p h e m e r a
The 1,000 Best Movies Ever Made
(by Vincent Canby, Janet Maslin and the
Film Critics of the New York Times
It's a fun list - you'll probably be surprised by how many
terrific films you've seen, it will remind you to rent or buy
a few. Almost certainly, you'll find some favourites that are
not there. Here are the surprising five Bates films that were
included, and some very subjective comments:
||The Entertainer (1960)
This is, of course, Laurence Olivier's film, and a prestigious
credit for newcomers Bates, Finney, Plowright (whose previous
film roles had been tiny). It's a classic, and has certainly
earned it's place on a "best" list.
||Nothing But the Best (1964)
A film with real 60's zany flair, now looking pretty dated. Further,
it's deeply out of print, so unless it's re-issued, it is a great
film that virtually nobody can see. "Zorba the Greek,"
released in the same year, is NOT listed!
||Georgy Girl (1966)
Fine performances from Redgrave, Rampling, Mason and Bates. I've
always wondered why this is considered a comedy - it seems dark,
cynical, sad if not tragic. Well worth revisiting ... so far
unavailable as DVD.
||Women in Love (1969)
No question - D H Lawrence as good as it can be done, with brilliant,
nuanced performances, daring direction (but not over the top).
I think that I never understood the book fully, until I saw the
film. There's a fine new DVD, with special features.
This film was not well received because of director Zefirelli's
liberties with the sacred text. But I've always found it brilliant,
and am delighted that the critics have honoured it. Alan and
Glenn Close are a tremendous match as Claudius and Gertrude.
DVD end of February 2004.
The book was published in 1999, so the Times website (you'll need to sign in if
you haven't visited before) has updated it for 1999 to 2002,
resulting in the selection of two more Bates films: The Cherry Orchard (1999) - another lovely
surprise; and Gosford Park (2001) not surprising at all.
But... what about the years between 1969 and 1990? Allowing
for the fact that the critics would probably not honour filmed
plays such as "Butley," what about "The Go-Between"
with its extraordinary Pinter screenplay? Mazursky's great "An
Unmarried Woman"? Bette Middler's shattering performance
in "The Rose"? Alan's superb portrait of Diaghilev
Alan with fellow actor Joanna Pettet, at the "Evelyn"
Odeon Leicester Square, 17 March 03
Pierce Brosnan takes questions
Q: One of the dangers of making a film such as this is that
you could venture into the world of sentimentality very easily,
especially if you're using kids in such a potent drama as this.
Did you feel that that was one of Bruce's strengths, keeping
it back from that?
PB: I think so. There was an almost documentary feel. His
style of directing is one of great ease and he's so well-prepared
with his camera and his shots, and he's just pushing you to keep
it simple. And to listen. We really did have a wonderful ensemble
and the day we went across the Wicklow hills, I looked and
there was Sir Alan Bates in the front seat and Stephen Rea driving,
Aidan Quinn and Julianna Margulies and myself, and Alan said,
"It's so wonderful, it's not like acting, it's like being."
So it's his style, supported by a text which had meaning.
Royal National Theatre, Tuesday, 18 March
Clive Barnes in the New York Post
"The most important lesson I ever had in the difference
between the two styles of acting was given to me by Alan Bates
who was with a movie director, Clive Donner, in a boozey late-night
session nearly 40 years ago in the bar of the Roxburgh Hotel
during an Edinburgh Festival.
I'd never met Bates before (his play "Fortune's
Fool" is now in previews on Broadway), and I'm sure he's
forgotten the incident.
But Bates, one of those rare consummate craftsmen/artists,
was marvelously eloquent on the differences between stage and
screen. He'd happily discuss the size of gestures, which were
vastly magnified by the screen, the importance of vocal nuance,
the tonal difference demanded by cinematic intimacy, and, in
movies, the need to convey character partly by projecting image."
New York Post, Thursday, 21 March 2002
"Eve's Tattoo," a novel by Emily Prager
A description of Adolph Hitler: "He was handsome when
he was young ... a little Alan Bates, a little Anthony Newley,
and a soupcon of Frederic March."
"... In a book strangely short of theatrical anecdote
there is nevertheless one which I shall treasure. Wesker tells
how he wanted to re-create a moment of passion from his youth
in his play The Four Seasons. When he was a teenager,
a girlfriend undid her blouse, bade him close his eyes and pressed
her breasts against him. Wesker put this scene in his 1965 play.
But, even in the midst of the permissive society,
Diane Cilento refused to bare her breasts either to the audience
or to Alan Bates on stage with her. Instead, with her back to
the auditorium, she faced Bates with her nipples criss-crossed
By the end of the run Bates and Cilento weren't talking
to each other. "It was the first of my plays,'' writes Wesker
mournfully, "which appeared on stage not as I conceived
By DAVID LISTER, BOOK REVIEW / An angry old man remembers
his youth, Independent, 11-09-1994, pp 018.
"...Nathan Lane, a native of Jersey City, N.J.,
says his passion for acting started at an early age.
