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Brian McFarlane

Brian McFarlane

Brian McFarlane’s latest book is Four from the Forties: Arliss, Crabtree, Knowles and Huntington, Manchester: MUP, 2018. He has had three overlapping careers, as teacher, academic, and writer. He is the author or editor of over twenty books and hundreds of articles and reviews on film and literature and related matters. He co-edited The Oxford Companion to Australian Film and was compiler, editor and chief author of The Encyclopedia of British Film. His most recent books include: Twenty British Films: A guided tour, Double-Act: The remarkable lives and careers of Googie Withers and John McCallum, and The Never-Ending Brief Encounter. He is currently serving as Adjunct Professor at Swinburne University of Technology and as Adjunct Associate Professor at Monash University.

Brian McFarlane reviews 'Eugene O'Neill' by Robert M. Dowling

May 2015, no. 371 29 April 2015
It seems unlikely that anyone ever emerged from the performance of an O’Neill play saying happily, ‘Laugh! I nearly died.’ Robert M. Dowling’s fine biography helps to account for this: the life behind the writing of those plays was not conducive to a hilarious outcome. To have survived the life he lived would have been remarkable enough, let alone turning out some of the century’s most s ... (read more)

Wolf Hall on Stage

ABR Arts 22 May 2014
Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize-winning novel Wolf Hall has now been dramatised, along with its sequel, Bring up the Bodies. Brian McFarlane, a regular ABR film and theatre critic, caught the new Royal Shakespeare Company production in London. If, like me, you were not a fan of Hilary Mantel’s historical doorstops, Wolf Hall (2009) and Bring up the Bodies (2012), you might have approached the Ro ... (read more)

Brian McFarlane reviews 'Stage Blood: Five tempestuous years in the early life of the National Theatre' by Michael Blakemore

February 2014, no. 358 19 January 2014
Anyone lucky enough to have read Arguments with England (2004), the first volume of Michael Blakemore’s memoirs, will be eager to read the second, Stage Blood, in which he traces the tumultuous history of his years at London’s National Theatre. Further, anyone as lucky as I was to see such productions of his as Long Day’s Journey into Night in 1971 will be agog to read the new book in the ho ... (read more)

Mr. Pip

November 2013, no. 356 31 October 2013
Film-wise, 2013 has been the year of adapting dangerously. Dangerously, that is, in the sense of daring to affront devoted readers of the original novels or plays, valuing enterprise over fidelity. Now, just after admirable versions of Much Ado about Nothing and What Maisie Knew have finished their runs, we have director–screenwriter Andrew Adamson’s inspired rendering of Lloyd Jones’s equal ... (read more)

What Maisie Knew

October 2013, no. 355 27 September 2013
The last twelve months have seen some notable film reworkings of classic literary texts, with Anna Karenina set in a theatre, a black Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, and a gorgeous Much Ado About Nothing enacted in monochrome contemporary California. Now we have a compelling version of Henry James’s novel What Maisie Knew (1897), which reminds one of what a good run he has had with film adaptat ... (read more)

Much Ado About Nothing

ABR Arts 24 July 2013
There have been more than 900 Shakespearean film adaptations of one kind or other, for screens large and small, dating back to scenes from Macbeth in 1898. The Stratford playwright would have become rich beyond the dreams of avarice from film rights alone; equally, though, I think he would have acknowledged that film-makers have notched up a pretty honourable record in bringing his plays to the ci ... (read more)

Brian McFarlane reviews 'The Great Gatsby' directed by Baz Luhrmann

June 2013, no. 352 17 May 2013
One should approach a new film with an open mind, but it’s very hard to do so when it has been preceded by the sort of hype that has accompanied The Great Gatsby. And it’s not just the hype but the other threats to the open mind which include the famous source novel (one that people know about even if they haven’t read it), the previous film versions, and the reputation of the new film’s d ... (read more)

Great Expectations

April 2013, no. 350 26 March 2013
What is it about Great Expectations (1861) that makes it seem indispensable? Can it be its hero, Pip’s, search for a liveable identity? The small, terrified, often bullied child gets a glimpse of ‘the quality’ albeit in desuetude, becomes dissatisfied with being a blacksmith, receives the eponymous expectations, and tries to become a gentleman before settling for a more modest role and comin ... (read more)

Wuthering Heights

October 2012, no. 345 25 September 2012
Those Brontës. If they’d only had a decent agent with foresight, they could have escaped that dank parsonage on the gloomy moors of windswept Yorkshire and set up on the French Riviera in comfort. Since 1910 there have been at least forty film or television versions of Jane Eyre, most recently in 2011. Now it is Emily’s turn for the latest (seventeenth) go at Wuthering Heights (1847), that ex ... (read more)

Brian McFarlane reviews 'Gay Life Stories' by Robert Aldrich

June 2012, no. 342 22 May 2012
The author of this handsomely produced volume claims in his opening sentence, ‘The sex lives of celebrities (and the less famous) always excite the curiosity of others.’ For the sake of his book he’d better be right, because what follows are more than eighty gay histories and/or partnerships, each moving inexorably to the matter of sexual orientation and declaration – reluctant or otherwis ... (read more)