Room at the Top (1959 film)
|Room at the Top|
Original British 1959 quad size film poster
|Directed by||Jack Clayton|
|Produced by||John and James Woolf|
|Screenplay by||Neil Paterson
Mordecai Richler (uncredited)
|Based on||Room at the Top
by John Braine
|Music by||Mario Nascimbene|
|Edited by||Ralph Kemplen|
|Distributed by||British Lion Films (UK)
Continental Distributing (US)
Room at the Top is a 1959 British film based on the novel of the same name by John Braine. The novel was adapted by Neil Paterson with uncredited work by Mordecai Richler. It was directed by Jack Clayton and produced by John and James Woolf. The film stars Laurence Harvey, Simone Signoret, Heather Sears, Donald Wolfit, Donald Houston and Hermione Baddeley.
Room at the Top was widely lauded, and was nominated for six Academy Awards, for Best Picture, Best Director for Clayton, Best Actor for Harvey, and Best Supporting Actress for Baddeley, winning Best Actress for Signoret and Best Adapted Screenplay for Paterson. Baddeley's performance became the shortest ever to be nominated for an acting Oscar (she had 2 minutes and 20 seconds of screen time).
In late 1940s Yorkshire, England, Joe Lampton (Laurence Harvey), an ambitious young man who has just moved from the dreary factory town of Dufton, arrives in Warnley, to assume a secure, but poorly paid, post in the Borough Treasurer's Department. Determined to succeed, and ignoring the warnings of a colleague, Soames (Donald Houston), he is drawn to Susan Brown (Heather Sears), daughter of the local industrial magnate, Mr. Brown (Donald Wolfit). He deals with Joe's social climbing by sending Susan abroad; Joe turns for solace to Alice Aisgill (Simone Signoret), an unhappily married older woman who falls in love with him.
When Susan returns from her holiday, shortly after the lovers (Joe and Alice) have quarrelled, Joe seduces Susan, and then returns to Alice. Discovering that Susan is pregnant, Mr. Brown, after failing to buy off Joe, coerces him to give up Alice and marry his daughter. Deserted and heartbroken, Alice launches on a drinking bout that culminates in her car-accident death. Distraught, Joe disappears, and after being beaten unconscious by a gang of thugs for making a drunken pass at one of their women, he is rescued by his colleague Soames in time to marry Susan.
- Laurence Harvey as Joe Lampton
- Simone Signoret as Alice Aisgill
- Heather Sears as Susan Brown
- Donald Wolfit as Mr Brown
- Donald Houston as Charlie Soames
- Hermione Baddeley as Elspeth
- Allan Cuthbertson as George Aisgill
- Raymond Huntley as Mr Hoylake
- John Westbrook as Jack Wales
- Ambrosine Phillpotts as Mrs Brown
- Richard Pasco as Teddy
- Beatrice Varley as Aunt
- Delena Kidd as Eva
- Ian Hendry as Cyril
- April Olrich as Mavis
- Mary Peach as June Samson
- Anthony Newlands as Bernard
- Avril Elgar as Miss Gilchrist
- Thelma Ruby as Miss Breith
- Paul Whitsun-Jones as Laughing Man at Bar
- Derren Nesbitt as Thug in Fight on Tow Path
- Derek Benfield as Man in bar
- Richard Caldicot as Taxi driver
- Wendy Craig as Joan
- Basil Dignam as Priest
- Jack Hedley as Architect
- Miriam Karlin as Gertrude
- Wilfrid Lawson as Uncle Nat
- Prunella Scales as Council Office Worker
- John Welsh as Mayor
- Sheila Raynor as Vera
- John Moulder Brown as Urchin (uncredited)
- Andrew Irvine as Office boy (uncredited)
There are some differences from Braine's novel. His friend Charles, whom he meets at Warnley in the film, is a friend from his hometown Dufton in the novel. Warnley is called Warley in the novel. More emphasis is paid to his lodging at Mrs Thompson's, which in the novel he has arranged beforehand (in the film, his friend Charles arranges it soon after they meet). In the book, the room is itself significant, and is strongly emphasised early in the story; Mrs Thompson's room is noted as being at "the top" of Warley geographically, and higher up socially than he has previously experienced, and serves as a metaphor for Lampton's ambition to rise in the world.
Producer James Woolf bought the film rights to the novel, originally intending to cast Stewart Granger and Jean Simmons. Vivien Leigh was originally offered the part of Alice, in which Simone Signoret was eventually cast. He hired Jack Clayton as director after seeing The Bespoke Overcoat, a short which John Woolf had worked (uncredited) and their film company had produced.
Room at the Top is thought to be the first of the British New Wave of realistic film dramas. It was filmed at Shepperton Studios in Surrey, with extensive location work in Halifax, Yorkshire, which stood in for the fictional towns of Warnley and Dufton. Some scenes were also filmed in Bradford, notably with Joe travelling on a bus and spotting Susan in a lingerie shop and the outside of the amateur dramatics theatre. Greystones, a large mansion in the Savile Park area of Halifax, was used for location filming of the outside scenes of the Brown family mansion. Halifax railway station doubled as Warnley Station in the film, and Halifax Town Hall was used for the Warnley Town Hall filming.
Room at the Top was followed by a sequel in 1965 called Life at the Top.
The film was critically acclaimed and marked the beginning of Jack Clayton's career as an important director. It became the third most popular film at the British box office in 1959 after Carry On Nurse and Inn of the Sixth Happiness.
Awards and nominations
- Best Actress in a Leading Role (Simone Signoret)
- Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium.
- Best Picture
- Best Actor in a Leading Role, (Laurence Harvey)
- Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Hermione Baddeley)
- Best Director (Jack Clayton)
- Best British Film
- Best Film from any Source
- BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Simone Signoret)
- Best British Actor (Laurence Harvey)
- Best British Actor (Donald Wolfit)
- Best British Actress (Hermione Baddeley)
- Most Promising Newcomer (Mary Peach)
Golden Globe Awards
- Samuel Goldwyn Award
- Best Motion Picture Actress – Drama (Simone Signoret)
Cannes Film Festival
- Golden Palm (Jack Clayton)
- Alexander Walker, Hollywood, England, Stein and Day, 1974 p50
- David Thomson Have You Seen, London: Allen Lane; New York: Knopf, 2008, p.736
- Alexander Walker, Hollywood, England, Stein and Day, 1974 p51
- The Times, 1 January 1960, page 13: Year of Profitable British Films - The Times Digital Archive, accessed 11 July 2012
- "Festival de Cannes: Room at the Top". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 15 February 2009.
- Room at the Top in the British Film Institute's "Explore film..." database
- Room at the Top at the British Film Institute's Screenonline
- Room at the Top at the Internet Movie Database
- Room at the Top at the TCM Movie Database
- Room at the Top at Rotten Tomatoes
- Room at the Top at AllMovie