God Save the King !
Historical dramas have long been a staple of cinema, whether based on fact or fiction, they have provided a countless sources of topic/plots over the years.
One of my particular favourites is the film Cromwell starring Richard Harris as Oliver Cromwell and Alec Guinness as King Charles I. The film depicts the rise of Cromwell and the depiction of the English Civil War which lead to the trial and execution of the king.
One of the reasons why the film still resonates with me today is that I saw it on first release way back in 1970 and it was a special treat seeing the film with my mum at an evening session during the school week. We were also studying this period of history at school, and being a keen student of history (thanks again to my mum) I lapped up the film.
On reflection, the film does take some liberties with the events eg. it raises Cromwell’s profiles and leadership of the New Model Army whereas it was Sir Thomas Fairfax who was the main driver of it; which is disappointing as it depicts the look and feel of the period splendidly and it does present the complex issues of the conflict between parliament and king very well in a two hour plus movie.
Today, I look back at more to savour one of Alec Guinness’s finest film performances as the vain, weak but ultimately tragic king. It’s a great performance where he captures the king’s nuances, his stammer and his obstinate nature that ultimately cost him his crown and his life.
Of course Alec Guinness is most famous for his role as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars trilogy, but really they were only a sideshow to his really great film roles – Fagin in Oliver Twist, eight D’Ascoyne’s in Kind Hearts And Coronets, his Ealing roles in The Lavender Hill Mob and The Man In The White Suit, Colonel Nicholson in The Bridge On The River Kwai (for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor) Tunes Of Glory, Lawrence Of Arabia . . . the list goes on. For me, he’s one of cinema’s great actors.
One should not forget Richard Harris who brings enormous statue and earnestness to the role of Cromwell, one of English history’s most polarising figures.
For those that are interested I have created the following playlist from this film which features 10 clips in total.