Late last night I watched Room at the Top (1959), on Youtube. The quality wasn’t necessarily that great, and black boxes kept jumping on screen, ruining the picture for me, but when I came across this movie, by accident, on the web, a much awaited movie, I had to watch it.
Room at the top (1959)
Room at the Top is a beautiful movie, set post World War-II, in the late 1940’s, about a man, with a heavy ego and a heavier inferiority complex, who climbs to the top via unethical channels.
The film stars Laurence Harvey as Joe Lampton, a man from the ‘blue-collar’ working class, who, ashamed of his background, aims to marry Susan Brown (Heather Sears), daughter of the local industrial magnate, Mr. Brown (Donald Wolfit), to find ‘room at the top’ for himself’, even though he is in an illicit affair with an unhappily married, older, woman, Alice Aisgill (Simone Signoret), with whom he seems to be really in love with. Thus the term ‘Room at the Top’ is not a literal one, but a metaphorical room, amongst the elitist society of that town (Warnley, in Yorkshire), in England, UK. Joe Lampton’s desire to climb higher socially, through wrong means, and to be accepted among the privileged circles, makes him ruin an innocent girl, Susan, by forcing her, through the use of reverse psychology. Thus the impregnated girl’s parents would have no choice but to formally accept their alliance, despite their knowledge of his philandering ways.
A tragic movie, where, towards the end, Joe Lampton, does end up developing a conscience, but by then it’s too late. Simone Signoret is magnificent as the tragedy queen, who finds solace when she falls for a conniving young man, a man with only one selfish aim, in this Spring/Autumn (May/December) romance. Signoret’s expressive eyes and body language suggest great depth of wisdom and vulnerability, at the same time. Simone Signoret bagged the ‘Best Actress’ trophy at the Oscars, making her the second French actress to win an Oscar. Laurence Harvey, too, was nominated for his ‘angry young man’ performance. The film had six Oscar nominations, and also won for ‘Best Adapted Screenplay’. Simone Signoret also won the ‘Best Actress’ trophy at the Cannes Film Festival, and film director Jack Clayton was nominated for the Golden Palm.

Room at the Top is one of the finest British films made in the late 50’s, and considered to be the first of the ‘British New Wave’ of realistic film dramas. The ‘British New Wave’ was a British replication, and equivalent, derived from the famous ‘French New Wave’ films that was taking Europe by storm at the time. Usually made in Black and White, the ‘British New Wave’ style of modern cinema was mainly centred on the working classes and the fundamentals of everyday life. The film also features the first open direct reference to a sexual act in a British film.

Room at the Top is an unforgettable experience, especially thanks to a great cast and equally superb film direction, and worth checking out by any true film buff. Amongst the greatest British ventures I’ve seen

Rating 10/10.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense