s.o.b. It shocked audiences in the 1870s, and the reverberation has not really quited down yet.
Harris is all consideration for Torvald (Plummer), even trying to deal with Krogstad (Cronyn), an embittered little man who is determined to get his own back on Torvald if his blackmail demands are not met. Ibsen was wonderful at filling out the reality of his characters. Cronyn gives Krogstad a great deal of offended dignity - he does not like being a blackmailer, but he won't be stepped on or pushed aside. In the end Cronyn does get a type of equilibrium and satisfaction, even if he has to compromise a little more. But it is the realization that all of her work placating Krogstad meets with Torwald's impatient anger and dismissal that leads to Harris reconsidering what her life really is like. Is she ever appreciated?
It was a damned set of performances, and hopefully it will be re-shown again some time soon (hopefully with other episodes of this series).
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