"My oldest brother took me to see my first Broadway
show. I was about 11 years old. And I thought, 'That's what I'm
going to do when I grow up.'
"That first play was called Black Comedy.
Then my brother took me to see a matinee performance of Butley
with Alan Bates. I remember being shocked that Bates had to do
the performance again.
"My brother said, 'You know, he'll have to go
back to the theater and do it again in the evening.' And I thought,
'How can he do that? How can he go through all that again?' See,
even then I was rejecting matinees!'' ...
Associated Press, LANE GLAD HE TOOK 'MOUSE
HUNT' BAIT, 12-17-1997
A degree of separation
For a man whose films feel so deeply grounded in their respective
locations, film maker Michael Winterbottom's own roots are a
long way from the surface... He first picked up a cine-camera
while at Oxford University and now lives in London. ... He grew
up in Blackburn, where his mum was a teacher and his dad worked
as a draughtsman at Mullards, the valve factory in which John
Schlesinger shot "A Kind of Loving."
'My one family connection to film,' Winterbottom
recalls, 'is that my dad got a day off when Alan Bates came to
be a draughtsman in the office.'
The Daily Telegraph, 15 .i.00
The Sixties: A
decade of Vogue
edited by Nicholas Drake
This coffee-table book features a full page photo of Alan
taken by Frank Horvat, with this caption:
"Alan Bates who plays the lead in 'A Kind of Loving,'
directed by John Schlesinger from Stan Barstow's novel. A sturdy,
interesting actor, he made his first impact in 'The Caretaker'
in London and later New York, until he was bought out at vast
cost to make 'A Kind of Loving.'"
Too bad it's a joke...
TALK, Tina Brown's new magazine features a faux "letters"
page (they are all written by Christopher Buckley) in the premiere
September 99 issue. Alan Bates is mentioned in a letter from
one "G.W.M. Feddowes, Wipping Sodbury, Berkshire, UK":
Martin Amis's memoir about growing up as the son of Kingsley
Amis ["Lucky Him"] was bang-on. He did a marvelous
job of portraying how much Sir Kingsley resented the fact that
Martin was a better writer, cocksman, father, drinker, and snooker,
chess, and tennis player than he; and yet Martin's stubborn affection
for his old da managed somehow to poke through. I look eagerly
forward to the Miramax book, movie, website, miniseries, and
tie-in action figures. What about Joseph Fiennes for Martin and
Alan Bates as Sir K?"
It's in the genes...
...according to the April 99 Tatler. "Sarah Standing
and Stefanie Mars rounded up 20 British acting dynasties to find
our what inspires actors' children to follow in their parents'
footsteps." Photographed by David Eustace.
Francis Matthews, Benedick Bates and Alan Bates.
Here is the text that relates to the Bateses: "Benedick
Bates, 27, poses with his father Alan Bates, 65. 'We acted together
in a play called Simply Disconnected, in which I played
his stage son,' says Ben. 'I had to hold a gun to his head every
night. It was quite cathartic.' Alan is perhaps best known for
his screen performances in Women in Love and The Go-Between."
A serendipitous note for those of you who see the entire
Tatler article: look at the toddler in the next Ephemera item,
below, sitting on Tom Conti's lap. Nina Conti is now an actress,
and the father/daughter pair was also featured.
Bates, Remick, Conti and Conti at a London press event, late
The Company He
Kept (20 years ago)...
November, 1979 PLAYGIRL: Playgirl's Ten Sexiest Men:
Calvin Klein, Woody Allen, Ted Turner, OJ Simpson,
Burt Reynolds, Bruce Springsteen, Jerry Brown,
Ted Kennedy, Johnny Carson...and Alan Bates.
This, then, is fame ...
Women in the Background by Barry Humphries
Novelists are often asked, as they tour the book shops promoting
their work, where on earth they come up with their ideas. Most
of them shrug modestly and say that there's no simple answer.
But Barry Humphries - whose first novel is a mirthless comedy
about the marital misadventures of an Australian drag artiste
- will hardly be stumped for a reply. The man behind Dame Edna
has written a book whose central figure is a cross- dressing
comedienne called Mrs Petty, a ''puritanical but hilarious housewife''.
Blimey, readers will mutter - how the heck did he think of that?
...he seems happy to serve up references to London'
s artsy milieu as if it added glamour to his unhappy story. Pettyfer'
s flat contains sculpted busts of Melvyn Bragg and Martin Amis.
And he can't go into a restaurant without mentioning who else
is there (''Derek walked among the tables, saying a word to
Alan Bates and another to Peter Hall''); sometimes he even
drops the names of absentees: ''Derek sat at a corner table ...
a table at which he had often observed Sir Harold Pinter and
Lady Antonia Fraser.'' Sir Harold Pinter? Is this all set in
From The Independent, Robert Winder, 13.i.96
* In fact, Harold Pinter rejected the offer of a knighthood
during the time Margaret Thatcher was PM, saying that he could
not accept honours from that government. [KR]
Alan Bates, Doctor of Letters ...
