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The Entertainer (1960)

Not Rated | | Drama | 2 December 1960 (Denmark)
Archie Rice, an old-time British music hall performer sinking into final defeat, schemes to stay in show business.


Tony Richardson


John Osborne (adapted from the play by), John Osborne (screenplay) | 1 more credit »

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win & 4 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Laurence Olivier ... Archie Rice (as Lawrence Olivier)
Brenda de Banzie Brenda de Banzie ... Phoebe Rice (as Brenda De Banzie)
Roger Livesey ... Billy Rice
Joan Plowright ... Jean Rice
Alan Bates ... Frank Rice
Daniel Massey ... Graham
Albert Finney ... Mick Rice
Shirley Anne Field ... Tina Lapford (as Shirley Ann Field)
Thora Hird ... Ada Lapford
Miriam Karlin Miriam Karlin ... Soubrette
Geoffrey Toone ... Harold Hubbard
MacDonald Hobley MacDonald Hobley ... McDonald Hobley (as McDonald Hobley)
Anthony Oliver Anthony Oliver ... Interviewer
Max Bacon Max Bacon ... Charlie Klein
George Doonan George Doonan ... Eddie Trimmer


On the far side of middle age, Archie Rice lives in a British seaside resort with his father, retired successful vaudevillian Billy Rice, second wife Phoebe Rice, and doting son Frank Rice. Following in retired Billy's footsteps, Archie is a song-and-dance music hall headliner, with Frank supporting his dad as his shows' stage manager. The waning popularity of Archie's type of shows, a dying form of entertainment, is not helped by Archie's stale second rate material, which brings in small unappreciative crowds. Archie clings to his long held lifestyle, including heavy drinking and chronic infidelity, of which Phoebe is aware. What Archie has not told his offspring is that Phoebe was his mistress while he was still married to their now deceased mother. His want to be a music hall headliner is despite his financial problems, he an undischarged bankrupt who now signs Phoebe's name to everything. Phoebe wants them to escape this life to something more stable, such as the offer from her ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


As the applause grew fainter ... As the spotlight grew dimmer ... His women were younger!




Not Rated | See all certifications »






Release Date:

2 December 1960 (Denmark) See more »

Also Known As:

A komédiás See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Woodfall Film Productions See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


| (TCM print)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The story of Archie Rice, set during the Suez Crisis, was a parable for the decline of the U.K. as a world power. See more »


Archie Rice: Look at these eyes. I'm dead - behind these eyes. I'm dead.
See more »


Featured in Great Performances: Laurence Olivier: A Life (1983) See more »


Crown of Joy
Music by Sando Dicker
See more »

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User Reviews

An extraordinary film
14 June 2006 | by barefoot-galSee all my reviews

It is amazing to me how many critics and reviewers of this film seem to have missed the subtleties in this story, and in Archie's character. Far from living in a world of futile fantasies, I think, Archie's character is much more accurately expressed by the line "The only thing I know how to do is to keep on keeping on." All available options (Canada, failure, escape, or perhaps, suicide) being unthinkable, what choice has he but to chase another hopeless dream of somehow, finally, nailing a successful show? Perhaps I identify with Archie more strongly than many viewers, having myself been at the helm of a sinking ship (a business.)

One unreasonably scathing critic (did he actually watch this film??) commented on Archie's daughter, Joan's, "blind love" for her father. I think it was not "blind love" at all, but a recognition of the (probably useless) courage Archie has to muster to continue to face each day -- a day likely to hold for him only more demoralizing failure and unceasing accusation and blame. And far from being totally selfish, as some commentators have written, Archie really seems to be the only person in the family able to look beyond the extremely small focus on their own interests: he is, in fact, the only person in the Rice tribe making a real effort, despite the pain, to find a path out of the mess to a place of security for them all.

Perhaps we have forgotten how dependent families were in that era on the earnings of "the breadwinner," and yet, reviewers seem to have been just as blind as many wives and families of that time to what a man often had to give up in order to be that breadwinner, including, as in Archie's case, any fantasies of greatness or even, finally, his last shreds of self-esteem. Was Archie aware of his utter failure? Oh, I think absolutely so. This is why his admission to his daughter that he was "dead" behind his eyes. All the brightness of hope or illusions of personal excellence have been hammered out of him on the iron-cold anvil of real-world failure. Even so, he found it in him to dredge up the understanding and compassion to alleviate his wife, Phoebe's drunken crash into despair and hostility; and shore up his father's nostalgic dreams. Though, alas, the latter, too, led to yet another "unforgiveable" tragedy (-- or was it?.

The most exquisite and poignant tragedy of it all is that maybe, just maybe, Archie might have pulled it off, but for the failure of his clueless family to understand him or the grim realities of his doomed profession. Forget metaphors of Imperial England, this tale has surely played itself out millions of times, whenever a new technology has made an old craft obsolete -- as when the printing press replaced scribes, or when electric lights eliminated the town's lamp lighter, or when automated projectors replaced skilled projectionists. Many of the movie's reviewers, in my opinion, are as blind to what is really going on here as is Archie's family. They assume that Archie's failures are the result of his negligence and selfishness, and that his dalliance with the beauty queen is a real romance (and threat to their security), when, in his eyes, it is just another, necessary, desperate and ultimately demeaning business deal. Joan alone, it seems, finally understands -- far too late to avert the inevitable end. Ultimately, every family member's myopic conception of Archie's reality leads them to take the reflexive steps that seal his doom.

Shakespeare would have been completely a home with this tragic tale, and I think it was not such a great leap away from Hamlet for Olivier.

The story is richly-detailed, unexpected and though-provoking. And Olivier is superb. A stunning performance from beginning to tragically inevitable end.

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