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The original Broadway production of "The Iceman Cometh" by Eugene O'Neill opened at the Martin Beck Theater on October 9, 1946 and ran for 136 performances. The play had revivals in 1973/1974 and 1999. See more »
In act four during one of Hickey's recollections he says about coming home one day - "into her home which I kept so spotless and clean". The actual line should read - "into her home, where *she* kept everything so spotless and clean". See more »
A gut-wrenching performance by Robards defines this drama.
This is a kinescope of a live TV production that originally aired on New York television in 1960. It contains one of the most important dramatic performances of the 20th century: Jason Robards' portrayal of Hickey, the traveling salesman who comes to visit his old friends (the down-and-outers who populate Harry Hope's saloon, ca. 1912 in NYC) and tries to sell them "peace" by way of stripping them of their illusions (or "pipe dreams").
Compared to the 1973 feature film version, this TV production lacks polish (remember this was local, live television: small budget and the occasional fluffed line). The supporting performances are, on the whole, not quite as strong as they are in the film (the roles, *other* than Hickey, are definitive in the 1973 movie). However, as Larry Slade and Don Parrit, both Myron McKormick (the original Luther Billis in Broadway's SOUTH PACIFIC) and Robert Redford gain momentum throughout the production, so that their final confrontation at the end of the play is both powerful and poignant.
The principal reason for purchasing this video -- or at least arranging to see it at the Museum of Television and Radio in New York or Los Angeles -- is to see Jason Robards' gut-wrenching performance as Hickey. It's easy to see why this role made Robards a star in 1956 when he first took it on for the Circle-in-the-Square's off-Broadway revival (the play was written in 1939, published in 1940 and first performed in 1946). He brings to Hickey a restless, glad-handing, self-hatred that can change rhythms on a dime. Compared to Lee Marvin's flat, two-dimensional performance in the 1973 film and Kevin Spacey's hysteria-prone interpretation in the recent stage revival, Robards' Hickey seems entirely fleshed out. It's that rare performance that is both entirely theatrical and yet manages to be completely natural at the same time. By the time Robards gets to his justly famous 20 minute monologue near the end of the play, you realize that this has been all about him and, his protestations to the contrary, he doesn't give a damn about his old friends -- or anything else. It's a devastating moment, and one that is unfortunately missing from the otherwise very fine 1973 movie.
There are other pleasures to be had from this production aside from Robards' Hickey. There's a chance to see Tom Pedi as Rocky, the "bartender" in the role he created (and would play still again in the 1973 movie) as well as Sorrell Booke's Hugo, the immigrant Anarchist, in the role that he too would go on to play again in the feature film version. Also of special note is Farrell Pelly's performance as Harry Hope, the proprietor of the saloon. His performance is quite different from Fredric March's in the 1973 movie, but in its blustery way, just as effective. The late, great Julie Bovasso (John Travolta's mother in SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, among other superb character roles) gives the finest performance yet as one of O'Neill's "tarts." O'Neill wasn't at his best when he created these roles (the only women to appear in the play), but Bovasso manages to create an indelible impression as Pearl, despite the cartoonish nature of her lines.
The video transfer done by Broadway Archives is impeccable. Unfortunately the elements they had to work with were not. Still a kinescope with a couple of glitches shouldn't be enough to turn anyone away from one of the finest performances ever given in one of the finest dramas ever written by an American.
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