MUBI brings you a great new film every day.  Start your 7-day free trial today!
All Topics  »

Laurence Harvey: The Worst British Actor of the Golden Era

Danny Bailey

almost 2 years ago

This man in his entire career has shown nothing but bland performances that show a lack of density in his overall characters (eg. Running Man, Manchurian Candidate, Dandy in Aspic). I want others in the MUBI community to give their own opinions as to their view on Mr. Harvey’s acting.

Edna Sweetlo​ve

almost 2 years ago

Well, I for one agree Laurence Harvey was probably the worst British lead of the 1950s and 1960s. (There was some stiff-as-a-board competition from Norman Wisdom, James Mason, Richard Burton and Cliff Richard though.)

Roscoe

almost 2 years ago

Harvey’s pretty painful, yeah, especially in MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, a film I’ve never seen the appeal of.

Norman Wisdom is very warm and un-wooden in THE NIGHT THEY RAIDED MINSKY’S, and I don’t see Mason’s work in LOLITA as being stiff-as-a-board — his Humbert Humbert is one of saddest creatures in movies, I think.

Edna Sweetlo​ve

almost 2 years ago

Amusing quotation from John Fraser’s autobiog:

It was well known in the business that Jimmy [Woolf] was in love with Laurence Harvey. He had put his protégé into film after film, all of which had flopped, until he bought the film rights to John Braine’s bestseller [Room at the Top], contracted the great Simone Signoret to play opposite Harvey, and finally made his lover a star. But Harvey kept marrying to further his career. Larry’s whoredom was so blatant it was disarming. As a teenager, he started out living with Hermione Baddeley, a … blowsy star of intimate revue more than twice his age. Then he married Margaret Leighton – old enough to be his mother, but a woman of style … when this marriage was over he married Joan Cohn, widow of the managing director of Columbia Studios … and throughout all these career marriages, he still managed to string Jimmy Woolf along.

I have new respect for Harvey. What a guy!

ZED

almost 2 years ago

Not that unusual of a bio for a successful actor’s rise – specific details change, but the general scenario doesn’t.

Brad S.

almost 2 years ago

James Mason is one of the great British actors of his generation and managed to remain a compelling supporting player as he got older. Odd Man Out, Bigger Than Life, North By Northwest, Lolita (does not let Sellers run away with the film). He was also fun in lesser films like The Last of Sheila and Murder by Decree (as Watson to Christopher Plummer’s Sherlock Holmes.)

I have no opinion on Harvey as I’ve only seen him in The Manchurian Candidate. I bought him as a brainwashed tool. I hope that was acting.

Judicial Joe

almost 2 years ago

He’s not particularly exceptional in Darling. Manchurian Candidate is a damn good performance, though it’s eclipsed by Liev Schreiber’s performance in the same role in the underrated remake by Demme.

Danny Bailey

almost 2 years ago

I read in Christopher Plummer’s memoir that he was Anthony Mann’s personal choice for “A Dandy in Aspic” but the studio wanted Harvey for the role. He was HORRIBLE. Think what the film would’ve been like if Plummer was in it. BETTER AND BELIEVABLE.

Santino

almost 2 years ago

I agree with Brad that James Mason was one of the great actors of his generation. I loved watching that guy!

As for Larry Harvey, his greatest sin was not as an actor but as a father. Had he not given birth to Domino, we never would’ve had to suffer the pain of watching that awful Tony Scott film.

Danny Bailey

almost 2 years ago

Him being a father was the least of his problems as a person

Jaspar Lamar Crabb

almost 2 years ago

Harvey was surely not a very good actor…despite starting strong with EXPRESSO BONGO & ROOM AT THE TOP. His stiffness suited him well for THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, but more often than not, his films were lousy and he was just plain bad

James Mason & Richard Burton..stiff as boards?

Mason simply wasn’t…I can’t even argue that…Burton was the polar opposite of stiff…if anything, he had a tendency to be too hammy.

Danny Bailey

almost 2 years ago

Harvey was also one of the most hated actors on both sides of the Atlantic. Talented thespians like Judi Dench, Robert Stephens, Sarah Miles, and Sid James to name a few. They either hated him because of his lack of talent or because of his arrogant and reckless behavior.

Howard Fritzso​n

almost 2 years ago

I was pretty impressed with him in “Room At The Top,” “Expresso Bongo,” “Romeo and Juliet” and “The Manchurian Candidate.” I have read that he was something of a prick on set but that doesn’t concern me.

