“Present Laughter” Was Present On PBS

The 2017 Broadway production of the Noel Coward play, Present Laughter, has been filmed and was presented last Friday on the the PBS program, Great Performances.  A flavorous item, it stars Kevin Kline as a hopelessly vain theater actor and womanizer who gets his comeuppance at the hands of adulators (ones he doesn’t understand).  The cast is vibrant and commanding, with Kline of course the stand-out.  Bhavesh Patel is unrestrained as Roland, but it must be remembered that his character is a possible madman.  Tedra Millan (Daphne) is a droll tornado.

Young New Yawkers In “Little Fugitive”

Little Fugitive

Little Fugitive (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Morris Engle-Ruth Orkin picture, Little Fugitive (1953), probably influenced European cinema of the late Fifties and early Sixties, but I could never claim it has much to say.  What I do claim is that it is a dandy representation of boyhood in America, and is refreshingly honest about young-male emotions and concerns.

With his tough-as-nails little voice (necessarily dubbed), Richie Andrusco plays the “little fugitive,” he who, because of a prank, believes he has killed his 12-year-old brother; but has not.  Afraid, the boy takes off and—what do young New Yawkers like to do?  Go to Coney Island, which is what the little fugitive does.  For the most part, as the lad amuses himself at C.I., he is emotionally unaffected by the “killing” of a brother whose relentless teasing the boy hates. . . Little Fugitive is an urban, primitive-looking independent film with nonprofessional actors.  It was released at a time when American movies, though usually inartistic, were very gradually taking chances (as witness Beat the Devil, Night of the Hunter, The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T., The Girl Can’t Help It).  We’re fortunate the Engel-Orkin movie, not so inartistic, was made.

“Chariots of Fire,” Onward!

Chariots of Fire

Chariots of Fire (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Early in the film Chariots of Fire (1981), a working class chap comments apropos of two Cambridge students that British young men fought a hellish war (World War I) so that “shits like [the two students] could get a decent education.”  But the wealthy need not be ashamed—here, they’re clearly not a bad lot—and the fought-for Great Britain is loved by its citizens, young men and the rest.

Of course Great Britain is imperfect, as is the twentieth century.  If it is not banal to say so, where perfection exists is in commitment to something worthwhile, and so Cambridge student Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross), a Jew, is committed to a Jewish victory in competitive running.  This in the midst of British anti-Semitism.  There is also commitment in Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson), a Scottish Christian and another runner, and this is good.  A modern Britain, after all, seems to pose a desultory threat to religion:  it balks at Liddell’s refusal to run a heat on Sunday.  It is a favor done by a particular Cambridge student which enables the young man to participate (in the 1924 Olympics).  In Chariots of Fire, many moments of light, in England, follow the terrible war years.  Granted, there is nothing redemptive in all the Olympic running, but what about the religious lives of people—religious dedication?









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