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Who’s better? Laurence Olivier or Roger Daltrey?

May 22, 2017

On Larry Olivier’s 110th birthday – reposting the classic Laurence Olivier versus Roger Daltrey debate…



Or rather, who’s better – Peter Brook or Jonathan Miller.

(Not such an arresting question, now is it?)

Each year I have to consider which filmed version of The Beggar’s Opera I’m to recommend to my students.  The one directed by a young Peter Brook in the 1950s and starring Olivier and the one made by a not so young Jonathan Miller in the 1980s and starring Daltrey.  Each year, it’s no contest as I declare that “that deaf, dumb and blind kid – sure plays a mean eighteenth-century highwayman!”.

The truth is rather more complex.  Although the 1980s version is rather more accessible for pedagogic purposes, Brook’s film has much to recommend it.  Visually it is extraordinary.  It is stagy and cinematic at the same time.  Although Brook uses very few exterior shots and sticks to a very confined space (anything but an ’empty’ space) the camera moves constantly…

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