Deneuve, Polanski, and Repulsion

repulsion-imageRepulsion, Roman Polanski’s first English-speaking film opens with an extreme closeup of Carol’s (Catherine Deneuve) eye and ends with a vintage family photo of Carol as a child. In the photograph, Carol is isolated from the rest of the family as Polanski’s camera slowly moves in on her same vacant looking eye. An absolute masterpiece of psychological horror, Repulsion ushered in, along with Hitchcock’s Psycho and Powell’s Peeping Tom the modern-day horror film. Polanski presents a nightmarish, hallucinogenic world full of dark expressionistic shadows with extreme close-ups and wide angles all edited to perfection.  The film is the first in an unofficial trilogy of “apartment films” with Rosemary’s Baby and The Tennant completing the threesome.  In all three films, Polanski conveys a disturbing unreceptive view of life in city dwellings. Continue reading

No Orchids For Miss Blandlish (1948) John Legh Clowes

“No Orchids for Miss Blandish” is a bizarre little exercise in British cinema in its attempts to duplicate the flavor of a 1940’s American crime film. Filled with extreme violence and unabashed sexuality for its time, this inappropriate film somehow got plenty passed the censors despite howls of protest from self-righteous groups on both sides of the ocean. At the time of its initial release, the Daily Express called the film “a wicked disgrace to the British film industry.” The British censors even apologized for “failing to protect the public.”  In the United States, the film was not released until 1951, and then in a truncated version running only 92 minutes. The pulp fiction novel the film is based on was authored by British novelist James Hadley Chase writing as if he lived next door to Raymond Chandler or James M. Cain all his life. The film stars a mostly British cast portraying Americans in a New York State setting. The only exception to the English casting is that of Hollywood character actor, Jack La Rue who portrays underworld thug Slim Grisson. La Rue portrays Grisson as a violent second tier Rick Blaine straight out of “Casablanca.” He owns a night club, dresses sharp, smokes and has an inclination for continually rolling dice, his mannerisms screaming out Bogie. Even the way director John Legh Clowes frames La Rue in many scenes is evocative of Bogart (La Rue was supposedly in line to get the role of Duke Mantee in the film version of “The Petrified Forest” until Leslie Howard insisted Bogart recreate his original stage role in the film).  Linden Travers as Miss Blandish comes across as a  woman with an obvious taste for bad boys yet she and La Rue display little screen chemistry despite the passionate kissing scenes they are given. All in all she is not given much to do. Continue reading

Gumshoe (1971) Stephen Frears

    Stephen Frears first directorial effort is a warm and successful attempt  to pay a loving tribute to those cinematic private eyes that wore fedoras, trench coats and always had a cigarettes dangling from their lips. Think Phillip Marlowe, or Sam Spade as portrayed by Bogart or Alan Ladd.

    “Gumshoe”, however is more than just an affectionate nostalgic look back at cinema’s private dicks. It is a look at a young Liverpudlian named Eddie Ginley (Albert Finny) whose life is falling apart. He longs to have written The Maltese Falcon or record Blue Suede Shoes, unfortunately, for Eddie both have already been done. He wants to play Las Vegas though deep down he knows he’ll never be more than the third rate nightclub master of ceremonies,  a comic wannabe, that he is. While certainly not as bleak, Eddie Ginley can be seen as an extension of his working class hero, Arthur Seaton role in “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.”

    Eddie’s life is in a shambles. You see, Eddie’s former girlfriend, Ellen (Billie Whiteshaw) dumped him and married William (Frank Finlay), his creep of a brother about a year earlier. Since then Eddie has been seeing a psychoanalyst,  only now he decides the doc’s “off his head’ so naturally Eddie puts an ad in the newspapers offering his services as a Private Eye.

    He quickly gets his first job. He is told to pick up a package at a hotel. Inside the room, sitting in a chair, seen only from a side view, is a Fat Man (shades of Kasper Gutman). There is a  package for Eddie containing a photo of a young woman, a thousand dollars and a gun. The assumption is Eddie is being paid to kill the young woman. Eddie thinks the whole situation is a setup, a joke by some of his mates as a way celebrating his 31st birthday.

    Soon, the plot thickens, as they say, and before you can spit out the words “When you’re slapped, you’ll take it and like it”, Eddie is involved in a convoluted plot  worthy of Chandler or Hammett. Eddie finds himself caught up in a kidnapping, illegal arm sales, heroin deals and murder. Oh and there is a beautiful villainous American woman (Janice Rule) who is willing to pay any amount for his investigative services is also in the mix.

