Skip to comments.Without Public Arts Funding, We Wouldn't Have Les MisÚrables
Posted on 01/07/2013 9:34:05 AM PST by SeekAndFind
Here is a thing it is difficult to remember in the midst of its box office tidal wave: Les Misérables owes its birth to a debate over public arts funding. We think of blockbusters as antithetical to the high arts that public funding might typically support, but in Les Mizs case at least, the relationship was symbiotic. Some might say parasitic, of course, but the story reveals that we dont quite know who was leeching off of who.
Les Misérables was originally staged, in 1985, under the auspices of the Royal Shakespeare Company, a large portion of whose budget was provided by the English Arts Council. It wasnt the RSCs idea to develop it, mind you. Cameron Mackintosh, a private producer coming off a wave of success with 1981s Cats, had been looking to put on an English version of the musical, which was developed and staged in Paris in French. And he wanted a good director for it, and found himself knocking on Trevor Nunns door, then the RSCs co-artistic director.
Nunn and his co-director, John Caird (then an RSC Associate Director), substantially overhauled the plot and the script. They also gave the production what was, until the emaciated cheekbones of Anne Hathaway entered our collective consciousness, the musicals signature image: the revolving stage. In other words, the look and content of the show was developed not just with public money, but by people who had made their careers in a publicly-supported arts environment.
Blockbusters, onstage and onscreen, are typically seen as ego projects. Production notes present a narrative of the great director who wants to implement his vision. Nunn, however, clearly had his eye on another prize altogether.
(Excerpt) Read more at thenation.com ...
Never seen it and don’t care.
Happily my congressmen is enemy number 1 of the endowment for the arts because he managed to cut $20 million from their budget. (He sought a $50 mil cut)
Don't get me wrong; I'm no Philistine. I just think that arts should be supported by those who care about the arts, and not the nation as a whole.
Gee.....and here dumb ass old me thought Victor Hugo wrote Les Miserables in 1862. Who’d a thunk they actually had public funding then?
Note: They are talking about the play not the book. To which I say, So? If entertainment can’t pay for itself then it’s not needed.
Never realized that Great Britain had Arts Endowments that allowed Dickens to write the story in the first place.
They must have had it for a very long time as Willie Shakespeare surely would not have been as successful in his writing and theatre (a little British lingo there) productions.
Nor would we have "Piss Christ" or "Whale Dung Mary."
Well that’d be a real tragedy. I guess the good ‘ol Sheriff of Nottingham was right. Who knew?
We had to read it in 9th grade English, around 1966 and I hated it - Louis L’Amour was more to my liking at the time.
exactly! we may not have had the musical, but we would still have the book... and even access to several audio books... while i like the musical, our family first read the book... and my kids have listened to different audio versions of the book because they like the story that much... by the time they saw the movie last week, they knew the story inside out...
Apologies for the slight error.
Nor would we have "Piss Christ" or "Whale Dung Mary."
Or any of those other one-person-rants-on-stage "plays" where someone seems to think that her personal issues (it's almost always a chick) are bigger than ours and that somehow, giving her a check from the government and a stage from which to spew filth in front of a dozen or so people (who for some reason are into that kind of thing) is more worthwhile than for her to suck it up like the rest of it and get a productive job.
Actually, if she could be force to make her rant in front of an audience of psychiatrists, they could get into a bidding war to take her as a patient.
Somehow I think I could live without it.
Les Mis is a profitable movie.
They need to pay back the taxpayers.
You could also argue that we wouldn’t have the Aeneid, as Virgil was paid in advance on a public commission. Maybe we should go back to having Caesars, or is it too late?
That fact, alone is enough reason to get rid of public funding.
Kill all public funding of arts!!!
i ashcanned music 65 years ago and haven’t been to a movie in 54 years.
Les Mis is a fine play.
It has been produced thousands of times, on all sorts of stages, without massive federal tax subsidies.
(And I agree with everyone else, our tax money should not be paying for entertainments, even plays I like... it is wrong, immoral, and very very “unfair” to steal money from my neighbors to pay for my theatre tickets!)
I didn’t care for the play and probably won’t see the movie.
What nonsense. The book was written without government underwriting. If someone saw profit potential in bringing it to the stage, they could do so (obviously) without government funding. And they could make a lot more money.
RE: . If someone saw profit potential in bringing it to the stage, they could do so (obviously) without government funding. And they could make a lot more money.
Same principle applies to Sesame Street.
Could Big Bird exist without being on the dole? Sure, but by putting some money in the government can hold the bird hostage every time the mean old Republicans talk about budget cuts.
If you can get a government grant at either better terms than a bank would give or even for free with no repayment at all, you get bigger profit than if you got that money from a bank or an investor. Such is the nasty siren song of socialism and fascism.
Generally, at least in the US, commercial producers do a great deal toward supporting nonprofit theaters by paying them to mount tryouts of their new shows. If the show is a hit, the nonprofit stands to make quite a bit more money, through deals far more favorable to them than the RSC’s. This woman seems completely oblivious to this practice in the US, and yet somehow she offers her opinion as to how government should fund more government-favored arts.
