Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Welles vs. Olivier

Reading Claudia Roth Pierpont's recent New Yorker essay (abstract available here) on the career trajectories of Laurence Olivier and Orson Welles reminded me of how embarrassingly short-changed I am on the works of both men. I am familiar mainly with a handful of films of Later Laurence (Sleuth, Marathon Man, The Boys from Brazil, and, ahem, Clash of the Titans); and I'm up to speed with Essential Orson (Citizen Kane, Touch of Evil, The Lady from Shanghai, even Mr. Arkadin). But Shakespeare? I've never seen Welles's Macbeth or Olivier's Hamlet or any of their other Bard-related roles that Pierpont covers in her piece, but now I desperately want to, if for no other reason but to get the hammy Kenneth Branaugh taste out of my mouth.

Of Shakespeare on-stage (where both Olivier and Welles cut their teeth) I'm even less informed, though I heard great things about Kevin Kline's King Lear from earlier this year. Near the top of my wish list is to see any theater performance by Kline. I'm delighted and envious about the current production of Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac, which starring only Kline would have been enough for me. They could have cast a coat rack (or Julia Roberts, same dif) as Roxane and their core audience would have gone along with it, but adding Jennifer Garner sounds like an inspired choice. She reminds me of a girl in our softball league last summer who had the physicality to slide hard into third base, then batted her eyelashes at the ump and got the call. A cutie-pie with spikes in her heels -- that's Garner. That's Roxane.


Anonymous said...

I'm also a fan of Kevin Kline and enjoyed his role with Jamie Lee Curtis in the movie "A Fish Called Wanda". French Fries doused in ketchup used for nostril punishment is unforgettable.

In reading your comment about his great performance in the role of Cyrano de Bergerac reminded me of another performer. His named was Jose Ferrer who played that role in the early 50s. It earned him an Academy Award Best Actor. He isn't ranked with the great ones like Welles or Oliver but his role as lago in Othello was a long running stage play.

We also saw Cyrano de Bergerac again in Steve Martin's hilarious movie "roxanne". The weapon of choice was a tennis racket not an epee.

My first introduction to Cyrano de Bergerac was through Classic Comic Books. Over the decades the tale is still being told.

Kevin Kline as Cyrano sounds like a play to see.


Craig said...

Thank you, Roland. I have never seen the Jose Ferrer version, but you've made me want to check it out. In addition to the Steve Martin version (which I love), there's a slightly more recent one with Gerard Depardieu in the lead.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed the 1990 version of Cyrano de Bergerac with Gerard Depardieu. Thanks for sharing with me.