    The joy of this film is that it works both as a loving tribute, note the bookstore scene that pays homage to “The Big Sleep”, and also as a mystery. This is due to the intelligent and witty script by Neville Smith that contains  sharply written  and wonderfully descriptive dialogue and the work of first time director Stephen Frears.  If for no other reason, the film is worth watching for the performance by Albert Finney who has the right look of innocence and manages a pretty good impression of Bogie for this role. Also, add Billie Whiteshaw, Janice Rule and Frank Finlay as Eddie’s repugnant brother, William to the list of fine performances in this enjoyable film.  Probably the most surprising aspect of the film is the score, which was written by Andrew Lloyd Weber  that includes a 1950’s style rocker, written with Tim Rice, sung over the final credits that cruise along like a smooth driving hot rod.  

***1/2 (out of five)

The Lady Vanishes (1938) Alfred Hitchcock

Lady Vanishes - Title2

    The “Lady Vanishes” takes place in a fictitious European country, though it seems suspiciously similar to pre-World War 2 Germany. Possibly, in an attempt to pacify the Germans, the filmmakers did not want to mention the country by name as this was just year or so prior the start of the war. Whatever the reason, the villains act very much as if they are affiliated with the Third Reich. A group of passengers are delayed from boarding their train due a recent avalanche.  Among the passengers are Iris Henderson (Margaret Lockwood) an attractive young woman, apparently financially well off, traveling with some female friends, who is on her way back to England to get married. Also on board is Gilbert (Michael Redgrave), a musicologist, Miss Froy (Dame Mae Whitty), an elderly governess who is returning to England after spending some time abroad, Charters (Basil Radford) and Caldicott (Nauton Wayne), two Englishmen whose only concern is to rush back to England in time for a cricket tournament. Finally, there is the philandering Mr. Todhunter (Cecil Parker) and his mistress listed coyly as “Mrs” Todhunter (Linden Travers).   

Lady Vanishes- Still    The following day, the tracks have been cleared and all board the train heading for England. Just before boarding, Iris becomes acquainted with the elderly Miss Froy. As they talk, a flowerpot is purposely dropped from a second story window. Meant for Miss Froy the flowerpot hits Iris on the head.  On aboard, the still dazed Iris and the elderly governess share the same compartment along with three other people. Settled in Iris takes a nap hoping to relieve her headache. When she awakens, Miss Froy has disappeared. What’s more, no one seems to remember seeing her. Dr. Hatz (Paul Lukas), a fellow passenger suggest that Iris’ meeting Miss Froy is all an illusion, a result of her bump on the head. Iris meets up with Gilbert, who she previously encountered back at the inn. Though skeptical, he offers to help find the older woman. 

    Each of the passengers for their own reasons denies the existence of Miss Froy. Dr. Hatz and just about every other non-English passenger seem to be mixed up in a conspiracy to cover up the existence of the older woman (even the conductor and stewards are involved). The English passengers all seem to have their own personal reasons for denying Miss Froy’s existence. Charters and Caldicott are only concerned about getting back to England for the cricket finals and do not want the train delayed any longer than it already has been. Todhunter, and his mistress, want to avoid any attention being drawn to illicit affair. As a result,  they are unconsciously aiding the enemy in Miss Froy’s disappearance.

Lady Vanishes-LC    The young couple eventually discovers Miss Froy is being held prisoner by Dr. Hatz in a private compartment guarded by a “nun” wearing high heels. They free her and eventually find out she is a British spy carrying important information (the maguffin) back to London. As the Brits attempt to escape, a shootout entails with the enemy and ironically, the only Englishman to die in the battle is the pacifist adulterer Mr. Todhunter who is shot in the back as he waves a white handkerchief surrendering to the enemy.  

Lady Vanishes-insert    With a screenplay written by Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder based on a novel by called “The Wheel Spins”, the script is a devilishly funny suspenseful filled work brought to life by Hitchcock’s camera and his cast. Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave are a charming couple and both became stars as a result of this film. In many ways, they are a typical Hitchcock couple; at first, they do not like each other though eventually they fall in love. If made Twenty years later it is easy to picture Cary Grant and Grace Kelly in these roles. Nauton Wayne and Basil Radford as Caldicott and Charters provide many of the laughs as the cricket obsessed twosome whose only concern is “How’s England doing.”  There is a wonderful humorous scene at the beginning where the pair are forced stay in the maid’s room at the inn due to a full capacity. The room is small and the men have to share a single bed. When the maid enters to change her clothes, the men in bed together are unsettled by her openness changing right in front of them.  The two men look on somewhat bewildered, a scene very reminiscent of a Laurel and Hardy short (Geoffrey O’Brien in his excellent essay that accompanies the Criterion DVD also points this out). Overall, “The Lady Vanishes” though a thriller, contains a lot more humor than most of Hitchcock’s other works.  Basil Radford and Nauton Wayne would go on to portray Charters and Caldicott in three more motion pictures (Night Train to Munich, Crook’s Tour and Millions Like Us). In 1985, the characters of Charters and Caldicott would reappear in a British TV series appropriately named “Charters and Caldicott” portrayed by Robin Bailey and Michael Aldridge.

