From Mitchell Leisen, the legendary director of Easy Living, Midnight and Remember the Night. When the Grim Reaper (Fredric March, Nothing Sacred, Inherit the Wind) pays a visit to a family of wealthy socialites, it turns out that he’s not there on his usual business. Intent on entering the human world for a three-day holiday, Death takes the form of a visiting prince, and assumes all the pleasures and pains that go with flesh and blood existence. Experiencing, for the first time, all that humanity has to offer, he becomes enamored of Grazia (Evelyn Venable, Double Door), a woman both in love with life and infatuated with death. Co-starring Henry Travers (Clarence, the angel of It’s a Wonderful Life) and Gail Patrick (My Man Godfrey), this thrilling and evocative portrayal of death’s lesson and life’s blessing is one of the all-time classics of Hollywood’s Golden Age.
As embodied by Alan Bates, Butley falls back on the surgically precise wit and savage eloquence that helped put him in his current circumstances in the first place. The blitzkrieg of vitriolic commentary with which Butley engages lovers, students, rivals, and allies, all with equal ferocity, becomes a glass bottom boat illuminating the churning depths of his bankrupted soul. Acclaimed playwright Harold Pinter, in what Time Magazine hailed as “a quite superior directorial debut,” turns author Simon Gray’s single-set, dialogue driven stage play into an irresistible dynamic visual experience that tracks Bates’ hilarious and fearless performance with cunning precision.
Bates and an expert supporting cast, including OscarÃ‚Â® winner Jessica Tandy (Driving Miss Daisy), joust with a sly, self-referencing wit and an unselfconscious exuberance that is breathtaking. With every verbal parry and valedictory flourish of wordplay, Butley’s life becomes more of an inescapable bear trap of thwarted ambition, clandestine affection, and squandered brilliance.