Topic: "Camelot" 50th anniversary (article)
Phenomenal Film Handler
From: Los Angeles, California
Registered: Feb 2001
posted 01-01-2018 12:35 AM
The Most Beautiful Musical Love Story Ever? Remembering "Camelot" On Its 50th Anniversary
quote: Michael Coate/The Digital Bits
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL MUSICAL LOVE STORY EVER?: REMEMBERING CAMELOT ON ITS 50TH ANNIVERSARY
By Michael Coate
It's clear in retrospect that Camelot began the extinction process of old school Broadway musicals extravagantly transferred to the screen. Matthew Kennedy, author of Roadshow! The Fall of Film Musicals in the 1960s
The Digital Bits and History, Legacy & Showmanship are pleased to present this retrospective commemorating the golden anniversary of the release of Camelot, the Oscar-winning cinematic interpretation of the King Arthur legend and the Lerner and Loewe stage musical which starred Richard Harris (Cromwell, Unforgiven) as King Arthur and Vanessa Redgrave (Blow-up, Julia) as Guenevere.
Camelot directed by Joshua Logan (South Pacific, Paint Your Wagon) and which featured Franco Nero, David Hemmings and Lionel Jeffries in supporting roles opened 50 years ago this past autumn. For the occasion, The Bits features an historical reference listing of the films major-market roadshow engagements and a Q&A with film historian Matthew Kennedy, who discusses the films virtues, shortcomings and legacy.
THE ROADSHOW ENGAGEMENTS
What follows, for historical record and nostalgia, is a chronological reference listing of the North American first run hard ticket roadshow engagements of Camelot. These were special long-running, showcase presentations in major cities prior to the film being exhibited as a general release, and they featured advanced admission pricing, reserved seating, an overture/intermission/entracte/exit music, and an average of only ten scheduled screenings per week. Souvenir program booklet were sold, as well.
Out of the hundreds of films released during 1967, Camelot was among only eight that were given deluxe roadshow treatment.
Many of the roadshow presentations of Camelot were, as the promotional material proudly boasted, presented in breathtaking 70mm (which were blown up from anamorphic 35mm) and offered a superior projection and sound experience. All of the films roadshow presentations are believed to have been presented with stereophonic sound (4-track for 35mm and 6-track for 70mm).
Note that this is not a complete listing. Instead, the primary objective was to focus on the top markets in North America and also provide as sprinkling of secondary market entries to give a sense of the types of locales involved in the roadshow release. Also understand the engagements cited here represent only a fraction of the thousands of total bookings throughout the many cycles of distribution over the course of the films release. As well, this work does not include any general, international or re-release engagements. The duration of the cited engagements (measured in weeks) is provided for some of the entries to give the reader a sense of the movies popularity.
The films anniversary offers an opportunity to namedrop some famous and once-glorious cinemas, to provide some nostalgia for those who saw the film during this phase of its original release, and to reflect on how the film industry has evolved the manner in which event and prestige films are exhibited.