 Lady Vanishes-Hitch abd Lockwood   Hitchcock was already in negotiations with David O’Selznick to come to America when he began work on “The Lady Vanishes.” The original director was going to be Roy William Neill best known for the terrific series of Sherlock Holmes movies he directed with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. When filming was delayed, Neill left the project and Hitchcock looking for a film to help complete his contract so he could move on to America took over the direction. A few changes were made to the script, mostly in the beginning and the end. Hitchcock would go on to make one more film in England,  “Jamaica Inn” before coming to America.    

    Critics on both sides of the Atlantic greeted the film with rave reviews. The New York Times called it the best film of the year. Today, it is still considered one of Hitchcock’s great films from his English period and actually one of his great films overall. “The Lady Vanishes” is also one of the outstanding “train” films, which Hitchcock seems to favor himself having made “The 39 Steps”, “Strangers on a Train” and “North by Northwest”, all with significant scenes on a train.

The 39 Steps (1935) Alfred Hitchcock

                The 39 Steps-

    Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 thriller “The 39 Steps” speeds along like a ray of light shooting through dark clouds. The film waste not a moment from the opening scene at the Music Hall to the closing tense finale at the London Palladium. The script was written by Charles Bennett who had already worked with Hitch on two other works (The Man Who Knew Too Much and Blackmail), and would collaborate on other films including “Secret Agent” and “Sabotage” and “Foreign Correspondent.” The screenplay is very loosely based on a novel by John Buchan, originally published in 1915, which by the time it was filmed was too antiquated in style for the 1930’s cinema. Subsequently, Hitchcock and Bennett made many changes including the adding of the leading female character, Pamela (Madeleine Carroll).  

      thirty-nine-steps_1241486c                      Canadian Richard Hannay (Robert Donat) is mistakenly implicated in the murder a woman, Annabelle Smith (Lucie Mannheim); he met at the music hall while watching an act called Mr. Memory. She admits to being a spy selling herself to the highest bidder and right now, the British were paying the best. She is being followed by foreign agents who are on the verge of smuggling top-secret papers out of the country. In a Hitchcock film, it does not really matter what the papers are, this is the MacGuffin, a red herring that gets the story moving.   Taking sanctuary in Hannay’s apartment, Annabelle tells the skeptical Canadian that two men are following her. After looking out his window, seeing two shadowy figures standing out on the street Hannay become’s a believer. Unfortunately, her time is short, as Hannay sleeps; Annabelle is knifed in the back. With Annabelle leaving few details before her death, something about “39 Steps”  a map of Scotland with the area known as Alt-na Shellach marked on the map as the location she believes the ring leader of the spies is located, Hannay heads for Scotland with the police on his trail as the accused murderer of Annabelle Smith. Along the way, Hannay ends up handcuffed to Pamela (Madeleine Carroll) who turns him into the police or so she thought, as they turned out to be foreign agents kidnapping both Hannay and Pamela.  The plot leads up back to London and the famed Palladium where Hannay comes to the realization how the foreign agents are going smuggle the secret plans out of the country.

