To perfect a French-Canadian accent for his role in the 1966 film The Trap, Oliver Reed spent several days around the docks and bars of Montreal. One would suspect the great Hell-raiser spent most of that time in the bars, rather than around. However, the film company were smart enough to ensure Ollie didn’t spend too much time in the bars, and assigned a local to read him newspapers and teach him the lingo.
That was the thing about Reed - he was a great actor, but his life and work was over-shadowed by his off-screen excesses - even this interview from the set of The Trap ends up on his brawling. Of course, it made him a lovable rogue and, yes, at times a terrible bore, but the main affect was to lower the appreciation his performances deserved. Let’s be clear, he never had the critical acclaim his fellow mavericks Burton, O’Toole, Harris or Hurt achieved, even when Reed regularly proved himself to be a far better film actor, or at the very least their equal. From early fodder like Curse of the Werewolf through Paranoiac to his collaborations with Ken Russell (The Debussy Film, Women in Love, The Devils) and Michael Winner (Hannibal Brooks, The Jokers, I’ll Never Forget What’s ‘is Name) Reed was an exceptional actor.
Even take for example, his performance in The Trap - a movie with primarily two actors - Reed as a trapper who unwillingly takes a mute girl, Rita Tushingham, as his wife in, to live together in the remotest wilds of Canada, and what happens when he falls into a bear trap - and watch how he delivered a complete range of emotions that carried the film beyond its very slim storyline. Tushingham is equally as good, and their pairing works well.
Reed died too soon, and too young. But fuck it, he left behind a major body of work, which still needs to be properly assessed. And let’s not forget, he died pissed and arm-wrestling in his favored place - the bar.
Previously on DM