Opening date YYYY-MM-DD
City Cinema (duration in weeks)
New York, NY Warner (34)
Chicago, IL Bismarck (47)
Boston, MA Music Hall (benefit premiere only)
Boston, MA Saxon (32)
Detroit, MI United Artists (32)
Los Angeles, CA Cinerama Dome (51)
San Francisco, CA Coronet (39)
Edmonton, AB Varscona (18) [35mm]
Montreal, QC Westmount (15)
Vancouver, BC Stanley (18)
Winnipeg, MB Gaiety (18) [35mm]
Cleveland, OH Colony (20)
Miami (Miami Beach), FL Lincoln (33)
Cincinnati, OH Kenwood (25)
Dallas, TX Inwood (23)
Honolulu, HI Kuhio (21)
Houston, TX Alabama
Minneapolis, MN Academy (49)
Oklahoma City, OK Tower (24)
Pittsburgh, PA Squirrel Hill (24)
Washington, DC Warner (31)
Philadelphia, PA Stanley (33)
Kansas City, MO Capri (36)
Seattle, WA Music Box (25)
Atlanta, GA Martin Cinerama (28)
Omaha, NE Cooper 70 (21)
Ottawa, ON Nelson (14)
Portland, OR Paramount (29)
New Orleans, LA Saenger-Orleans (18)
St. Petersburg, FL Center (27)
San Antonio, TX Wonder (16)
Albany, NY Madison (12+)
Baltimore, MD New (18)
Hartford (Wethersfield), CT Cine Webb (18)
Milwaukee, WI Towne (31)
Rochester, NY Waring (19) [35mm]
St. Louis (Richmond Heights), MO Esquire (23)
Syracuse, NY Eckel (14)
Toronto, ON University (22)
Buffalo, NY Teck (15)
Calgary, AB Chinook (13)
Indianapolis, IN Circle (23)
Phoenix (Scottsdale), AZ Camelback Mall (23) [35mm]
Providence, RI Elmwood
San Diego, CA Cinerama (41)
Tucson, AZ El Dorado (13) [35mm]
Charlotte, NC Park Terrace
Columbus, OH Cinestage
Des Moines, IA Ingersoll (23) [35mm]
Memphis, TN Paramount (13)
Portland, ME Empire [35mm]
Las Vegas, NV Cinerama (9)
Springfield (West Springfield), MA Showcase 3 (15)
Palm Beach (West Palm Beach), FL Florida (7) [35mm]
Louisville, KY Showcase 2 (14) [35mm]
Dayton (Trotwood), OH Salem Mall (12+)
Fresno, CA Hardy [35mm]
Newark (Upper Montclair), NJ Bellevue (20)
Norfolk, VA Lee [35mm]
Wichita, KS Uptown (14)
Denver, CO Aladdin (40)
Harrisburg, PA Eric
Richmond, VA Willow Lawn (19)
Salt Lake City, UT Centre (40)
Toledo, OH Showcase 3 (16)
El Paso, TX Pershing (7) [35mm]
Akron, OH Village (15) [35mm]
Asbury Park, NJ St. James (12)
Green Bay, WI West (21) [35mm]
Lawrence, MA Showcase 2 (11)
Madison, WI Hilldale (18) [35mm]
Oakland, CA Grand Lake (16) [35mm]
Binghamton, NY Capri (11)
Palm Springs, CA Camelot (6)
Lubbock, TX Cinema West (7) [35mm]
Cedar Rapids, IA Times 70 (10)
Dubuque, IA Strand (11) [35mm]
New Haven, CT Whalley (23)
Atlantic City, NJ ?
San Jose, CA Century 23 (34)
Orlando, FL Beacham (10)
Evansville, IN Ross (8) [35mm]
Colorado Springs, CO Cinema 70 (6)
Greenville, SC Astro (8)
Raleigh, NC Colony (10) [35mm]
Shreveport, LA Strand (6) [35mm]
Nashville, TN Green Hills (12) [35mm]
Sacramento, CA Century 22 (26)
Albuquerque, NM Lobo (12) [35mm]
Austin, TX Americana (8)
Lynbrook, NY Lynbrook
Reading, PA Shillington (12) [35mm]
Burlington, VT State (8) [35mm]
Reno, NV Century 21 (7)
Greensboro, NC Terrace (7)
Youngstown, OH Paramount (13)
Columbia, SC Richland Mall (7)
Springfield, IL Frisina (5) [35mm]
Birmingham, AL Ritz
Monterey, CA Cinema 70 (15)
Pensacola, FL Rex (5) [35mm]
Winston-Salem, NC Winston [35mm]
Corpus Christi, TX Deux Cine (6) [35mm]
Jacksonville, FL Center (6) [35mm]
Durham, NC Center
Amarillo, TX Esquire (6) [35mm]
Montgomery, AL Capri (6) [35mm]
Spartanburg, SC Palmetto (4) [35mm]
Pleasant Hill, CA Century 21 (9)
Odessa, TX Grandview (4) [35mm]
Matthew Kennedy is a writer, film historian, and anthropologist living in Oakland. He is the author of Roadshow! The Fall of Film Musicals in the 1960s (Oxford University Press, 2014), Joan Blondell: A Life between Takes (University Press of Mississippi, 2007), Edmund Gouldings Dark Victory: Hollywoods Genius Bad Boy (University of Wisconsin Press, 2004), and Marie Dressler: A Biography (McFarland, 1999). His articles have appeared in the program books of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival. He is film and book critic for the respected Bright Lights Film Journal and has hosted retrospectives based on his books at the Pacific Film Archive, UCLA Film Archive, and the Museum of Modern Art.
