Friday, July 29, 2011

Best of the '70's: Michael York

Michael York

British actor Michael York has always been one of my very favorite actors, and was by far my favorite "action" star of the 1970's.

The first time I noticed York was when Kathy Kimball, the very sexy 14 year old my 13 year old self was totally head over heels in love with convinced me to go to the Flick, our local art house theater to see the Franco Zeffirelli version of Romeo and Juliet , where York played Juliet's explosive cousin Tybalt.

Tybalt (Romeo and Juliet, 1968)

York's Tybalt is brash, mean spirited and almost but not quite a villian, his presence stealing just about every scene he is in, plus his action scenes have a realistic and gritty feel to them that were quite surprising from someone with such a classical "pretty" face, all in all making for a very striking and memorable performance.

Just a few weeks after seeing this fine movie, and totally striking out with Kathy, on the afternoon Dialing for Dollars movie, I caught York's first lead roll as a WWI solder who teams up with A Shot In The Dark's, Elke Summer, in Zeppelin.

Elke Summer and Michael York (Zeppelin, 1971)

While overall a decent enough action film, York played a much quieter, more intellectual figure in Zeppelin, but still managed to really catch my attention.

York also put in a strong performance as young gay writer in Nazi Germany, in Bob Fosse's Cabaret

Cabaret (1972)

York was also one of the stars of the ill-fated 1973 musical remake of Lost Horizon, one of the true bad movies of all time, that I never the less have a great deal of affection for, even with the truly awful Burt Bacharach and  Hal David score.

Michael York and Olivia Hussey, Lost Horizon (1973)

Michael lucked out and didn't have to sing, but since I can't help myself here is Swedish actress and Bergman muse Liv Ulman singing the atrocious, World is a Circle, just so you can get the idea....

To quote the great Leonard Pith Carnal, "truly bad".

Anyway, at this point, I was something of a fan, then came York's real breakthrough from supporting man to full fledged movie star.

Shot in two parts, Richard Lester's all star adaptation of Alexander Duma's The Three Muskeeters, was a huge international hit, with York just fantastic as the young swordsman D'Artagnan.

Oliver Reed, Michael York, Richard Chamberlain and Frank Finlay

The Three Musketeers and it's second half, the Four Musketeers, were bright films, with exceptional style that catch both the solid sense of humor of Duma's classic but also the sense of grand adventure. In my own personal opinion these are two of the finest action movies ever made and are far and away the best telling of this classic tale that was ever put on screen.

Next up for York, starring along with Jenny Agutter in what is probably his most famous role, renegade Sandman, Logan-5, in the 1976 science fiction classic, Logan's Run.

Whoops that's not Michael York

Let's try that again.

Michael York, as Logan-5

Logan's Run story of a youthful utopia with a price, is a classic among science fiction fans but it bombed at the box office, and was the start of the end of York's days as a leading man, but he still had a couple more nice moments before the decade was out.

York put in a strong performance opposite the great Burt Lancaster in the 1977 remake of The Island of Dr Moreau 

Michael York in the Island of Doctor Moreau (1977)

And finally finishing off the decade with a solidly funny turn as Marty Feldman's "slightly more identical" twin brother in the Last Remake of Beau Geste.

Marty Feldman, Ann Margret and Michael York

Sadly though both of these films were box office poison as well and this was pretty much the end of York's career as a leading man. Never the less, York has continued on becoming a popular character and voice actor and of course had a major role in the Austin Powers series.

But for awhile there Michael York was one of the best of the 70's


  1. You forgot to mention his cameo in 'How I met Your Mother' a while back (last season?)
    Great blog BTW - saw one of your comment over on 'Seduction of the Indifferent' and decided to follow it up.Glad I did!

  2. I missed that seeing him on that. The wife and I watch reruns so I will keep a look out.

    Thanks for following.

  3. Actually, Logan's Run did not bomb. It was a box office smash hit in 1976 and won an Academy Award.