These are the films Alan Bates himself
cited as his best, or favourite, work.
in Love (1970) "It meant a lot to me; I've always
loved Lawrence, and I couldn't believe we'd pulled that off,
really. It's an incredibly difficult book, and somehow we just
got the spirit of it."
"That was a great thing for me, Butley, in the theatre
In Celebration (1974) "It's
a marvelous piece of writing of tension and conflict, and I am
as happy with that as with anything I have been in."
The Mayor of Casterbridge
(1978 - TV, 7-part mini series) "He
had a tremendous vision of life, attempted huge things, failed
dreadfully, was anihilated at the end. There's something that
can take you over, with a part like that."
Nijinsky (1980) "This
is a part I cared a great deal about; I sort of had a love for
Cherry Orchard (1999) "Cacoyannis - who had dreamt
of doing 'The Cherry Orchard' for years, raised the money for
it himself, and expended on the film 'so much passion and love
- allowed the individual characters to blossom and let the play
speak for itself."
SIX CORE CLASSICS
The quality of these films from the 60s is remarkable.
All of them are, after 30+ years, readily rentable from video
Entertainer (1960) The film belongs to Laurence Olivier,
but it's an auspicious debut for both Bates and Albert Finney.
Olivier himself has said, "I'm Archie Rice, not Hamlet."
Whistle Down the Wind
(1961) It's hard to believe that the film avoids all the
saccharin possibilities the plot suggests (a group of children
mistake a fugitive for Jesus Christ); but it does. Superb performances
all around, with Bates as the fugitive.
Zorba the Greek (1964) Bates's
first film for an American studio. When asked what he remembers
best about the filming, Bates cites the two wonderful women,
Irene Papas and Lila Kedrova.
King of Hearts (1966) A cult
favourite for over three decades; Bates, as a Scottish soldier
in France, airs his serviceable French for most of the film.
Girl (1966) Bates said that he chose the madcap character
of Jos as a deliberate change of pace after the shy or mild-mannered
roles he had been playing. His first entrance, when Lynn Redgrave
opens the door to him, announces that clearly.
Far from the Madding Crowd (1967)
It's common knowledge that Bates wanted to play Sergeant Troy
rather than the solid, dependable Gabriel Oak, which was not
new territory for him. But aren't we glad he didn't! A lovely,
neglected film with spectacular location photography. Try
to find the wide-screen version.
FIVE AWARD WINNERS
The Fixer (1968) From
the Bernard Malamud novel. Bates won his only Academy Award nomination
for his portrayal of a Jewish victim of Russian brutality.
The Go-Between (1971) The
film won the Palm d'Or at Cannes the year it was released. Bates
and Julie Christie are fated lovers from separate social classes.
Voyage Round My Father
(1982-TV) From the autobiographical play
by John Mortimer: Laurence Olivier is a blind barrister; Bates
is his son, Jane Asher is Bates's wife. Filmed at Mortimer's
home in Oxfordshire.
An Englishman Abroad
(1983-TV) A true story masterfully told
by Alan Bennett, it has been called the best single hour of television
ever put on film. Bates is traitor Guy Burgess, exiled in Moscow
but missing the London amenities; Coral Browne, radiant in one
of her last roles, plays herself. Done on a shoestring on location
in Dundee (standing in for Moscow), each scene, each bit of dialog,
is deliciously perfect.
Park (2001) Upstairs Downstairs-style social satire directed
by Robert Altman with an all-star ensemble cast. Bates gleams
as the stalwart butler Jennings.
FIVE POPULAR FAVOURITES
An Unmarried Woman
(1978) Bates as the perfect man: secure, creative, sensitive,
passionate; and Jill Clayburgh as the woman who rejects him.
To quote Goldie Hawn as Pvt. Benjamin: "Did you see 'An
Unmarried Woman?' Well, I didn't get it -- I would have been
Mrs Alan Bates so fast he wouldn't know what hit him!"
The Rose (1979) Bette
Middler is the Joplinesque rock queen on a path of destruction;
Alan Bates is her heartless manager.
We Think the World of You
(1988) Bates as a closeted middle-aged bureaucrat, Gary Oldman
stunning as his tough young lover, Frances Barber as Oldman's
slutty wife, Liz Smith superb as Oldman's mother (Bates's ex-charwoman)
all upstaged by a lovely Alsatian bitch called Evie.
(1990) Bates as Claudius and Glenn Close as Gertrude ignite sparks,
but a first-rate Hamlet by Mel Gibson is the centrepiece of this
pared-down, elegant "Hamlet" directed by Franco Zeffirelli.
It's beautiful, fast-paced, eloquent, but you can't enjoy it
fully if you're fretting about the liberties Zeffirelli took
with the play.
(1994-TV) Make a vat of popcorn and
curl up for four hours of pure pleasure and amusement. It's a
delightful, light mystery/romance, with a cast that includes
Sinead Cusack, Miles Anderson and Bill Paterson. (The European
version is the full five episodes; the American version edits
situations and characters out of parts 1 and 2, and rolls them
into one of four episodes.)
FOUR SUPERB SLEEPERS
These films, for various reasons, didn't attract
the audience they deserve:
A Kind of Loving (1962)
A late "kitchen sink" drama directed by John Schlesinger,
it features Bates and June Ritchie as naive young working class
lovers who are brought up short by the reality of her pregnancy.
A Day in the Death of Joe Egg
(1972) The film version of Peter Nichol's play, Bates and
Janet Suzman play the parents of a profoundly retarded 10-year-old
daughter. It's painful but wonderful. (The photo above is a still
from "Joe Egg.")
Story of a Love Story (1973)
A brilliant film by John Frankenheimer from the Nicholas Mosley
novel "Impossible Object." Bates is Harry, a writer
in midlife crisis; Frankenheimer's wife Evans Evans plays Harry's
wife, and the beautiful Dominique Sanda his lover... is she real
or an inhabitant of his imagination?
The Trespasser (1981-TV) From D.H. Lawrence's second novel, it's
the story of a doomed romance between a violinist and his pupil,
in the course of a stolen week on the Isle of Wight. Talky, passionate,