The Beggar's Opera

  • Film
  • Drama
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A commercial disaster, Peter Brook's first movie has gradually grown in stature as more people have discovered its delights. John Gay's original concoction satirised the conventions of Italian opera and dumped them into Merrie England's morass of highwaymen, whores and hangmen. The movie, with the music adapted by Arthur Bliss, and the script adapted by Dennis Cannan and Christopher Fry, sets out to send up what was already partly a send-up; and Brook, of course, was the ideal director, committed to radical theatre and disrespectful (or innocent) of cinematic forms. He has trouble when dialogue gives way to song (though even here one might call this a Brechtian device, as in The Threepenny Opera), but gets performances from Olivier (as the swashbuckling MacHeath) and Tutin (as Polly Peachum) of such mellifluous exuberance that the cracks are neatly sealed.

Release details

Duration: 94 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Peter Brook
Screenwriter: Denis Cannan, Christopher Fry
Cast: Hugh Griffith
Laurence Olivier
Dorothy Tutin
Stanley Holloway
Daphne Anderson
Sandra Dorne
Yvonne Furneaux
George Devine
Laurence Naismith
Athene Seyler
George Rose
Kenneth Williams
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