Michael Coate (The Digital Bits): How do you think Camelot should be remembered on its 50th anniversary?
Matthew Kennedy: If for no other reason, Camelot should be remembered as a kind of elegy for musical films, and political idealism and innocence as reflected in the Kennedy presidency. Soon after Kennedy's assassination, Jacqueline Kennedy told a reporter that her husband often listened to the Camelot Broadway album, and loved the lyric:
Don't let it be forgot
That once there was a spot
For one brief shining moment
That was known as Camelot.
The screen version was released in 1967, four years after his death, but it was made with an awareness of that association. A vague idealism for a just and even utopian society courses through the film, informed by the Kennedy connection.
Coate: What is your opinion of Camelot and when did you first see it?
Kennedy: Camelot is a prime example of the problem with Hollywood "wisdom" in the late 1960s. Since My Fair Lady and The Sound of Music were such colossal hits, it only stands to reason that another big budgeted adaptation of a recent Broadway musical would perform similarly at the box office. But it didn't happen as Jack Warner envisioned. Camelot, its story dominated by a tale of infidelity, doesn't have the widespread appeal of Lady or Music. It's long and miscast, though intermittently scrumptious to the eyes and ears. I find Camelot interesting in light of its timing showing up in the marketplace in 1967 alongside The Graduate and Bonnie and Clyde. It seriously lacked the "hip" factor of those films. It's so clear in retrospect they led the way toward new styles of popular filmmaking in America, while Camelot represented the beginning of the end for the big splashy musicals.
I don't remember when I first saw Camelot. It came out when I was ten, and I didn't become alert to new movies for another few years. I probably saw it in the then decaying art deco Cascade Theater of my hometown of Redding, California.
Coate: Is Camelot significant in any way?
Kennedy: Camelot is significant in several ways. It represents the first big budget musical produced for the screen after the quick succession of blockbusters Mary Poppins, My Fair Lady, and The Sound of Music convinced Hollywood that musicals were hot commodities and guaranteed money makers. Camelot disabused Hollywood of that notion, and became a red flag as other studios had already committed enormous resources to other expensive musicals.
It's one of the last in a long line of Broadway-to-Hollywood musical adaptations before the film musical genre went into a deep and protracted decline.
Camelot appeared when society and film were changing at head-spinning speed. It was dated before it premiered. It stands in graphic contrast to Cool Hand Luke, The Graduate, In Cold Blood, and Bonnie and Clyde, all released in 1967. It's clear in retrospect that Camelot began the extinction process of old school Broadway musicals extravagantly transferred to the screen.
Coate: How does the film compare to the Lerner-Loewe stage production?
Kennedy: A number of major changes were made in adapting the 1960 Broadway production. The film went on location to Spain and opened up the stage version considerably. The sets and costumes are an extreme reimagining from the original's more traditional approach to mythic royalty. Designer John Truscott went crazy with an early hippie aesthetic mixed with Hammer film darkness and Doctor Zhivago winter freeze as needed.
