Uncle Vanya

Vanya’s defense of the country estate on which he lives is exactly mirrored in Ritt’s Hud, Pinter’s Night School, and Losey’s Accident.

Burge’s film is a record with two or three cameras of the 1962 Chichester production directed by Laurence Olivier.



The technique is much the same as that used by Burge for Uncle Vanya, three cameras on a stage representation (re-created at Shepperton), the stage mostly bare and in this instance quite suggestive of a theater in London four centuries ago, this time using Panavision and Technicolor.

Bosley Crowther of the New York Times took great umbrage at Olivier’s Othello as black beyond the pale, a caricature of what Sartre calls négritude, in a word “minstrel show” (Time Out Film Guide says “nigger minstrel”). In such a case, one cannot speak of critics, only “goats and monkeys”. The technical points can easily be recognized in the characterization, Paul Robeson for the voice and Ossie Davis for the mien give a very good idea of the general compass, a well-studied characterization that is a great deal of the performance (Halliwell has “disappointing in terms of cinema”, the director of photography is Geoffrey Unsworth, “but a valuable record of a famous performance”).

The strange love of the Moor and his Venetian bride is taught great zeal by his enemies according to a well-known Elizabethan conceit that translates l’amour et la mort...


Julius Cæsar

The long-drawn arguments are character studies, Cæsar the “northern star”, Brutus “the noblest Roman of them all”, Cassius “the last of all the Romans”, Antony “a masquer and a reveller”, Octavius the “peevish schoolboy” et al., this leads by degrees to the astounding comic revelation of Cassius, “my sight was ever thick,” and still more terribly of Brutus deceived in him.

Extraordinarily, and perhaps following Mankiewicz, Burge treats this as a film rather than a play, with a Hollywood score for good measure.

“Elementary”, says Halliwell’s Film Guide. No effort seems to have availed with critics, who found the film “disappointing” (Variety) and worse (New York Times, Chicago Sun-Times), faulting Jason Robards’ performance above all.

With Charlton Heston, who played the part for David Bradley, a great anticipation of Boris Sagal’s The Omega Man and its “reviving blood”.


The Philanthropist

Christopher Hampton’s play on the nature of criticism, a very great comedy about a philologist scion of Prof. Henry Higgins, a man of pure understanding, vis-à-vis the rich novelist and the English don with a critical faculty.

A perfect production from Cedric Messina for the BBC.


The Importance of Being Earnest

A tale of town and country, like Richardson’s Tom Jones, which arranges a similar confrontation of earnestness and frivolity.

Quite a serious play, pace G.B.S., so much so that the Burge production largely eschews the Gielgud gravitas and gets more laughs per minute by forcing the play onto the stage to give an account of itself, the cast is there to meet it at every vantage.

Two men called Ernest who are not and must be (Asquith’s analysis is priceless), their prevarications amount to Miss Prism’s “three-volume novel of more than usually revolting sentimentality”, at last it is settled.

Forbes’ The Wrong Box understands the mutual exclusion rule here, one is an invalid, the other wicked, both dead in the course of things, it is a system, as Mr. Bumble would say.

Asquith omits solicitor Gribsby collecting Jack’s debt on Ernest, who is Algernon and strapped for cash, Burge restores him.