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Staircase (1969)

Charles Dyer (Sir Rex Harrison) and Harry Leeds (Richard Burton) are a couple that have been living together for nearly twenty years. Both earn a living as hairdressers in the West End of ... See full summary »


Stanley Donen


Charles Dyer (screenplay), Charles Dyer (play)


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Complete credited cast:
Rex Harrison ... Charlie Dyer
Richard Burton ... Harry Leeds
Cathleen Nesbitt ... Harry's Mother
Beatrix Lehmann ... Charlie's Mother
Stephen Lewis ... Jack
Neil Wilson ... Policeman
Gordon Heath Gordon Heath ... Postman
Avril Angers Avril Angers ... Miss Ricard
Shelagh Fraser ... Cub Mistress
Gwen Nelson ... Matron
Pat Heywood Pat Heywood ... Nurse
Dermot Kelly Dermot Kelly ... Gravedigger
Jake Kavanagh Jake Kavanagh ... Choirboy
Michael Rogers Michael Rogers ... Drag Singer (as Rogers)
Royston Starr Royston Starr ... Drag Singer (as Starr)


Charles Dyer (Sir Rex Harrison) and Harry Leeds (Richard Burton) are a couple that have been living together for nearly twenty years. Both earn a living as hairdressers in the West End of London and both care deeply for their mothers, but not each other as time apart takes its toll on their relationship when Harry has to care for his invalid mother who snips at him every chance she gets.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Can this marriage last? See more »


Comedy | Drama | Romance


R | See all certifications »





English | French

Release Date:

20 August 1969 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

L'escalier See more »

Filming Locations:

London, England, UK See more »


Box Office


$6,370,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Stanley Donen Films See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Dame Elizabeth Taylor was shooting The Only Game in Town (1970) at the same time as this movie was in production. While that movie is set in Las Vegas, Taylor demanded that Director George Stevens shoot in France so she could be close to her husband, Richard Burton, who was filming this movie with Director Stanley Donen. This caused the budget of The Only Game in Town (1970) to grow higher than most large-scale, high-profile movies that Fox was producing at the time. Ironically, the production of this movie was moved to France to save money because of the U.K.'s high tax rates at the time. See more »


[repeated line]
Charles Dyer: God help us all and Oscar Wilde!
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Crazy Credits

The credits are repeated over and over, getting smaller at the top of the screen to give the image of a staircase. See more »


Featured in Homo Promo (1991) See more »


Written by Dudley Moore and Stanley Donen
Performed by Michael Rogers and Royston Starr (as Rogers & Starr)
[The drag performers perform the song prior to the opening title and credits, and again during the end credits]
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User Reviews

Who would have thought that two of the greatest actors in film history stoop to a piece of dung like this?
13 September 2007 | by rcj5365See all my reviews

Hollywood went slumming into the gay demimonde of London with the 1969 film "Staircase". The result was a fascinating mess becoming one of the worst films ever to come out of the latter part or the end of the 1960's. Producer-Director Stanley Donen(whose work includes working with stars like Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant in "Charade"),had started out to make a small film about the human need for relationships in even the most desperate times. With the casting of Richard Burton and Rex Harrison as aging gay lovers,however,it turned into the kind of Hollywood tribute to "the little people" that inevitably comes off phony. There was too much talent involved in this film not display moments of insight,but as a whole the picture left audiences wondering just who was the intended audience for it. And furthermore,who would have thought that two of the greatest actors in the history of film cinema---Richard Burton("Cleopatra","Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?", "Becket"),and Rex Harrison("The Ghost and Mrs. Muir","Cleopatra","My Fair Lady",and Doctor Doolittle")stoop to a piece of dung like this to even knowing that their careers would be jeopardize by this?

However,Stanley Donen must have felt the same way after seeing the original London production starring Paul Scofield and Patrick Magee. When "Staircase" came out in 1969,and with the decline in film censorship,Hollywood was opening up to films about the subject of homosexuality. Whereas previous literary properties with gay or lesbian characters had been avoided or "straightened out" by the big studios. By the late 60's,such prominent works as D.H. Lawrence's novella "The Fox",Carson McCullers' "Reflections In A Golden Eye",and John Herbert's play "Fortune and Men's Eyes",not to mention the stage version of "The Killing of Sister George" were all brought to the screen with a certain degree of faithfulness. In that spirit,20th Century-Fox agreed to take on the film version of "Staircase". The result was one of the biggest mistake Richard Burton and Rex Harrison ever did,resulting in becoming one of the worst films of the year,since "Staircase" came out in around Christmas of 1969. Along with it the bad reviews this movie received especially by some critics who blame director Stanley Donen for making Burton and Harrison exploitations of a sideshow attraction. To make things even worst getting stage veterans Cathleen Nesbitt and Beatrix Lehmann as the strong supporting mothers was probably the best part of the whole movies,since they actually stole the show. The rest of it was a bonafide mess. Check it the musical score composed by Dudley Moore-- yes,that Dudley Moore(from the "10" and "Arthur" movies).

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