Life at the Top


1h 57m 1965

Brief Synopsis

After marrying the boss' daughter, a workingman begins to doubt his abilities.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Adaptation
Sequel
Release Date
Jan 1965
Premiere Information
New York opening: 14 Dec 1965
Production Company
Romulus Films, Ltd.
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures; Royal Films International
Country
United Kingdom
Location
England, United Kingdom
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Life at the Top by John Braine (London, 1962).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 57m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White

Synopsis

After 10 years of marriage to Susan, the daughter of wealthy millowner Abe Brown, Joe Lampton continues to be in disfavor because of his lower-class origins. Forced to wed Susan before she gave birth to her first child, Joe has used his ambition to raise himself to a senior position in his father-in-law's company, but his growing distress at his marriage and his seeming incompetence at his job have embittered him. His attitude remains unchanged even after he has run successfully in a local election as a Conservative. He is more concerned about losing his chance for promotion when Brown, contrary to Joe's advice, decides to merge his company with another one. Joe is also distressed because he is unable to put through his plans for slum clearance, since Brown is interested in more profitable business plans. Joe sees his private life ruined when he finds his best friend, Mark, in bed with Susan. Though she claims that she feels nothing toward Mark, Joe hurries to London to stay with his mistress, Norah Hauxley, a television announcer whom he met while running for public office. After a brief romantic fling, he becomes dissatisfied with Norah and with himself because of his lack of education and his inability to find a satisfying job. Disillusioned, he meets with Susan, who still loves him, in London; and he decides that he will go back to Warley, where he will be made chairman of the board, succeeding Brown when he retires.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Adaptation
Sequel
Release Date
Jan 1965
Premiere Information
New York opening: 14 Dec 1965
Production Company
Romulus Films, Ltd.
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures; Royal Films International
Country
United Kingdom
Location
England, United Kingdom
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Life at the Top by John Braine (London, 1962).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 57m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White

Articles

Life at the Top


A dark melodrama of class and sex set in the fictional town of Warnley, England (but filmed in Bradford), the searingly modern Life at the Top (1965) is capable of challenging any notion that the past, or its films, were less jaded or cynical than those made in our own time.

Joe Lampton (Laurence Harvey) is the proverbial boy from the wrong side of the tracks who has found himself deep within the heart of enemy territory amidst the posh denizens of small town Warnley. He seems alienated from even his own son whose grandfather pays for his expensive boarding school. Lampton clearly both pities the boy, seeing a mirror image of his own class anxieties as a child, and resents him for possessing the silver spoon he never had.

Lampton has a plum job courtesy of his wealthy mill-owner father-in-law Abe Brown (Donald Wolfit), a gorgeous home, and a beautiful wife Susan (Jean Simmons). Yet he is still not satisfied. Lampton is grappling with the condition of being second-rate. He is deeply cynical about the shallow, wealthy peers he's surrounded by. When he's elected to the town council on the local aristocrats' conservative ticket, he sees firsthand how blatant and corrupt the class divide is, between the moneyed power structure and the neighboring slums where Lampton grew up. He finds his opinions diverging sharply from those of his wealthy cohorts who naturally favor money over social justice.

When a beautiful, equally skeptical London journalist Norah Hauxley (Honor Blackman) comes to Warnley and begins to appraise the ugly class schisms of the town, Lampton is instantly smitten. Blond, acerbic, brilliant and ambitious, she is everything his wife is not. Lampton sets his hat to winning Hauxley. But he soon finds, after following Hauxley back to London, that his position on the social class pecking order is not as secure as he thought. If his wife and wealthy father-in-law vouched for him in Warnley, compensating for his ignoble upbringing and lack of an education, in London the elites quickly sniff him out in some of the most excruciating and shaming moments in Life at the Top.

