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Ralph Richardson, film actor


JackFavell
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When considering the "big three" British stage actors - Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson - I have always found Ralph Richardson to be the most interesting on screen. Perhaps because he tended toward character roles anyway, I think he had arguably the most successful career in movies. Maybe it was that he was not competing with anyone - he tends to get quieter, subtler in his big moments. He turns inward, whereas Olivier seems to be trying to command the screen as he did the stage, and Gielgud gets sentimental and choky (don't get me wrong, I like sentimental and choky).

 

Some of my favorite performances by Richardson, and ones that show his range are:

 

*The Fallen Idol*

 

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You can literally see Richardson's heart sink into his boots in this film, as he watches himself become the main suspect in his shrewish wife's murder. He cannot explain his secretive actions without incriminating the woman he loves, nor can he explain how his wife died, because he doesn't know. This is my favorite of his films and my favorite of his performances. It is, I think, his only romantic lead, and he actually is quite romantic, which is a great surprise. There is a weakness in his character that is strangely winsome. He and Michele Morgan are extremely well matched in this film, and their situation is heartbreaking. Richardson is so innocent, so understated, that the smallest flicker across his face can speak volumes. The camera eye picks up every detail of his nervousness, just as the policemen sent to investigate seem to. Every move he makes registers "GUILTY". It doesn't hurt that this film is directed by Carol Reed, another of my favorites. The actor/director combination is perfect, with Reed making us see Richardson through the eyes of a worshipful, lonely little boy. No wonder we love the quiet, gentle hearted "Baines" so much.

 

*The Heiress*

 

WOW. I think the only thing I can say is that he plays a man so in love with his dead wife that looking at his own unaccomplished daughter makes him ill. I watched this one the other night, with the intent to discover what really made Richardson's performance so brilliant, and I still haven't any answers. I simply don't know what his mechanics are - how he got to this performance. I do know that his scenes with Monty are wonderful and awful at the same time - his genuine pleasure at catching out Clift as a bounder is kind of horrible. He is brutal and ruthless, and so very smart. Clift doesn't even know he has been checkmated. You want to look away, but you can't.

 

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His little remarks and double entendres go over everyone's head but ours....we know exactly what Richardson is thinking when he says to Catherine, "I shall be as fair and honest with him as he is with you." He is so tight in himself, and yet, it is a sad, sad performance. One could almost feel sorry for Dr. Sloper, but he wouldn't allow it, and neither does Richardson. He never slides into mawkishness, trying to make us like his character. This is why he continued to play these types for the rest of his life, specializing in characters like Judge Brack in *Hedda Gabler* and Dr. Rank in *A Doll's House*. He was so very good at them.

 

*Anna Karenina*

 

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I am amazed that he played in *The Fallen Idol, The Heiress,* and *Anna Karenina,* all within a year and a half. Though his role as Dr. Sloper and his role as Karenin are close, they are certainly not the same character. Anna's husband has no humor, and he IS hurt, no matter what we think of him. The two men are alike in thinking more of their standing than of their family's happiness. I think Karenin is a bit more sympathetic.

 

*Four Feathers*

 

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This is the first film where Richardson caught my eye. I realized while watching the film for the first time, that Richardson was unafraid, creative. He had no fear of the offbeat. This helped him enormously in his screen career.

 

The scene in the desert encampment when he realizes that he has gone blind is very powerful. His actions as commander to save his men while never letting them know he is blind never fail to move me. I really believe Richardson's blindness - his stumblings are almost comical (in the same way that Brando can be comical at the most serious of moments), and those actions ring true because of it. He makes you feel terrible for this man, who is going through hell, looks such a fool bumping into things, but he thinks only of his men and how he will get them out of danger. He is the epitome of the stiff upper lip British soldier, and you want him to make it, against all odds.

 

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*The Citadel*

 

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Richardson is just what's needed in this ultra serious movie. He plays Robert Donat's slightly batty but politically savvy friend, and he lends excitement to the proceedings, especially in the bomb sequence. This is Richardson at his most charming, oddball best, comedically. His humor and relaxed sarcasm are like a shot in the arm.... Oooh. Sorry.

 

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I like him immensely for his ability to bring humor into his performances. I like his oddness. He can be extremely silly. I also like his openness about acting in films:

 

> "I've never been one of those stage chaps who scoff at films. I think they're a marvelous medium, and are to the stage what engravings are to paintings."

 

and

 

> "Acting on the screen is like acting under a microscope. The slightest movement becomes a gesture and therefore the discipline has to be very severe."