Cameron Mackintosh wasn’t running any sort of charity, but he got good bang for his buck teaming with the RSC.
And mediocrity won’t get you everything, but it will get you pretty far
RE: The book was written without government underwriting.
Yep. And Victor Hugo was not even sure if Les Miserables was going to be a commercial success.
The shortest correspondence in history is said to have been between Hugo and his publisher Hurst and Blackett in 1862.
Hugo was on vacation when Les Misérables was published. He queried the reaction to the work by sending a single-character telegram to his publisher, asking “?”.
The publisher replied with a single “!” to indicate its success.
How ironic that the theme of Victor Hugo’s work deals with a revolt against a tyrant.
Seems were there again!
Were = we’re! Duuhhh
I doubt Les Miz the stage production in the US of A got any arts grant monies and it was fabulous and I saw a stage production twice. Also saw the movie, although with some lesser singers, it was extremely well done in following the story and great scenery that fit the story. I have never read “Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo; however, my neighbor who is Haitian read “Les Miserables” in French in HS in Haiti and in college in New York in English. It’s well worth anyone’s time to see the movie.
“When even a writer for Mother Jones cant help but think your attempt at pro-Obama propaganda is problematic, you know youve done something wrong. Such is the case with makers of One Term More, an Obama-themed parody of One Day More, the famously dramatic Act I finale of the iconic Broadway Musical Les Miserables.”
Criticing ths piece of crap...
Les Mis ‘one term more’
If the government didn’t take so much money, people would be able to pay for their own entertainment.
It didn’t. It was a commercial production here.
Right... And without the NEA we wouldn’t have Elmo; making preschoolers incapable of learning their ABC’s. Without the dedicated work of ‘The Count’ America’s youth will be heard saying, “One, another, another, another, another...”
Yes, lacking the never ending taxpayer Christmas PBS would wither away- leaving Dora The Explorer no choice but to consider actually migrating back to Mexico. ‘Austin City Limits’ would end up having to move too. Like, 50’ past the sign and outside of Austin. Or maybe Amarillo, Arlington, or San Angelo.
Worse, PBS wouldn’t have aired ‘The New Yankee Workshow’ and without the cameras Norm would have been less careful and have lost at least 3-4 fingers by now!
“Such is the nasty siren song of socialism and fascism. “
I don’t know, I think the siren call is “safety.”
If it’s someone else’s money, there’s so much less risk, thus, less chances are taken. The arts become far less interesting and much “safer” and I don’t mean “less pornographic,” I just mean more predictable and playing to please a board of directors which gives grants.
If you have a patron, you’re trying to please the patron. If the patron rewards excellence (they all don’t), then, we all benefit. Great art is produced.
If you’re on your own, you either “sell out” for commercial success (which sometimes produces great art) or keep your artistic integrity and remain true to your vision. So great art was often produced, but, I guess, not any more, we have to keep it safe and steal from taxpayers in order to subsidize it.
Agree!...the story of redemption is a powerful one!
It would have been a good thing to NOT have had this piece of nonsense
Watch the 1935 movie with Fredric March and Charles Laughton. It’s a great story and it works just fine as a NON-MUSICAL MOVIE !
Wouldn’t have Les Miz.
Or Al Franken soiling his senate seat.
Nunn and his co-director, John Caird (then an RSC Associate Director), substantially overhauled the plot and the script. They also gave the production what was, until the emaciated cheekbones of Anne Hathaway entered our collective consciousness, the musicals signature image: the revolving stage.
Sounds to me as if a couple of guys familiar with raising either public or private funds were pretty determined to do this production, and would have done so with private funds had public funds not been available.
I prefer the Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals which are better and privately funded.
I loved the songs, but Les Mis always made me uneasy with all the glorification of “manning the barricades”...I expected them to burst out singing the “Internationale” any moment.
Victor Hugo was a die hard political activist who promoted class struggle, writing some 40-50 years after the French revolution. His writings were often paired with those of Chas Darwin to come up with the stupid idea of the evolution of society through “class struggle.”
Josef Djugashivili (Stalin) credits Darwin and Hugo as the reasons he became a socialist/atheist and left Gori seminary to become a revolutionary.
A more interesting question would be if PBS produced a Broadway musical based on the life of Ludwig von Mises...
Never seen it and dont care.
A lot of people like it...however, why should you pay to have this made? I think they should make it, but I think arts should be from personal donations ONLY. Absolutely not a dime from taxes should go to the arts AT ALL.
And everyone’s beloved Downton Abbey. Why that has to be paid through government funding, I don’t see why another network can’t show it ESPECIALLY since it was made in England and won’t cost a dime to show it...although they STILL want to use the government network...makes no sense.
Just for perspective...without aristocratic patronage (the de facto ‘public sponsorship’ back in the day) we would not be able to enjoy the music of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven...and quite a bit of classical literature, paintings etc. today.
That said, I believe a few centuries from now people will still enjoy the works of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven et al. ‘Piss Christ’ etc...not so much. There exists such a thing as absolute quality.