       the_thirty_nine_39_steps_alfred_hitchcock                         This quickly paced episodic film runs from one short descriptive scene to another. Filled with suspense and humor, some risqué for its time, the film is a rollercoaster ride that does not stop for 85 minutes. The opening music hall scene get things off to a rousing start filled with laughter and a marvelous setup; the meeting of Hannay and Annabelle that sets the rest of the film in motion. Hannay’s relationship with Pamela is another highlight. Taking an instant dislike to him after he burst into her compartment on the train and begins kissing her in order to hide from the pursuing police, she quickly turns him in. The couple will soon meet again and find themselves handcuffed together in a series of scenes that are both suspenseful and comedic. Hitchcock liked pushing the censors’ buttons even as far back as 1935 when the British board did not allow unmarried couples to share a bed. Hitchcock gets away with this through some clever direction and   skillful performances by Donat and Carroll including the scene where Pamela removes her stocking and Hannay, his hand handcuffed to Pamela’s, is “forced” to rub up against her leg. Left unsaid, but still it must be in the back of filmgoers mind is how did they go to the bathroom? The film is actually filled with sexual innuendo. The salesmen Hannay meets on the train heading Scotland, displayed their samples, women’s under garments. When Hannay takes refuge in a Scotsman farmhouse, the farmer at one point insinuates Hannay and his wife have slept together. Even at the beginning of the film when Hannay meets Annabelle, one of the first things she says to him is “May I come to your home.” Hannay quickly agrees, and when Hannay tries to sneak out of his apartment after Annabelle’s murder, the only way he can convince the milkman to switch clothes with him so he can sneak past the two men watching outside is to tell him he has just spent the night with a married woman.

             stockings            Speed is of the essence in this film, with swift cuts and lightening transitions from one scene to the next. Note how quick the editing is when the housekeeper finds Annabelle’s body and screams, her scream blending together with the train whistle of the next scene. Hitchcock and his editors do this so well the train’s whistle seeming coming from the woman’s mouth as she screams.

    For the first time, Hitchcock used what would become one of his most famous motifs that of the innocent man accused of a crime he did not commit. It would surface again in films like “The Wrong Man”, “Saboteur” and “North by Northwest.” Other themes that show up again and again in his films appearing here are the cool blonde; Madeleine Carroll may be the first in a long line of cool Hitchcock blondes. Spies and secret organizations are another theme that would continue to show up in future works.

    When the film opened at the Roxy Theater in New York in September of 1935, New York Times critic Andre Sennwald called it “one of the most fascinating pictures of the year.” He continues, “If the work has any single rival as the most original, literate, and entertaining melodrama of the year, it is “The Man Who Knew Too Much” which is also out of Mr., Hitchcock’s workshop.” Today, the film remains one of the greatest from his under appreciated English period.

Peeping Tom (1960) Michael Powell

    Voyeurism and the movies go hand in hand. After all what is looking at movies other than peeping into the lives of other people. The subject has been explored in many films, “The Conversation”, “Sliver”, “Blow-Up”,  and more so with directors like Brian DePalma in  “Hi Mom!”, and “Blow Out” and Alfred Hitchcock in “Rear Window” and  “Psycho.” More recently films like “Disturbia”, “Alone with Her” and “Vacancy’ have explored the topic. However, no film connects voyeurism and film more than Michael Powell’s “Peeping Tom.”

    Powell is best known as one-half of “The Archers”, the other half being Emeric Pressburger. Powell and Pressburger , produced, directed and wrote or any combination thereof some of the classiest British films of the 1940’s and 1950’s including “49th Parallel”, “The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp”, “Black Narcissus”, “The Tales of Hoffman” and “The Red Shoes.” Therefore, when this ‘nasty’ psychological thriller called “Peeping Tom” was released it came as a shock to both the critics and the public that this film was directed by Michael Powell. Reaction from the media and the public was so hostile, (the London Tribune said “The only really satisfactory way to dispose of ‘Peeping Tom’ would be to shovel it up and flush it swiftly down the sewer, even then the stench would remain”), that the film was pulled from theaters in Britain quickly. When the film was released in the U.S. in May of 1962, it was a sliced and diced aborted version that did little business and died a quick death. Powell’s career was all but ruined. He managed to make a few more films, which included “Age of Consent” with a young Helen Mirren, but for all intent Powell’s career was pretty much over.    

    In the late 1970’s “Peeping Tom” was rediscovered, mainly due to Powell-Pressburger fan, Martin Scorsese. In 1979, the film was shown as part of the New York Film Festival and afterward given a commercial release, again thanks to Scorsese. Critics now praised what they once condemned, at least most did. Vincent Canby writing in the New York Times was not one of the converted, “Peeping Tom’s rediscovery, I fear, tells us more about fads in criticism than it does about art. Only someone obsessed with being the first to hail a new auteur, which is always a nice way of calling attention to yourself, could spend the time needed, to find genius in the erratic work of Michael Powell…..”  That said, most critics reevaluation was favorable.

