Movie Review By Monica Sullivan
The career of actress Shirley Anne Field says a great deal about the motion picture industry in Britain. The beautiful and talented Field began playing small roles in the mid-fifties while still a teenager. Within a few years, she was attracting attention in international hits like “The Entertainer” with Laurence Olivier and “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning” with Albert Finney. She seemed to be all over the place in the early 1960's, but with the waning of the British vogue in films, her career faded by the end of the decade. With 1985's “My Beautiful Laundrette”, Field reemerged as a stunning character actress of enormous skill and she went on to play vivid supporting roles in “Shag”, “Getting It Right” and “The Rachel Papers”. Field is not the centrepiece of Peter Chelsom's “Hear My Song”, but her appearance in this charming film about the resurrection of real-life Irish tenor Josef Locke was certainly an inspired casting decision.
“Hear My Song” revolves around the efforts of young concert promoter Micky O'Neill (played by screenwriter Adrian Dunbar) who is trying to make a mint by presenting a return engagement of the great Locke. He hires a look-a-like (William Hootkins) who has done fairly well with small-time gigs by trading on his resemblance to Locke. But when the fake Locke makes a pass at one Cathleen Doyle (played with conviction by Field) who was, as a former Miss Dairy Goodness of 1958, in love with the real Locke, the jig is up. Since Doyle is the mother of Micky's girlfriend and both women are furious with him, he has no choice but to comb the countryside looking for Locke. When he finally locates him, there's another stumbling block: Locke is a tax fugitive and has no interest in making a comeback that will attract as much attention from the police (including David McCallum!) as from a nostalgic audience.
For those who enjoy watching vintage Ealing comedies on the Late Show, “Hear My Song” compares favourably with many of the best efforts from that enchanted studio. Ned Beatty does a delicious job as Locke, even if he was born in Kentucky! Although “Hear My Song” is certainly not a film for cynics, it offers an affectionate and funny view of some engaging characters and, of course, a terrific role for Shirley Anne Field. Peter Chelsom's film is well worth a look on video. I had the pleasure of speaking with Shirley Anne Field in 1992 when she was in town for the film’s premiere in San Francisco.
© 2001 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 6/28/01
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