The film's casting prioritized movie stardom over musical talent. The original Broadway cast starred Richard Burton, Julie Andrews, and Robert Goulet. Two out of three were highly trained singers, with Burton perfecting the talk-singing technique that worked so well for Rex Harrison in the stage and screen version of Lerner and Loewe's My Fair Lady. For Camelot, neither Richard Harris as Arthur, nor Vanessa Redgrave as Guenevere, nor Franco Nero as Lancelot were musically accomplished. Harris had a short-lived recording career after Camelot, but he's most remembered as an actor.
Coate: Which are the standout songs in Camelot?
Kennedy: The score is probably the film's strongest asset, boosted by lush orchestral arrangements. The Prelude and Overture are stirring on the big screen as they promise a grandiose entertainment. The aching love songs If Ever I Would Leave You and I Loved You Once in Silence are effective, and Guenevere has a cinematic urgency to it as it builds dramatic tension. C'est Moi gives background to Lancelot's outsized ego, which sets up his audacious seduction of the queen. But the sentiments in other songs don't age well. What Do the Simple Folk Do? offer condescending suppositions by the 1% (to borrow contemporary argot) on how everybody else lives. The lyrics of Then You May Take Me to the Fair, despite the benign title, are just plain gruesome.
Coate: In what way was Richard Harris a memorable or effective King Arthur?
Kennedy: Richard Harris brought a well-suited regality to King Arthur. There's a quality of inner strength to him that comes over well. He talk-sings in the manner of Rex Harrison and Richard Burton in the original stage version, though with more commitment to melody. These men had impeccable diction and wonderful mellifluous tones, so they could get away with speaking through their songs rather than hitting the notes. Harris' acting is uneven, though, at times evoking a sibilant Marlon Brando in close-up.
Coate: In what way was Vanessa Redgrave a memorable or effective Guenevere?
Kennedy: Redgrave's acting is exquisite, especially with Nero. She captures Guenevere's romantic and erotic conflicts beautifully. Her sex appeal was a priority in casting her over Julie Andrews, who was too busy to film Camelot anyway. But Redgrave comes up short vocally. Her voice isn't bad, but it lacks the training and support necessary to convey the powerful and diverse emotions going on with her character.
Coate: In what way was Joshua Logan an ideal choice to direct the film version of Camelot, and where does the film rank among his body of work?
Kennedy: Logan would seem to be a strong, if not an ideal, choice for Camelot. He directed Annie Get Your Gun, South Pacific, and Fanny on Broadway, then transferred the latter two to screen. He enjoyed success in Hollywood directing Picnic, Bus Stop, and Sayonara, but he goes badly astray with Camelot. This was Jack Warner's swan song, and he threw an enormous $12 million at it. Logan didn't know what to do with all that money. His prolific close-ups grow annoying over the too-long three-hour running time. The Round Table, despite a huge and expensive build set, is a giant anti-climax. I find Picnic, Bus Stop, Sayonara, and Fanny all more re-watchable than Camelot. Two years after Camelot, Paramount released the Logan directed musical Paint Your Wagon, famously starring a singing Clint Eastwood. It is a great big hot mess of a movie, more chaotic and boisterous than Camelot.
Coate: Where do you think Camelot ranks among 1960s era roadshow musicals?
Kennedy: As I explored in my book Roadshow! The Fall of Film Musicals in the 1960s, that era saw the exhaustion of big budget limited opening reserved-seat musical film extravaganzas. Financially, Camelot was a failure. Variety reported a $12.3 million [rental] on its initial run. That's a respectable sum for the time, and would have been profitable had expenses been anywhere near the 1967 average. Doctor Dolittle, Star!, Paint Your Wagon, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, and Darling Lili were bigger flops. Far more successful than Camelot were West Side Story, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Oliver! and Funny Girl. Artistically, I'd put Camelot where it sits financially. It's more meritorious than the other box office disappointments, but hardly equal to the most acclaimed and popular musical titles of the decade.
Coate: What is the legacy of Camelot?
