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A Voyage Round My Father (1982)

Not Rated | | Drama | TV Movie 19 April 1984
Before creating the beloved courtroom drama Rumpole of the Bailey (1978), writer John Mortimer found inspiration in his own life for this portrait of a difficult but enduring love between ... See full summary »


Alvin Rakoff


John Mortimer (play), John Mortimer (screenplay)
4 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Laurence Olivier ... Clifford Mortimer
Alan Bates ... John Mortimer
Jane Asher ... Elizabeth
Elizabeth Sellars ... Mother
Michael Aldridge ... Headmaster
Alan Cox ... Son as a Boy
Norman Bird ... Ham
Albert Welling ... Japhet
James A. Downer James A. Downer ... Reigate
Susan Littler Susan Littler ... Miss Cox
Gay Wilde Gay Wilde ... Miss Baker
Anthony Sharp ... Film Director
Ann Davies Ann Davies ... A.T.S. Girl
Judy Riley Judy Riley ... A.T.S. Girl
Jonathan Newth ... Boustead


Before creating the beloved courtroom drama Rumpole of the Bailey (1978), writer John Mortimer found inspiration in his own life for this portrait of a difficult but enduring love between father and son in mid twentieth century Britain. Screen legend Sir Laurence Olivier stars as the eccentric patriarch, a blind barrister so stubborn and cantankerous that he refuses to acknowledge his sightlessness. Sir Alan Bates (Gosford Park (2001)) portrays his devoted son, who follows his father's footsteps in the law while longing to become a writer, with Jane Asher (Brideshead Revisited (1981)) as his wife. Adapted for the screen by Mortimer and filmed largely on-location at his family estate in bucolic Oxfordshire, this production garnered multiple awards, including an International Emmy for best drama. By turns hilarious and heartbreaking, it captures the special bond between father and son, which at times seems unbearable, but ultimately unbreakable.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis




Not Rated | See all certifications »






Release Date:

19 April 1984 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Les lumières de la nuit See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Thames Television See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


There had been an attempt to make a theatrical version with Sir Rex Harrison in 1973 or 1974, but after just a few weeks filming, it ran out of money. Edward Fox also starred, and he mentioned that none of the scenes filmed involved Harrison, apparently his agent was dubious that the producers had sufficient funds in place. See more »


John Mortimer: You think of how people tell you it's meant to feel: sudden freedom, the end of dependance. You walk into the sun and no-one is taller than you, and you are in no-one else's shadow. But I know how I felt. Lonely.
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Featured in Great Performances: Laurence Olivier: A Life (1983) See more »

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User Reviews

His world went dark
11 December 2016 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

We have it from no less than the author himself that John Mortimer preferred Laurence Olivier's film version of A Voyage Round My Father to what Alec Guinness who created the role for the London stage did back in 1971. I can certainly see Guinness in the part with his own interpretation, but Olivier doing this in the twilight of his career is certainly something to see.

It's staged differently the accident. According to Wikipedia Clifford Mortimer hit his head on the roof of a London Taxi in 1936 and detached the retinas in both eyes. His world went dark permanently after that. In the film Mortimer hits his head on a tree branch. But Mortimer being the irascible iconoclastic sort that he was just never gave into it. Not only did he not acknowledge the blindness, but wife Elizabeth Sellars and son Alan Bates never could either and weren't allowed to. No training in braille, no seeing eye dogs, Olivier only uses a walking stick to warn him of obstacles ahead. He continues the practice of law quite successfully.

Olivier was 77 when he made A Voyage Round My Father and while he doesn't do all that well at a younger age, when he grows into the part where his real age and his character's age blend he's absolutely superb. His scene with Jane Asher when he's "looking" her over as his prospective daughter-in-law is the highlight of the film for me.

Note should also be given to young Alan Cox who plays young John Mortimer who grows up to be Alan Bates. Done for Thames television A Voyage Round My Father is one great television drama.

John Mortimer is best known for creating Rumpole Of Old Bailey which is popular on both sides of the pond. You can see a bit of Leo McKern's Horace Rumpole in what Olivier does.

A must for Horace Rumpole's legion of fans.

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