In January 1997 the University
of Derby recognized Alan Bates's contribution to contemporary
drama by awarding him an honourary Doctor of Letters degree.
In the words of Derbyshire Now! editor Liz
Clarke, "Refreshingly down to earth for a star, Alan is
genuinely surprised at the award: 'It's unexpected and rather
overwhelming, and I was really touched by it because Derby is
my home town, and God knows what I've done to get an honourary
degree -- but it's a huge compliment.' He humourously adds that
he hopes he doesn't have to suddenly become a lecturer at the
She goes on, "Alan isn't vain and couldn't give
two hoots for the sex-symbol tag. 'That sort of thing is always
a complete mystery to me. Nobody ever thinks of themselves in
those terms -- at least I hope they don't -- you don't always
know that you are attractive to others. If people feel like that
then it's a compliment but it certainly isn't the be-all and
end-all of life.'"
Unmarried Woman (abridged)?
you happen to see that movie
AN UNMARRIED WOMAN?
Well, I didn't get it... I mean,
I would've been Mrs. Alan Bates so fast
that guy wouldn't have known what hit him!"
-- Goldie Hawn, as Judy, in Private Benjamin
Kristin Scott-Thomas quote
Bates appeared together in the 1988 French film Force Majeure.
"Born in Dorset,
Scott-Thomas studied drama in London and Paris, where she now
lives. Unlike most English actors, Scott-Thomas did not work
her way through repertory. 'I really started working as a professional
actress in films,' she said. 'When I came out of drama school,
I did a couple of plays, which were sort of experimental productions.
They weren't in the classic repertoire, and we did them in strange
places, like fields or a church.
'So what I've learned has been in films, really.
I had never made a film; I didn't know you had to do the same
thing twice. 'I've been lucky enough to work with some pretty
extraordinary actors in my very early days. When you're working
with somebody like Judi Dench and Alan Bates, your eyes
open, and you feel these things.' "(AP, undated)
"A gentleman and a scholar..."
This anecdote is taken from a Canadian
newspaper article about Sharon Hamilton, author of books about
In the fall of 1983, Sharon Hamilton, new in London, was headed
back to her unheated basement flat in Chelsea after watching
Alan Bates star in John Osborne's A Patriot for Me
at the Haymarket Theatre. She was so impressed she wrote out
several comments in a letter she put in her purse, thinking of
dropping it off at the Haymarket the next time she was near.
Almost home, she is crossing the King's Road in a drizzling rain
and finds herself flying through the air.
Hit by a car, an arm and a leg broken, she is asked
by the distraught motorist whether there is anything the driver
can do until the ambulance arrives. She says, pulling the letter
from her purse, "Take this to Alan Bates at the Haymarket."
Several days later, she receives a call: "Hello,
this is Alan Bates. I just received your letter from the stage
door manager. It has written on the envelope that you've been
in some kind of accident. How are you?" Now there's a gentleman
and a scholar. (He later takes her to lunch, and thirteen years
later she visits him backstage in Toronto as he's performing
in The Master Builder.)
Maclean's, 2-26-96 ©
1996 Maclean Hunter (Canada)
Bates performs the Henley
poem for a 1996 Union Bank of Switzerland ad campaign. In another
UBS spot he reads Frost's "The Road Not Taken."
dourly erect in an ersatz sepulchral chamber, awash in a diffuse
blue nimbus, actor Alan Bates intones from W.E. Henley's
"In the fell clutch of circumstance / I have not winced
nor cried aloud/ Under the bludgeonings of chance / My head is
bloody, but unbowed..."
Another installment of Masterpiece Theatre? Nay,
it's one in a series of ads for the Union Bank of Switzerland.
Airing only on CNN and CNBC, NBC's money-news cable channel,
and aimed at highbrow financiers worldwide, the spots also feature
equally pantheonic British actors Sir John Gielgud and Ben Kingsley
reciting inspirational verse by Shakespeare and Shelley. Soft-sell
"perception" campaigns have long been used to sell
jeans and sneakers, but the UBS ads (which never make spoken
reference to the bank) mark a slick new high in financial flackdom;
their tony ethereality makes hyper-urbane Infiniti spokesman
Jonathan Pryce look like Jim Varney.
But what has all this poignancy got to do with banking?
According to UBS project manager Vincenzo Travaglione, the readings
chosen "talk about commitment, self-confidence, honesty,
sincerity, and a determination to deliver. We're saying, here's
a company with long-term relevance."
The entire campaign cost $1.5 million to produce;
of that, the actors earn a relatively small fee (one reason
greedier Yanks weren't used). But why only men? "The
choice of spokesperson was driven by the authors of the chosen
poems, all of whom happened to be male," says Travaglione,
who promises actresses will appear in future spots.
Martin Spillmann, creative director of Young &
Rubicam's Zurich office, ascribes the campaign's popularity to
its "tone and manner. I think people are honored that someone
isn't saying 'Hey, I want your money!' It's not this flashy,
glitzy, trendy thing. It's timeless."
Entertainment Weekly, 9-6-96
© 1996 Time Inc.