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Bartleby (1970)

PG | | Drama | 27 July 1973 (USA)
An asocial and enigmatic office clerk refuses to do his work, leaving it up to his boss to decide what should be done with him.


Anthony Friedman (as Anthony Friedmann)


Rodney Carr-Smith (screenplay), Anthony Friedman (screenplay) (as Anthony Friedmann) | 1 more credit »
1 win. See more awards »




Cast overview:
Paul Scofield ... The Accountant
John McEnery ... Bartleby
Thorley Walters ... The Colleague
Colin Jeavons ... Tucker
Raymond Mason Raymond Mason ... Landlord
Charles Kinross Charles Kinross ... Tenant
Neville Barber Neville Barber ... First Client
Robin Askwith ... Office Boy
Hope Jackman Hope Jackman ... Hilda - Tealady
John Watson John Watson ... Doctor
Christine Dingle Christine Dingle ... Patient
Rosalind Elliot Rosalind Elliot ... Miss Brown - Secretary
Tony Parkin Tony Parkin ... Dickinson - Clerk


Updated to 1970s London, this faithful adaptation of Herman Melville's classic follows a young accounting clerk rebelling against his employer by responding to demands to do work by saying, "I prefer not to." This is carried on ad absurdum until the office is in chaos because the other employees must do Bartleby's work. His boss is unable to fire or help him and eventually has him placed in a mental hospital. Paul Scofield (A Man for All Seasons), John McEnery (The Duellists) and Thorley Walters (TV's "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy") star in this impeccably mounted study of employment, insanity, and the rigors of everyday life from one of literature's most acclaimed geniuses. Written by Anonymous

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PG | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


The church steeple that can be seen through Bartleby's office window is that of St. Vedast alias Foster in the City of London. See more »


The Accountant: Now, Bartleby, sit down. I want to check procedures for the Prebble Account and verify our results so far. With the three of us, it will be faster.
Bartleby: I don't feel I can. Just at the moment.
[he exits]
The Accountant: [the Accountant and Tucker have followed Bartleby to his office] What on Earth do you mean by this?
Bartleby: I would prefer not to say.
The Accountant: Prefer not to. What do you do mean, you prefer not to? Are you refusing to cooperate?
Bartleby: I prefer not to.
Bartleby: But. look here; this is normal practice, it's an excellent way to save work ...
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Version of Bartleby (2001) See more »

User Reviews

Nice Try
2 February 2004 | by vox-saneSee all my reviews

An odd but interesting updating of Melville short story that has a superb cast. Colin Jeavons (Inspector Lestrade to Jeremy Brett's Sherlock Holmes) does his best Tom Courtenay impression. Thorley Walters is his typically distracted self (though he hasn't much to do). Paul Scofield has one of the greatest challenges of his career: playing an ordinary employer, and he rises to the challenge with a superb performance.

The weak link is John McEnery. A fine actor, he was a stand-out as Kerensky in "Nicholas and Alexandra" (and perhaps the only actor who wasn't swamped by the affair) and his Mercutio in "Romeo and Juliet" was more interesting than either Romeo or Juliet. But his Bartleby is too soft-spoken. I don't read Melville's Bartleby as being so apologetic when he says "I prefer not to." McEnery seems to want to strip any sort of emoting at all from his performance -- and that he comes so close proves that he is a fine actor -- and he comes off as merely bland, and Scofield acts him off the screen.

Gratuitous scenes of '60s folk on the street PERHAPS try to tie Bartleby in with the spirit of revolt, in his own way. But it that's what they meant, it doesn't seep through. The growing weirdness and sadness of Bartleby is diluted (for instance, by putting the dead letter office gag up front). McEnery's Bartleby is sad throughout and there's no explanation offered.

Though it doesn't quite capture the essence of Melville, it's worth watching for Scofield alone.

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Release Date:

27 July 1973 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Bartleby See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:



Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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