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An embittered young man spews venom on all around him, particularly his upper-class wife.
After a night of playing trumpet at a jazz club in a dismal town in Northern England, college drop-out Jimmy Porter returns to his apartment where he lives with his oppressed young wife Alison and their close friend, Welshman Cliff Lewis. The next morning while Alison irons, Jimmy, having noticed a letter from Alison to her mother, rages that his wife's upper-class family is arrogant and dim-witted, noting that Alison does not even mention his name in her letters anymore. Cliff, who comes from a working-class background like Jimmy, tries to make light of Jimmy's insults by engaging him in a satirical vaudevillian act. While playfully roughhousing, Jimmy pushes Cliff into Alison, who burns her hand on the iron. After she orders Jimmy to leave the apartment, Alison confesses to Cliff that she cannot continue to take Jimmy's abuse. Later that day, after Alison learns from her doctor that she is pregnant, she asks for an abortion, but the doctor refuses to discuss it as an option. Meanwhile in the town market, Jimmy and Cliff tend their candy stall, which was given to Jimmy by cockney Mrs. Tanner, whom Jimmy cherishes. Soon after, Jimmy takes Mrs. Tanner to lunch at a nearby pub, where Alison finds them after her doctor's appointment. When Alison tries to have a moment alone with Jimmy to share the news about the pregnancy, Jimmy berates his wife for being rude to Mrs. Tanner. Once outside, Alison mentions the doctor's appointment, but Jimmy accuses her of reporting the ironing incident as spousal abuse before Alison can explain the real reason for the visit. Jimmy then escorts Mrs. Tanner to her husband's grave, where his elderly friend asks what he wants in life. The confused and disillusioned Jimmy can only reply, "everything and nothing." That night at the apartment, after Jimmy apologizes, the couple embrace and kiss passionately and then enact a game they have created to escape the real world: Alison plays a pert young squirrel who scampers around the room, while Jimmy, a big gruff bear, preens and protects her. Before Alison can introduce the subject of the child, however, they are interrupted by Alison's best friend, Helena Charles, whom Alison has invited to stay with them after learning Helena needed a place to live while acting in a town play. Jimmy, who hates Helena for her self-assuredness, ridicules his wife for naïvely liking her and rages that a real experience like losing a child in childbirth might help Alison grow up. Helena witnesses this and other tirades and later asks Alison why she married Jimmy. Alison explains that after their initial romance, Jimmy was determined to marry her, spurred on by her parents' rejection of him. That evening, Jimmy and Cliff burst in on Helena's rehearsal at the theater and perform their slapstick routine, shaming the actress. When Jimmy returns to the apartment later, Helena announces that Alison is going with her to church, prompting Jimmy to insult Alison's family again. Although Helena, who has secretly arranged for Alison to return to her parents, Col. and Mrs. Redfern, defends Alison, the haggard wife only asks for peace. When Jimmy receives a call announcing Mrs. Tanner has had a stroke and is dying, he tells Helena that he is tormented by the memory of watching his father slowly die, then asks Alison to go with him to the hospital, but Alison leaves with Helena. Later, when a distraught Jimmy returns to the apartment after visiting Mrs. Tanner on her deathbed, he finds Alison's farewell letter on the mantle. Helena, who cannot move out until the next day, tells him Alison is having a baby, but Jimmy, far from being moved by the news, calls Helena an "evil-minded little virgin" and dismisses the child. Outraged, Helena slaps him, but her exasperation quickly turns to passion, as Jimmy kisses her and an affair ensues. Only weeks into their relationship, Jimmy and Helena have settled into a domestic routine eerily similar to that of Jimmy and Alison's. During one of Jimmy and Cliff's antic-filled routines, Helena's writing case falls open, revealing a letter to Alison, which Helena promptly rips up to prove her loyalty to Jimmy. Meanwhile at the Redfern home, the colonel asks Alison why Jimmy married her if he had such contempt for their family. Alison explains that while her father hurts because "everything has changed" since the end of his military posting in India, Jimmy grieves because "nothing has changed." At the market, bigoted constable Hurst is prepared to confiscate Indian vendor Johnny Kapoor's license based on an upper-class white woman's complaints that he sold her faulty merchandise. However, when Jimmy and Cliff insist Hurst hear both sides of the story, the constable is forced to give Johnny back his permit when the woman reveals that she bought the shirt several weeks before Johnny moved to that marketplace. Later, Cliff, uncomfortable with the new relationship between Jimmy and Helena, announces to Jimmy that he is moving out. In a movie theater that afternoon, Helena professes her love to Jimmy, who begs her not to let anything go wrong between them. During the walk home, after Helena suggests he find a more meaningful job, Jimmy rages that taking a scholarly job is useless in a society that is falling apart. When Johnny loses his license because of Jimmy's working-class friends' prejudice against East Indians taking English business, Jimmy encourages him to seek justice, but Johnny just wants to move to the next market, explaining that he was an untouchable in India, a far worse position than being run out of one English market. At the train station that evening, after Jimmy wishes Cliff farewell, he tells Helena they should move and start a new life together. When they go to train station bar to toast their decision, Jimmy and Helena find a disheveled Alison there. Jimmy leaves abruptly, while Helena remains behind to hear Alison's story. She has lost the child and has come to the town out of desperation but does not want to come between Helena and Jimmy. Alison tells Helena that she is returning to her parents, but when Helena follows her to the train platform and discovers Alison does not have a return ticket, she announces her affair with Jimmy is over. Returning to the apartment, Helena tells Jimmy about the miscarriage and says she cannot be a part of further suffering. Jimmy goes to Alison at the train station and admits that he is a "lost cause," but he "thought if you loved me it doesn't matter." As Alison tells him that she is tough enough to survive the grief over the child, Jimmy comforts his weeping wife and reassures her that they will remain together now, as a bear and squirrel in their cave.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||London opening: 26 May 1959; Los Angeles opening: week of 14 Sep 1959; New York opening: 15 Sep 1959|
|Release Date:||1959||Production Date:||
A Woodfall Film
|Color/B&W:||Black and White||Distributions Co:||Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.|
|Sound:||Mono||Production Co:||Woodfall Film Productions, Ltd.|
|Duration(mins):||100-101||Country:||Great Britain and United States|
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correction of previous review
kevin sellers 2017-03-12
Please insert "Blanche" instead of "Stella" in the first sentence. Otherwise it makes no sense.
look back in anger
kevin sellers 2017-03-12
I always thought John Osborne's play, upon which this film is based, to be a ripoff of "Streetcar," minus Stella, (an unfortunate omission...
Look Back in Anger on Criterion Collection DVD
Jeffrey Kenison 2016-06-11
I would like to consider having this movie on Criterion Collection DVD. I like Richard Burton, Claire Bloom, Mary Ure, and Dame Edith Evans.