Robert W Peabody III

almost 2 years ago

Jaspar Lamar Crabb

almost 2 years ago

Guilty pleasure…WELCOME TO ARROW BEACH…Harvey’s last film (he directed and reportedly edited from his death bed)…wacky horror film about cannibalism

Danny Bailey

almost 2 years ago

By the time he did WELCOME TO ARROW BEACH, he was dying, and ousted from his Hollywood and English peers. There was nothing good for Mr. Harvey to give back, talent wise.

deckard croix

almost 2 years ago

James Mason & Richard Burton..stiff as boards?

Yeah, that’s a laugh. Whoever said that really needs to see Night of the Iguana for one…

Restrained emotion and being ‘stiff’ are completely different and it merely takes a consideration of context and an awareness of the actor’s eyes to tell the difference…

Fin.

almost 2 years ago

I agree that Harvey’s failry bland persona was precisely what was needed for the character of Raymond Shaw in Manchurian Candidate. Shaw was a blank template, so to speak. That was what the character called for.

Regardless, that was Sinatra’s show all the way. The film continues to reveal layers of interesting detail every time I see it. For instance, I have studied the train scene between Sinatra and Janet Leigh many times. It is the epitome of weirdness — highly unusual for a film of that era — and I happen to agree with a theory about that scene, which I will not reveal for risk of introducing spoilers to the handful of people who might have not have seen the film.

You may have seen an acid-drenched (and not particularly good) movie called “Domino,” directed by Tony Scott and relating the story of a female bounty hunter who died in 2005, the year the picture was released.

Domino was Harvey’s daughter. She fought with a meth addiction most of her life and ultimately lost the struggle while under house arrest facing a 10-year sentence for possession. The movie based on her life appears to mirror the drug-induced haze through which she reportedly conducted her business.

Edit: I see Santino also references that awful Tony Scott film. Every picture Scott makes appears to have been filmed through a polarizing filter with the actual film processing cranked up to raise the contrast to a headache-inducing level.

Cheers,

Steve
www.CinemaUprising.blogspot.com

Matt Parks

almost 2 years ago

Jaspar Lamar Crabb

almost 2 years ago

Matt…step off the ledge. You don’t hate film. You love it…you love it…
you L O V E it

Matt Parks

almost 2 years ago

Of course I do.

Danny Bailey

almost 2 years ago

Another miscast in Harvey’s career is worth mentioning. The year before he died he was on an episode of “Night Gallery” playing a man with an earwig in his body. Let me just say that when someone is in that drastic situation I expect feeling and emotion, littl of which I saw in Mr. Harvey. When he showed some of it it was as if he was reading from the script.

Francis​co J. Torres

almost 2 years ago

L Harvey? How about Richard Harris? And Richard Burton chewed scenes as if it were Bazooka bubble gum…..

Hausfra​u

almost 2 years ago

Hausfrau has a soft spot in her heart for the flawed but beautiful Laruschka ….

Danny Bailey

almost 2 years ago

@Francisco Torres
Richard Harris was such a great actor. See him in “The Field”. What a performance. Burton did have a blank expression but was so well spoken when he acted. “Virgina Woolf” is proof of that characteristic.

Fin.

almost 2 years ago

Richard Harris was tremendous as an actor. I have less kind things to say about his work as a singer, especially when warbling the execrable MacArthur Park.

Watch him in Lindsey Anderson’s This Sporting Life — a brutal tour de force and easily the best picture yet made about rugby. Actually, it’s one of the great sports movies period. Criterion has a nice edition of this one.

christo​pher sepesy

almost 2 years ago

Laurence Harvey was certainly pushed into some top-flight projects during that period.

Elvis Is King

almost 2 years ago

@DANNY BAILEY
Thanks for reminding me of the Night Gallery episode “The Caterpillar”. I haven’t seen it since its original broadcast but it has stuck with me . Not least of which is because of the premise that an earwig is eating its way through Laurence Harvey’s brian, in one ear and out the other. Weeks of agony ensue despit the fact the the brain has no nerve endings so no pain would be felt by the earwigs progress. Perhaps some memory lapses, slurred speach, blurred vision. But certainly not the histrionics Harvey displays.

Nadafingah

almost 2 years ago

There’s probably some other actors that I’d think of as worse British actors:

Julian Sands, Rupert Everett, Michael Rennie (Though he might be in the same class as Harvey).

If we’re adding actresses, I’d probably lead with Greer Garson and those interminable constantly raising eyebrows of hers.

Danny Bailey

almost 2 years ago

@Nadafingah
Watch Julian Sands in Room With a View and Rupert Everett in Madness of King George. Pretty good performances

Greer Garson is great in Goodbye Mr. Chips and her Oscar winning performance in Mrs. Miniver.