    The film makes the viewer complicit right from the beginning, we see the protagonist Mark Lewis (Carl Boehm) view through his 16MM movie camera a prostitute looking at a storefront window. The camera approaches her, she turns toward the camera and informs Mark (us) that “it’ll be two quid.” The camera follows as she walks to her apartment where once inside she begins to undress. Suddenly a light shines on her and the camera begins to move in closer toward her. She becomes frighten then terrified, screaming as she realized what is about to happen.  There is a quick cut to a close-up of a movie projector running the developed film we just witnessed as the movie credits roll. For the rest of the film, we the audience, are never let off the hook. We are never allowed to sit on the sidelines of the movie. Powell makes us, the audience, a partner in crime, if for no other reason than we, as moviegoers, like to watch, just like Mark. This is a significant difference from how we relate to the Norman Bates character in “Psycho”, which “Peeping Tom” is always compared too, where we can stand on the sideline and separate ourselves from what is happening on screen. 

    Mark Lewis is a focus puller at a British film studio. A quiet shy young man (is there any other in this kind of movie), who has an unusually close attachment to his camera which he carries everywhere he goes. His private life is luring woman to a clandestine location where he films them, and reveals a hidden knife in one of the legs of the tripod with which he kills them as the camera rolls capturing their fear and screams on film for him to watch over and over as part of a ‘documentary’ he is making.  

    One woman, who is different, is Helen (Anna Massey) who lives in the same rooming house and befriends Mark showing an interest in his work. He lets her see his apartment and shows Helen some movies his father took years ago of him as small child. His father, a well known psychologist, used the boy for his own experiments in fear. One film shows his father ( played by Powell) waking the boy up in the middle of the night as his tosses a live lizard on to his bed, the boy screaming in fear. Another film we see Mark next to the deceased body of his mother and within six weeks of his mother’s death still another film with his dad’s new wife. At the wedding his father gives Mark a camera, which becomes his lifelong obsession. The father also had every room in the house wired so he could record conversations and screams of the frightened boy. For a short period, Helen gives Mark a taste of a normal life when they go out on a date. She even gets him to leave the camera at home.

     There is one scene, where Powell plays an insider joke on the audience involving Moira Shearer, the star of his magnificent film, “The Red Shoes.” Mark convinces Vivian (Shearer), a bit player, to stay late at the studio and dance for him as he films her convincing her she could use the film as an audition reel. Vivian dances gleefully for Mark as his camera gazes’ on her when suddenly he plunges the knife like sharp tripod leg into her throat. Vivian is found the next morning inside a trunk. As the police investigate, Mark is seen out of view from everyone filming the entire event.

    The films ending (spoiler alert – go to next paragraph) is still horrific even after forty-eight years. When Helen sees the film of Mark killing the actress he loses control and finds himself fighting his urge to kill her, however the police have been closing in and have reached Mark’s rooming house. Knowing this is his demise he turns the camera on himself and commits suicide on film, just like his victims.

     Screenwriter Leo Marks and Powell created a dark portrait of a sadistic obsessive mass murderer haunted by a torturous childhood whose only outlet is filming the fear of his victims as they succumb to death on celluloid. The real heavy, of course, is Mark’s father whose abusive psychological experiments he forced on his son are the source for his mental disorder. Interestingly and perhaps even perversely, the ‘family movies’, Mark shows to Helen, Powell used himself to portray the father and his own son as young Mark.

      Over the years comparisons have been made to Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho.” Both films were released within months of each other. Both deal with voyeurism, and both characters had strong fixated emotionally attached relationships with their parents. Mark with his father and Norman Bates with his mother. Despite the similarities, there were differences; in “Peeping Tom”, the focus of the story is always on Mark. The victims are non-entities that we never know anything about. In “Psycho”, we get to know and identify with Marion Crane (Janet Leigh). Also, “Psycho” was a huge financial hit with the audience with lines around the block while “Peeping Tom” died a quick death at the box-office. Perhaps this had to do with the reputation of the filmmakers. Audiences expected the macabre from Hitchcock but from Powell, this kind of film was totally unexpected, though, I do not believe the general movie going public were as familiar with Powell’s name as with Hitchcock. Certainly, though the critics were.

    As mentioned, Martin Scorsese was influenced by and influential in rediscovering “Peeping Tom.” In the book, “Scorsese on Scorsese” edited by David Thompson and Ian Christie, he talks about the first time he heard of “Peeping Tom” in the early 1960’s when it played at a small theater in an dangerous area of Manhattan. In 1970, Scorsese saw the film for the first time complete and in color. Scorsese states “I have always felt that “Peeping Tom” and “8 1/2”  say everything that can be said about filmmaking, about the process of dealing with film, the objectivity and subjectivity of it and the confusion between the two. “8 1/2” captures the glamour and enjoyment of filmmaking, while “Peeping Tom” shows the aggression of it, how the camera violates. These are two films that deal with the philosophy and the danger of film-making.”  

