ROOM AT THE TOP (1959). Director: Jack Clayton.
"What were you doing fifty years ago during the Great War?"
Joe Lampton (Laurence Harvey) is an embittered WW2 veteran who hates the way that people with money treat him and others like him as if they were inferior. He makes a play for a young woman, Susan (Heather Sears) from a wealthy family, but things get complicated when he falls for an older married woman named Alice (Simone Signoret). Despite the sub-text of class struggle and ambition, Room at the Top is essentially a romantic story, and on that level it certainly delivers. One could quibble that the story is a touch predictable, and that certain sequences could have had more impact, but basically this is an absorbing, adult drama with wonderful dialogue and sympathetic characters. Joe Lampton is not just a heartless or ruthless gigolo, although he makes mistakes. In one powerful scene Alice tells him with consummate understatement, "You're a timid soul, aren't you?" One fight scene between Joe and Alice ends with Joe shouting out the hurtful line highlighted above, a mean reference to Alice's being older than him. Harvey is quite good; Signoret won an Oscar and deserved it. Heather Sears, Donald Wolfit and Hemione Baddeley also offer top-notch performances. Crisply photographed by Freddie Francis, who would direct many horror films in the future.
Verdict: Another British masterpiece. ****.