 

I would like to know if he was certifiably mad or not, as Gielgud once said of him. I adore reading stories of him.... that he was once pulled out of a gutter in Oxford Street and when the policeman asked what he was doing he said he was walking his pet mouse. I must admit, I love his almost magical Puckishness in real life. If there were such a thing as time travel, the first thing I would do would be to go back to see Ralph Richardson as Falstaff. Or maybe just help him walk his pet mouse. :D

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Marvellous Jack, wonderful memories colliding all over the place in this highly informative and entertaining post. i have seen many of Sir Ralph's films and he never failed to deliver, one of my favorites was his portrayal of the British C.O. on Cyprus in Exodus. He made you believe was a General Officer and the the posh British manner he shows opposite Eva Marie Saint and the mannerly, but exasperated demeanor when confronting the screw-UPS of his aide Peter Lawford. Always love your posts jack.

 

Edited by: stjohnrv on Nov 13, 2010 1:24 PM

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Thanks, stjohnrv! I have yet to watch *Exodus* just for Sir Ralph - I like to go back and look at some of his movies with a more focused eye. He was extremely good at playing upper class types or military figures. After reading his biography, I find that he was actually rather impoverished as a child. There is something very grand that he pulls from inside which makes him a natural at high class characters. Maybe it's an emphasis on manners and protocol that can seem either severe, or funny, depending on the role.

 

There are a few of Richardson's performances on youtube, most notably *Q Planes/Clouds Over Europe*. In it he gives a wonderful performance as an MI-5 agent, trying to figure out why new model fighter planes are disappearing left and right from British airfields. He tosses off the lines quickly, and adds so much humor to the story. Laurence Olivier is also in the film, and the two really crack me up, though Olivier is rather subdued.

 

Patrick Macnee said that as a kid, he was so taken with Richardson's character in the film that he based his character John Steed of *The Avengers* on it. The movie is a lot of fun to watch, so here it is:

 

*Q Planes*

 

Edited by: JackFavell on Nov 13, 2010 2:46 PM

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*Jackie*, you're mah-velous. Great OP on Ralph. I liked the clip on "Q planes." I was particularly struck by that rapid-fire opening sequence, the montage with cars, the streets, the crowds, a great beginning, and mah-velously constructed. Oh, Ralph was kind of cool, too. And a nice twist right there at the beginning, Oh, he's Mr Hammond. I had to go back and play that again, like, how come he's in his office? Good thing I didn't see this in the theater, I would have had to ask the projectionist for a replay, it happened so fast. Very clever and entertaining beginning, all the way around. I've never seen a whole movie on youtube. Are all the parts there to view consecutively? You mentioned going back and see Ralph play Falstaff. Absolutely, and so many of those other greats who played at the Old Vic. Ralph and Lawrence used swap roles, one night as Falstaff, the other as Prince Hal, didn't they? Didn't anyone ever think to film some of that stuff, at least sequences? Didn't they know we would have youtube one of these days. I'll be keeping track of this thread, you come up with such good ones, so thorough, and great caps, the norm.

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I would kill to find a copy of his Falstaff on video! Or his Cyrano.... or Peer Gynt. Why couldn't they have been more foresighted??? :D

 

Yes, there should be all the parts of the movie - After I am done with that section, I usually scan the right side of the page to find the next part. But now they have this new format where everything is pictured at the top of the page where the screen is. Usually the next episode or part is pictured at the top of the screen or the left hand side.

 

If that doesn't work for you, here is a link to a listing of all the parts in order.

 

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=q+planes&aq=f

 

P.S. Thanks very much for the compliment. I have a little something extra for you.

 

1961 *Hedda Gabler* with Ingrid Bergman. Richardson as Judge Brack (of course):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKgcjssJgvY&feature=related

 

Not my favorite Hedda, but Richardson is fun to watch maneuvering, manipulating. He could do this part in his sleep.

 

Edited by: JackFavell on Nov 13, 2010 3:59 PM

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*I would kill to find a copy of his Falstaff on video! Or his Cyrano.... or Peer Gynt. Why couldn't they have been more foresighted??? :D*

 

I agree. I mean, if they can look back 400 years to Shakespeare, they might at least be able look ahead 60 years to youtube. Sheesh!

 

Thanks for the Hedda. I watched the clip and searched further clips to at least get a look at Ralph. Sadly, I don't know this play but I'm hooked and will have to put this on my short list. You know me, I love this stuff. I think you and I have discussed (along with others) Chekhov in the past as well as various BBC productions in this same vein. I loved this opening clip. Of course, I can' compare Hedda's yet but I like what little I saw of Ingrid.

 

By the way, Ms Favell, congratulations on 10K. Are you being celebrated elsewhere on the boards that I'm missing? Ten thousand wonderful posts and hoping for at least Fifty thousand more (for starters) :)

 

We should have a party.

