Wednesday, 27 January 2016

A Dandy in Aspic.

Lithuanian born Lawrence Harvey is an actor you can’t really mistake for anyone one else, the suave good looks, and the slick combed back hair. He made his cinema debut in House of Darkness in 1948 and progressed to making films like The Good Die Young in 1954 under contract to Romulus before his break through role as Joe Lampton in Jack Clayton’s Award Winning movie Room at the Top in 1958. This led to one of my favourite Harvey performances when he played William Barret Travis in The Alamo (1960) other films of note followed including The Manchurian Candidate (1962) along side Frank Sinatra before his untimely death in 1973 from stomach cancer at the age of 45. His obituary in New York Times really sums up the man:

“With his clipped speech, cool smile and a cigarette dangling impudently from his lips, Laurence Harvey established himself as the screen's perfect pin-striped cad. He could project such utter boredom that willowy debutantes would shrivel in his presence. He could also exude such charm that the same young ladies would gladly lend him their hearts, which were usually returned utterly broken... The image Mr Harvey carefully fostered for himself off screen was not far removed from some of the roles he played. "I'm a flamboyant character, an extrovert who doesn't want to reveal his feelings", he once said. "To bare your soul to the world, I find unutterably boring. I think part of our profession is to have a quixotic personality”[1]

After Darling with Dirk Bogarde and Julie Christie in 1965 he made a dozen or so indifferent movies including A Dandy in Aspic (1968). This British spy drama was based on a novel of the same name by Derek Marlowe who also wrote the screenplay. Directed by Anthony Mann who died from a heart attack just before the movie was completed, it was Harvey who took over the helm and finished the film. A Cold War thriller about a British Intelligence Agent (Harvey) who is a double agent working undercover for the Russians and tasked by the British to assassinate himself.  The film also stars Tom Courtney as the rather nasty British agent Gatiss who has it in for Eberlin right from the start. American actress Mia Farrow plays Eberlin’s love interest the young kooky London based photographer Caroline who follows the double agent to West Berlin. (Where a lot of the movie was filmed) Also putting in appearances are Peter Cook, Barbara Murray, John Bird, Harry Andrews and the American actor Lionel Stander who in 1966 had the starring role in Roman Polanski’s Cul-de-sac opposite Francoise Dorleac and Donald Pleasence.
Harvey with Mia Farrow....

My boyhood crush Barbara Murray.
As was a feature of spy movies made at this time it is a bleak but interesting movie that did not get good reviews on its original cinematic release. With its appealing narrative and solid performances from the cast, especially Harvey and Courtney, this rather underrated movie is well worth a watch particularly for those of you that appreciate this type of film genre.   

[1] New York Times 27th November 1973.

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