Saturday, January 15, 2011

Saturday Matinee: Room at the Top (1959)

With lips still warm from another woman's flesh...I thee wed...

"In late 1940s Yorkshire, England, ambitious young man Joe Lampton (Laurence Harvey), 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 have quarrelled, Joe seduces her, and then returns to Alice. Discovering that Susan is pregnant...."from the internet movie database  (I left some of the plot synopsis out to keep from spoiling the movie for others.  I do not know why IMDb has to tell so much....)

This film is loaded with Oscar Nominations.  The Best Actress Nom (and win) was well deserved by the beautiful Simone Signoret.  She plays a lonely wealthy housewife, Alice Aisgill, often left alone by her traveling husband.   

Nominated for Best Supporting Actress was Hermione Baddeley as Elspeth , who only had  "2 minutes and 20 seconds of screen time", the shortest ever for a nomination.  Wikipedia   She did not win but did go on for a long career as an actress.  You might better remember her for her roles on Little House on the Prairie or as the "hard drinking housekeeper" on Maude, but I remember her as Samantha Stevens childhood Nanny in her recurring role on Bewitched.  She is one, when you see other roles she played, you might say "oh, yea...that WAS her".  To see these roles, go over to her Wikipedia page.

For the first half of the film, I just could not place who was playing "Joe Lampton".  It was driving me nuts who this handsome and debonair man might be.  I knew I have seen him in many classics, but just could not place him.  AHA!!!!!  He played Westin Ligget, Gloria Wonderous's married lover!!!! (I love LOVE L O V E Butterfield 8, by the way...more to come on this, I am sure, in a future post...).  For now, he is playing Joe Lampton and doing a very good job at it.  He was nominated for this role for a Best Actor Oscar, but, like Ms. Baddeley, was passed over (I must look up who did win this year and watch their performance because for him to win over Laurence Harvey, he must have been day'um good).  Oh, didn't I tell you who I was talking about? Laurence Harvey, my new crush.  He is yummy.

Of course, Mr. Harvey was in many many more films, which you can read all about at the Internet Movie Database.

Even though Saturday Matinees SHOULD be comedies, in my opinion, I really enjoyed this movie.  It was dark, sexy, and sad.  Perfect for this dreary Texas afternoon ~sarcastic smile~.  The film told of the constant battle between classes with Joe wishing to climb the social ladder and Mr.  Brown keeping him down.  The characters included the usual old snob haggy woman (Mrs.Brown) thinking she is better than everyone else and others trying to keep Joe down.  Joe was not a good man, said he loved Susan while sleeping with Alice, but Laurence Harvey played him well.  The atmosphere of the industrial town added to the darkness of the film, as well.

A bit of trivia, for ya, (found at the IMDb), initially no British cinema chains wanted to touch the film as the British Board of Film Classification had given it an X certificate, then usually synonymous with exploitation fare. Eventually the ABC chain took a chance and picked it up for distribution, scoring a huge critical and commercial hit in the process. Many changes had to be made before the film was released, "
Before passing the film with an 'X' certificate the BBFC required some dialogue changes. The word "bitch' was changed to 'witch', and 'Don't waste your lust on her' was changed to the tamer 'Don't lust after her'."  There were also other edits but talking about these would give away too much of the movie...and I do not wish to be a "Spoiler", but you can see them at the IMDb website.

Another interesting fact, "the story takes place in 1947, but all the women's fashions and hairstyles are strictly in the contemporary 1958 mode, when the film went before the cameras" from IMDb  To be very honest, I did not realise the movie was supposed to be set in the late '40s, just after WWII.  I thought it odd that they kept referring to the war so long after it was over and that the "Sargent" (what a man teased Joe as being" was so young looking. (BLONDE moment, I guess)

If you have not seen Room at the Top, I recommend it. 


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