Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, May 13, 2010



If there were ever an actor who classed up every production he was in, it was British genius Ralph Richardson.

His first movie was The Ghoul in 1933, a frankly awful Boris Karloff vehicle in which Richardson only had a supporting role, but was in fine form in any case.

After that he appeared in a number of well-received British films such as The Citadel, although this King Vidor film was really a vehicle for Robert Donat.

Appearing in American films as well as British, he gave a superb performance in The Heiress in 1949. Other notable roles were in Exodus, Long Day's Journey Into Night as James Tyrone, and Alexander in Doctor Zhivago, although as the years rolled by he sometimes appeared in comparative junk such as Who Slew Auntie Roo? and Tales from the Crypt (as the devil), wherein his talents were pretty much wasted.

One of his more interesting latter-day roles was as Ulrich the magician in Dragonslayer in 1981, where he combined frailty, bravado and grandeur in equal measure to create a memorable portrait of an aging sorcerer up against almost overwhelming odds. It wasn't easy to steal scenes from that magnificent dragon, but he managed it.

Richardson was knighted in 1947, when he still had many more triumphs ahead of him.

Verdict: They just don't make actors like him anymore.

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