Room at the Top (film)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

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 James Woolf and John Woolf.

The film stars Simone Signoret, Laurence Harvey, Heather Sears, Donald Wolfit, Donald Houston and Hermione Baddeley. In smaller roles were Allan Cuthbertson, Raymond Huntley, John Westbrook, Richard Pasco and Ambrosine Phillpotts. There are also early cameos by Prunella Scales, Wendy Craig, Derek Benfield, Miriam Karlin, Derren Nesbitt and Ian Hendry. Wilfrid Lawson makes an uncredited appearance as Harvey's uncle.



The film is set in Yorkshire in the early 1950s.

It tells the story of a Joe Lampton (Laurence Harvey), an ambitious young man who has just moved from the dreary English factory town of Dufton and arrives in Warnley to take up 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). Brown deals with the situation by sending Susan abroad, and Joe turns for solace to an older, unhappily married woman, Alice Aisgill (Simone Signoret), who falls in love with him. Susan returns from her holiday shortly after the lovers have quarrelled, and is seduced by Joe, who then goes back to Alice. Brown discovers that his daughter is pregnant, and having failed to buy Joe off, he forces him to agree to give up Alice and marry Susan. Deserted and heartbroken, Alice launches on a drinking bout that culminates in her death in a car accident. Joe disappears, and after being beaten unconscious by a gang of toughs for making a drunken pass at a girl, he is rescued by Soames in time for his wedding.


There are some differences. 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 and not, as in the film, his friend Charles arranges for him.

Background and production

Room at the Top is considered the first of the British New Wave of realistic and gritty film dramas. It was filmed at Shepperton Studios in London, with extensive location work in Halifax, Yorkshire, which stood in for the fictional towns of Warnley and Dufton.

Vivien Leigh was originally offered the part of Alice, which eventually went to Simone Signoret.


The film's relatively strong sexual content ensured it an "X" certificate, but it was saved from failure when Associated British Cinemas agreed to distribute it, making it a surprising commercial success. The film was critically acclaimed and marked the beginning of Jack Clayton's career as an important director.

Room at the Top was followed by a sequel in 1965 called Life at the Top.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Room at the Top (film)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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