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Robert Wise, 1968
USA | Format: 70mm | 176 minutes
Restored 70mm print!
After the success of The Sound of Music, Julie Andrews and director Robert Wise reteamed for this even more lavish bio-pic of legendary actress Gertrude Lawrence, tracing Lawrence’s life from her early days as a chorus girl in a West End revue through her Broadway triumph in 1941’s Lady in the Dark. In between, there are ill-fated romances, an enduring friendship with childhood chum Noël Coward (Daniel Massey in a delicious, Oscar-nominated performance) and many spectacular, Michael Kidd-choreographed production numbers that rank among Andrews’ greatest moments on film. Sadly, many of them were cut from the film during its initial, unsuccessful “roadhsow” engagements in 1968, where it had the misfortune of opening just one month after the similar-themed Funny Girl. Wise removed his “film by” credit from the studio’s drastically trimmed two-hour version, retitled Those Were the Happy Days (which proved to be no more popular with audiences), but the untouched 70mm negative allowed for a full restoration of the original cut—which, if not quite a murdered masterpiece, is nevertheless a drastically underrated last hurrah for the glories of the old-fashioned Hollywood musical.
“Wise's biopic hardly deserved the rough treatment it received from most critics and audiences, who had been led by the studio's advertising to expect another Sound of Music. This was a far more ambitious project; it backfired, but it backfired with a certain amount of honour. Daniel Massey's mincing portrayal of his godfather Noël Coward wins hands down over all the other impersonations.”
—Time Out London