Kennedy: Camelot endures as a prime example of a once viable but now obsolete filmmaking and marketing strategy. It's a stunning reminder of how much has changed, both in the film industry and in society. There's a pleasure in seeing so much opulence on the screen and realizing it was made by sweat, lumber, and paint, and not in someone's software program. That commitment to grand picture making doesn't exist anymore. It's hard to imagine a straight-faced remake of Camelot these days Monty Pythons Spamalot took care of that. In a way, the legacy of Camelot is that there is no legacy. There's no obvious through-line from it to 21st century film musicals. It's the near end of something, not the beginning.
Coate: Thank you, Matthew, for sharing your thoughts about Camelot on the occasion of its 50th anniversary.
The primary references for this project were regional newspaper coverage and trade reports published in Boxoffice, The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. All figures and data included in this article pertain to the United States and Canada except where stated otherwise.
Selected images copyright/courtesy Robert Morrow collection, Warner Bros.-Seven Arts, Warner Bros. Pictures, Warner Home Video.
Jim Barg, Raymond Caple, Thomas Hauerslev, Matthew Kennedy, Bill Kretzel, Ronald A. Lee, Mark Lensenmayer, Stan Malone, Robert Morrow, Jim Perry, Joel Weide, Vince Young, and an extra special thank-you to all of the librarians who helped with this project.
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Master Film Handler
From: Copenhagen, Denmark
Registered: Aug 2000
posted 01-01-2018 10:59 AM
Guinevere: Sir Lionel?
Lionel: Your majesty?
Guinevere: Do you recall the other night
When I distinctly said you might
Serve as my escort at the next town fair?
Well, I am afraid there's someone who
I must invite in place of you
Someone who plainly is beyond compare
The frenchman's power is more tremendous
Than I have ere seen anywhere
And when a man is that stupendous
He by right should take me to the fair.
Lionel: Your majesty, let me tilt with him
and smite him
Don't refuse me so abruptly, I implore
Oh, give me the opportunity to fight him
And Gaul will be divided once more.
Guinevere: You will bash and thrash him?
Lionel: I'll smash and mash him!
Guinevere: You will give him trouble?
Lionel: He will be rubble!
Guinevere: A mighty whack?
Lionel: His skull will crack!
Guinevere: Then you may take me to the fair
If you do all the things you promise
In fact, my heart would break should you not take me to the fair.
Guinevere: Sir Sagramore?
Sag: Your majesty?
Guinevere: I have some rather painful news
Relative to the subject who's to be beside me at the next court ball
You were the chosen one, I know
But it's tradition it should go
To the unquestioned champion
In the hall
And I'm convinced that splendid frenchman
Can easily conquer one and all
And besting all our local henchmen
He should sit beside me at the ball.
Sag: I beg of you, ma'am, withhold your invitation
I swear to you this challenge will be met
And when I have finished up the operation
I will serve him to Your Highness en' brochette
Guinevere: You'll pierce right through him?
Sag: I'll barbeque him!
Guinevere: A wicked thrust?
Sag: It will be dust to dust!
Guinevere: From fore to aft?
Sag: He'll feel.....a draft
Guinevere: Well, Sir Sagramore
You may sit by me at the ball
If you demolish him in battle
In fact, I know I'd cry
Were you not by me at the ball.
Guinevere: Sir Dinadin?
Didn't I promise that you may
Guide me to London on the day
That I go up to judge the cattle show?
As it is quite a nasty ride
There must be someone by my side
Who'll be defending me from beast and foe
So when I choose whom I prefer go
I take the strongest knight I know
And young Du Lac seems strongest, ergo
He should take me to the cattle show.
Din: Your majesty can't believe this blustering prattle
Let him prove it with a sword or lance instead
I promise you when I've done this gory battle
His shoulders will be lonesome for his head
Guinevere: You'll disconnect him?
Din: I'll vivisect him!
Guinevere: You'll open wide him?
Din: I'll sub-divide him!
