Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Day 52: "Expresso Bongo"

Director: Val Guest 1960
Laurence Harvey played so many cold, calculating heels ("Room At the Top," "Butterfield 8," "Darling," etc.) that it's easy to forget what an interesting actor he could be in other kinds of roles (of course, his coolness worked brilliantly in the original "Manchurian Candidate") when he got the chance to break out of the routine. In "Expresso Bongo," Harvey plays Johnny Jackson, a fast-talking, slightly sleazy manager of jazz and pop musicians. He's like Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis) in "Sweet Smell of Success," only with a few, remaining shreds of heart. When he discovers Cliff Richard and navigates the singer's climb up the charts, Jackson's ambitions and amorality lead to his comeuppance. But unlike Falco, he hasn't completely sold his soul. There's a fine supporting cast (save for Cliff Richard, the UK's answer to Elvis Presley, who couldn't act). The movie is much lighter than "Sweet Smell of Success," although both films share and revel in the seedy nightlife of a big city. But Harvey is a revelation, and he's clearly having a great time playing Johnny Jackson. Sad that he died at age 45 without having had enough opportunities to lighten up as an actor.


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