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Thank you Monsieur Pirate! I had no idea - what a blabbermouth I am. :)

 

I am glad that I could devote number 10K to such an august member of the acting profession.

 

I'm totally ready for a party, and I am sure Sir Ralph is! Maybe he'll bring along his friend Sir Larry:

 

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hmmm. Or maybe not. :D

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>Thank you Monsieur Pirate! I had no idea - what a blabbermouth I am. :)

 

But what blab! The quality of blab has reached new heights! :)

 

*I am glad that I could devote number 10K to such an august member of the acting profession.*

 

Somewhere he may be beaming. "Thank you, Jack Favell."

 

RalphRichardsonandoliviermaybe-1.jpg

 

Ralph: Ten thousand posts, a veritable achievement."

Larry: Very like, very like, hmm

,,

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Jackie! Some mysterious force had even conspired to keep me off the boards last night (since around midnight) in connection with you and Ralph Richardson. You remember of course the other venue where I was stymied. Weird! But now all is well, I'm able to log on (at these Message Boards at least) with Ralph all agog at your marvelous 10,000 post milestone. My best wishes go without saying!

 

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See you later to discuss this unique film actor!

 

Edited by: Bronxgirl48 on Nov 14, 2010 11:54 AM

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Oh my gosh, poor Bronxie! I think I would have died from suspense if you hadn't been able to post those photos! What a sweet shade of blue his caterpillar is! I like his fronds. I think Sir Ralph would be quite adept at playing any animal, he had great affinity for them, and kept white mice, rats, a parrot named Jose, a ferret....

 

Some of his co-workers said that later on in life he would pretend to be a bee before a performance. I think he was having them on.

 

Thanks for the 10K wishes - I love the picture of Sir Ralph with the goggles! It's perfectly ridiculous and yet I have the feeling it's from a serious film.

 

I think I have the one of him schmoozing with Korda and a couple of other gents. Is this it?

 

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He is so naughty. It looks like Korda was trying to explain something to him and he has no attention span. He is getting into trouble, like a schoolboy. :D

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> {quote:title=JackFavell wrote:}{quote}

> Oh my gosh, poor Bronxie! I think I would have died from suspense if you hadn't been able to post those photos! What a sweet shade of blue his caterpillar is! I like his fronds. I think Sir Ralph would be quite adept at playing any animal, he had great affinity for them, and kept white mice, rats, a parrot named Jose, a ferret....

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You have no idea how panic-stricken I was last night at being unable to "fly" to this RR thread immediately. I couldn't get onto the Message Boards until this morning. Ralph looks so comfortable as a centipede. Yes, I could see him playing many critters with the same ease in which he essays his human characters.

>

> Some of his co-workers said that later on in life he would pretend to be a bee before a performance. I think he was having them on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ha! Didn't he do a t.v. movie with "Bee" in the title?

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> Thanks for the 10K wishes - I love the picture of Sir Ralph with the goggles! It's perfectly ridiculous and yet I have the feeling it's from a serious film.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, you're welcome. At first I thought it was from Q PLANES! I was astounded to find out that Ralph did a movie in the early '40's called THE AVENGERS. (or, I think that's the U.S. title) So many connections to Steed...

>

> I think I have the one of him schmoozing with Korda and a couple of other gents. Is this it?

>

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> He is so naughty. It looks like Korda was trying to explain something to him and he has no attention span. He is getting into trouble, like a schoolboy. :D

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ralph looks so relaxed! I'm not sure if that's Vincent Korda behind Clements, though. Wouldn't you have loved to have Ralph as a dinner party guest?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ralph always looks as though he's got a twinkle in his eyes, off-screen and on. I think the first film I ever saw him in was THE HEIRESS, and I was very taken with the chill of that performance. Then I was astounded at his James Tyrone in LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT, where he shows you the poor Irish immigrant within his reinvented American stage actor persona. I need to see THE FALLEN IDOL again, but I remember how what I think of as Richardson's trademark effortless economy of character interpretation, was brilliantly and beautifully realized as the very human Baines. Ralph's been in so many movies that I've seen over the years, THINGS TO COME, THE HOLLY AND THE IVY (that one would be perfect for Xmas) so many others I'm trying to remember off the top of my pointy head...I think he even played Dr. Watson! Also was in some of those Brit horror/suspense stuff, WHOEVER SLEW AUNTIE ROO? with Shelly Winters, lol, a FRANKENSTEIN t.v. movie, etc. You know, all those things with a pseudo-English, faux-literary, quirkily distinguished bent.

Plus, of course, all the classics.

 

Edited by: Bronxgirl48 on Nov 14, 2010 6:53 PM

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