Watching Bruno Lawrence in Smash Palace again, after a number of years, I’m struck by how much he epitomises the ‘wild man’ so beloved of Robert Bly and his contemporaries. He rages, he lusts, he argues mightily, he gets angry. He has enough confidence in himself to offer not only the shirt off his back to his wife’s lover, but every other piece of clothing as well, until he stands naked in the street. He can pull the door off his wife’s house with his tow-truck if she won’t open it to him.
But he’s also gentle with his daughter, warm, and very loving. There’s only one scene in the movie where he gets angry with her, and at first we can’t tell whether he’s merely playing or is truly angry. His anger lasts for a moment, and he apologises to her, a seven-year-old child.
It could be said that these are all aspects of the character Lawrence plays, but this film would never have been what it is without Lawrence. He fits the role like a glove – or perhaps, the role fits him. Lawrence, in real life, was a wild man, thoroughly masculine, full of energy, crazy, often at odds with polite society. A bit scary even.