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Entertainer, The (1960)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Archie Rice is a third-rate comic and song and dance man, performing in an exhausted summer girl-show, 'Stars and Strips', in a seaside theatre in Morecambe.

His daughter Jean, returns to the family after failing as an East End art teacher and quarrelling with her fiancé Graham.. She finds her father trying to promote yet another show whilst his present one crumbles around him, and his second wife Phoebe reduced by his sarcasm and neglect to maudlin drunkenness and hysterical outbursts.

Archie has two sons: one, Frank, helps him at the theatre, but he is already seeing his father for what he really is. His brother Mick is in the Army and has been posted to the Middle East. The year is 1956, the time of the Suez crisis, and Britain and Egypt face war over the Suez Canal. Archie's father Billy, a retired music hall artist more talented than his son, completes the family set-up.

Whilst acting as master of ceremonies at a beauty contest, Archie promises the runner-up, Tina Lapford, a part in his new show if her parents will put up the money for it. They agree enthusiastically, flattered to be part of 'showbiz'. Archie also takes Tina to bed.

News comes that Mick has been taken prisoner. Billy is dismayed when he hears that Archie may be thinking of leaving Phoebe for Tina, and he makes it his business to tell the girl's mother that Archie is an undischarged bankrupt. By the time the Lapfords have withdrawn their backing, Archie has signed his name to a number of cheques.

Archie confides to Jean his true feelings about his life in the theatre, the contempt he feels for his audience, and the fact that he does not really care about anything, despite the impression he gives everyone of being the life and soul of the party.

The family hears that Mick has been killed. After the funeral Phoebe's brother resurrects an old, rejected plan for Archie to start a fresh life in Canada, in the hotel business.

But Archie has no intention of leaving. Exploiting Billy's remorse at the way things have turned out, he sets up a new show, combining nude girls with nostalgia for the old music hall days, with his father as his partner and star. Billy finds the strain of a come-back too great and he dies in the wings. Frank decides to take up the offer of work in Canada. Jean decides to stay with Phoebe, turning down the chance of a new life with Graham in Africa.

Bankrupt, with no illusions left and facing imprisonment, with the show's backers waiting in the wings to close the show, Archie turns his back on his departing audience and walks towards his daughter across the deserted stage.