Joe Lampton arrives in a new town with burning ambitions and a head full of dreams. He may be just a lowly town hall clerk, but with his charm and good looks he's determined to 'marry into money' and set himself up for life. After meeting vulnerable and naive millionaire's daughter Susan Brown, he ruthlessly pursues her despite the opposition of her parents. Time and again, his working class background comes between them and Lampton seeks solace in the arms of a lonely and abused older woman, Alice. However, when Susan falls pregnant and Lampton causes the death of his lover in a fatal road accident, the ruthless charmer's world comes crashing in all about him and he finds himself inextricably trapped by his own selfish dreams and desires...
Superb 'angry young man' film
- Room at the Top review by RP
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You rated this film: 4
A superb 'angry young man' film from 1959. Set in a 1940s post-war Yorkshire town, Joe Lampton (played by Laurence Harvey) takes an accounting job working for the local Council. An orphan from a working class background, he wants to move upwards in the local society and sets his sights on Susan Brown, the daughter of a powerful local businessman. He joins the local amateur dramatic society and has an affair with Alice, an older woman played superbly by Simone Signoret. Although patronised by Susan's boyfriend and family, Joe succeeds by getting Susan pregnant and marrying into money. But his love lies with Alice – who dies in a car accident after drowning her sorrows on news of Joe's forthcoming marriage, leaving Joe with a deep sense of guilt which lasts past his wedding day.
The star of the film is without doubt Simone Signoret who won a 'Best Actress' Oscar for her performance. The film also picked up the BAFTA for Best Film and another Oscar for best screenplay.
Laurence Harvey is an actor who I can't usually stand. Having said that, he really is right for the role of Joe Lampton who is not only a social climber but a 'user' of others, a bit of a coward, and altogether a not very nice chap. Apart from the somewhat dodgy Yorkshire accent (despite his English sounding name, he was Lithuanian via South Africa) his role is well played.
There's plenty of period detail (much smoking, every man wearing a suit to work and in the pub, boys in short trousers, cobbled streets etc).
By today's film-making standards the film is perhaps a bit 'stagey' but it really is excellent. Highly recommended – 4/5 stars.