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The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
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The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner,The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

Pop Culture 101: THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE RUNNER

The trailer advertising The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner noted that Woodfall was the company that released the Richardson-produced Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960) and A Taste of Honey (1961), also directed by him. It also touted the earlier films' introductions of Albert Finney and Rita Tushingham and announced "another exciting new face" in Tom Courtenay.

An alternate title for the film, Rebel with a Cause, was a direct reference to Nicholas Ray's drama of teen alienation and wayward behavior, Rebel Without a Cause (1955), starring James Dean.

Posters advertising The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner gave a good indication of its influences and intentions. One was clearly modeled on the style of early 20th century Soviet film posters; the other, for its French release, shows Colin's troubled face behind a chain link fence, echoing an image from Truffaut's Les quatre cents coups/The 400 Blows (1959). Some critics pointed out that The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner ineffectively used techniques from the French film.

Critical reception for The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner was mixed; many reviewers found its style too gimmicky and imitative of French Nouvelle Vague films, especially Truffaut's Les quatre cents coups/The 400 Blows. Other British critics likened it to Communist propaganda. But it remained one of Richardson's favorites throughout his life.

The so-called Kitchen Sink dramas of British stage and screen in the mid-1950s to the early 1960s, of which this is a classic example, were influences on such songwriters as Morrissey (of The Smiths), Gavin Friday (who has a song called "Kitchen Sink Drama" on his album Shag Tobacco), and Marc Almond and David Bell, who also included a song called "Kitchen Sink Drama" on their 1983 Soft Cell album The Art of Falling Apart.

Dialogue from the film is liberally sampled in the Chumbawamba song "Alright Now," and text from Alan Sillitoe's short story appears on the cover of their single "Just Look at Me Now."

The British heavy metal group Iron Maiden used Sillitoe's short story as the basis for a song of the same name on their album Somewhere in Time. The title was also used, though altered a bit, by Scottish indie group Belle and Sebastian and others.

A U.S. band, Ruxton Towers, takes its name from the borstal in the movie.

Rod Blagojevich, the impeached Governor of Illinois, referenced the story when he said, on January 9, 2009: "Let me simply say, I feel like the old Alan Sillitoe short story 'The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner' ...and that's what this is, by the way, a long-distance run."

The title was referenced in the Chris Marker film La solitude du chanteur de fond (1974), translated as "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Singer" (although some sources list the English title as "The Loneliness of the Background Singer"). Marker's film is a documentary of French singer-actor Yves Montand's concert on behalf of Chilean political refugees.

Various plays on the title have been heard in the comic television series Mystery Science Theater 3000.

In the comedy Run, Fatboy, Run (2007), a news reporter refers to the title in his commentary on a marathon race.

by Rob Nixon

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