Guinevere: Then you may guide me to the show
If you can carry out your program
In fact, I'd grieve inside
Should you not guide me to the show
Knights: My lady, we shall put an end to
That Gallic bag of noise and nerve
When we do all that we intend to
He'll be a plate of french hors d'oeuvres
Guinevere: I do applaud your noble goals
Now let us see if you achieve them
And if you do then you will be the three
Who will go, to the ball, to the show
And take me to the fair.
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From: Brooklyn NY USA
Registered: Dec 1999
posted 01-09-2018 11:44 PM
I am with Thomas on this one. I wouldn't call this guy a putz exactly; I think he makes some good points, but I think the problem with CAMELOT is much more a result of the social climate rather than any serious flaws in the film. The fact that society was in a major, cultural evolution or even revolution if you will, changed what younger movie-goers found palatable. Attitudes about sexuality and concepts of freedom and rebellion against the mores were changing dramatically after the relatively static post war era. All of a sudden things that parents enjoyed became very "unhip." Kids made fun of the musical genre in toto, and would joke about even the more successful titles like MFL and especially TSOM; to this day I have friends who claim they HATE SOM, and I still believe that is more an affectation rather than their true feeling. TSOM was even mocked in the Beatles' very successful and quasi-psychedelic YELLOW SUBMARINE, where Blue Meanie's sidekick sing-songs "The hills are alive, with sound of music," then gets screamed at and hit over the head by Blue Meanie. CAMELOT was simply a victim of the changing times and tastes of the entire country toward musicals in toto, not any major flaws in the overall production of CAMELOT (1967). Had it preceded SOM (1965) or swapped release dates with MFL (1964), it might have faired much better with the critics, public and Box Office.
And like Thomas, I find the L&L score and lyrics delivers the full range of emotions, every bit as much and as satisfying as MFL, ranging from majestic, romantic, playful and powerful. The crescendo in the scene just before intermission where Arthur understands the plight and pain of the three of them but chooses compassion over anger and vindictiveness, is one in which the music so perfectly augments the power of the dialog. No matter how many times I have run it, it still gives me goose-bumps.
And yes, it may have been a mistake not to have Ms. Redgrave's singing over-dubbed, but she certainly does a adequate job on her own, but regardless of her vocal talent, with her exquisite, regal beauty, she is the quintessential Guenevere and a sensual feast for the eyes.
Luckily Warner struck Technicolor 35mm 4trk prints which gave even the local, small-town neighborhood theatres an experience for their audiences that came pretty close to the 70mm roadshow engagements.
Sorry, this title has been underrated and even maligned for much too long. L&L created a score that is every bit as memorable as MFL and lyrics every bit as clever and intelligent as MFL. And while it was not shot on 65mm, visually the cinematography certainly isn't anything less than sensually stunning. Those who negatively compare it with MFL need to re-visit it with a fresh look -- the 50th anniversary is a good time to do it.
Aside: If you think the public didn't thoroughly love CAMELOT, I ran this in 1974; at the time, only prints Warner claimed to have, where the ones from a re-release that was an "edited-for-time" version, missing about 35 minutes. I pleaded with them to find a full print -- even offered to pay for shipping from anywhere in Europe. When they couldn't find one, I gave in and booked the re-release that had whole chunks of dialog missing, including the dialog where Arthur explains to Guenevere that Merlin "youthens," i.e., he ages backwards. Without this explanation, much of Merlin's actions and some of his dialog made no sense. But worst was the cuts in the music with verses and choruses missing from most of the songs.
My audiences would come out of the theatre furious, some even demanding refunds. Putting up signs a the box office explaining the problem didn't help much. It was a terrible embarrassment for the staff and myself. These folks certainly loved this picture enough to be visibly upset that it was tampered with. A few years later Warner somehow magically located full roadshow prints and we ran it 3 times over the years to very good box office and gushing appreciation and thanks from patrons.
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