    German actor Karl Boehm was selected after Laurence Harvey turned the part down. According to the TCM website, Harvey had just gained great success with his performance in “Room at the Top” and he quickly accepted roles in major Hollywood productions like “The Alamo” and “Butterfield 8.”  Boehm gives a creepy, chilling performance as the shy repressed Mark Lewis expressing a certain vulnerability that I believe would have been lost if Harvey had taken the role. However, as Vincent Canby mentioned in his 1979 review, traces of a German accent are certainly noticeable with Boehm. A young Anna Massey in only her second film is very good as Helen the neighbor who befriends Mark and is both repelled and attracted to his strange world. British pinup Queen Pamela Green portrays a model Mark photographs in sexy lingerie. Powell filmed a semi nude scene of Green topless posing on a bed. This was the first nude in a British film; however, the scene was quickly deleted after early protest. In 1979, the original complete version was restored for commercial release.   

    “Peeping Tom” is a disturbingly dark, intense film that contains no let up. Unlike “Psycho”, there is no explanatory babble at the end. The ending in Psycho probably helped audiences of the day distance themselves from what they just saw on the screen. In “Peeping Tom”, Mark kills himself as sadistically and as cold as he did his victims then the film quickly comes to an end giving us no relief.

Room as the Top (1959) Jack Clayton

    The late 1950’s and early 1960’s were a golden time for British Cinema. Films like “The Ladykillers,” “The Smallest Show on Earth,” “I’m Alright, Jack,” and “The Mouse That Roared” were all comic gems. However, it was in drama where they really excelled during this same period. “The Angry Young Men” series of films that started with a number of British writers such as John Osborne and Alan Sillitoe became famous. Osborne wrote the classic play and later a film “Look Back in Anger.” Richard Burton starred as the angry protagonist in the film version. Other films influenced by these writers became part of Britain New Wave and includes “This Sporting Life,” “A Taste of Honey,” “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning” and “Room at the Top.”

    In “Room at the Top,” Laurence Harvey stars as Joe Lampton, a working class Brit who leaves his bleak hometown of Dufton to get a job as an accountant in the Treasurer’s office in the town of Warnley. Joe is ambitious and does not plan to stay at the bottom rung of the ladder for long. He also has eyes for attractive young women and soon spots Susan Brown (Heather Sears), the daughter of the town’s leading industrialist. Warned that she is way out of this working class boy’s sphere, Joe is not deterred and resents anyone who thinks he is not good enough. He begins seeing Susan but her parents send her abroad in an attempt to separate them and during this period.  Joe meets Alice (Simone Signoret), an older lonely woman who he begins an affair with and who teaches him the social graces he lacked. Alice falls in love with Joe, however, while Joe like Alice and enjoys sex with her he is not in love with her. When Susan returns, Joe starts to see her again and they eventually make love resulting in Susan’s pregnancy. Mr. Brown attempts to buy Joe off and send him on his way but Joe rejects the offer.  Brown then encourages Joe to marry his marry daughter as soon as possible also giving him a job in his office. There’s only one catch. He has to give up Alice and never see her again. Joe accepts this but he does want to tell Alice that he is marrying Susan.. Depressed and heartbroken at this news, Alice gets drunk and is killed in a car crash. Joe, guilt ridden, vanishes eventually meeting up with a young girl in a bar. Drunk, he tells the girl’s date to get lost. Later on, the date and a couple of his friends beat Joe up real bad. Joe, still blaming himself for Alice’s death marries Susan.

    The film is dominated by the performances of Simone Signoret and Laurence Harvey. Signoret is a sophisticated woman full of sexuality that comes across the screen like lightening. A fantastic actress who I believe is incapable of giving a bad performance. Laurence Harvey is as equally great in the role of Joe Hampton, the ambitious working class hero. Joe. Like many people from the lower class is hostile when pandered and provoked by sarcastic and cutting remarks from the upper class.

   This was only Jack Clayton’s third film as a director and he is masterful. Just watch the final scene in car as the newly married couple drive off. 

  At the time of its release, the sexual content of this film was considered very daring. Premarital sex, out of wedlock pregnancy, daring bed scenes was trying for the censors of the period. The film was a critical and commercial success. Simone Signoret won the Academy Award for Best Actress; Laurence Harvey was nominated for Best Actor. The film was nominated for Best Picture and Director Jack Clayton was nominated.