Steeped in the grubby business of real life, the movie's title carries a touch of cynicism, since "the top" is characterized by talk of The Ice Storm -style (1997) key parties, suicide, betrayal, adultery and a profound streak of joylessness. Typical of the utter cynicism of Life at the Top, Lampton's best friend Mark (Michael Craig) who advises him to start an affair of his own, is sleeping with Lampton's wife.

A trenchant examination of Britain's notoriously intractable class system, Life at the Top shows the ways social class defines nearly every facet of Lampton's life. But the essential dilemma Lampton faces is an existential one, notes Los Angeles Times writer Philip K. Scheuer. "What is life? What you want it to be or what you'll settle for?" he asks in a 1965 review of the film which compares the tale of ennui to La Dolce Vita (1960) and Darling (1965), two films about comparably amoral sophisticates. "If you thought the previous picture was cynical and immoral," he noted, "wait till you ogle this one."

Life at the Top is a sequel to the 1959 drama Room at the Top, which told the back story of Lampton's crawl from the lower rungs of society by marrying Susan Brown (played in the prequel by Heather Sears). Room at the Top is considered one of the most influential in the British New Wave movement of gritty, naturalistic dramas, and both it and Life at the Top were based on novels by John Braine. Room at the Top won Simone Signoret an Academy Award for her performance as an unhappily married woman who falls for Lampton, a part that was originally offered to Vivien Leigh. Harvey received an Oscar® nomination in the 1959 prequel for his performance as a working class anti-hero.

Set ten years after Room at the Top, Life at the Top eventually led to a 23-episode 1970 British TV series called Man at the Top starring Kenneth Haigh as Joe Lampton.

Director: Ted Kotcheff
Producer: James Woolf, William Kirby
Screenplay: Mordecai Richler based on the novel Life at the Top by John Braine
Cinematography: Oswald Morris
Production Design: Edward Marshall
Music: Richard Addinsell
Cast: Laurence Harvey (Joe Lampton), Jean Simmons (Susan Lampton), Honor Blackman (Norah Hauxley), Michael Craig (Mark), Donald Wolfit (Abe Brown), Robert Morley (Tiffield), Margaret Johnston (Sybil), Ambrosine Phillpotts (Mrs. Brown), Allan Cuthbertson (George Aisgill), Paul A. Martin (Harry), Frances Cosslett (Barbara), Ian Shand (Hethersett), George A. Cooper (Graffham), Nigel Davenport (Mottram), Andrew Laurence (McLelland), Geoffrey Bayldon (Industrial Psychologist), Denis Quilley (Ben), David Oxley (Tim), David McKail (Oscar), Paul Whitsun-Jones (Keatley), Charles Lamb (Wincastle).
BW-116m.

by Felicia Feaster
Life At The Top

Life at the Top

A dark melodrama of class and sex set in the fictional town of Warnley, England (but filmed in Bradford), the searingly modern Life at the Top (1965) is capable of challenging any notion that the past, or its films, were less jaded or cynical than those made in our own time. Joe Lampton (Laurence Harvey) is the proverbial boy from the wrong side of the tracks who has found himself deep within the heart of enemy territory amidst the posh denizens of small town Warnley. He seems alienated from even his own son whose grandfather pays for his expensive boarding school. Lampton clearly both pities the boy, seeing a mirror image of his own class anxieties as a child, and resents him for possessing the silver spoon he never had. Lampton has a plum job courtesy of his wealthy mill-owner father-in-law Abe Brown (Donald Wolfit), a gorgeous home, and a beautiful wife Susan (Jean Simmons). Yet he is still not satisfied. Lampton is grappling with the condition of being second-rate. He is deeply cynical about the shallow, wealthy peers he's surrounded by. When he's elected to the town council on the local aristocrats' conservative ticket, he sees firsthand how blatant and corrupt the class divide is, between the moneyed power structure and the neighboring slums where Lampton grew up. He finds his opinions diverging sharply from those of his wealthy cohorts who naturally favor money over social justice. When a beautiful, equally skeptical London journalist Norah Hauxley (Honor Blackman) comes to Warnley and begins to appraise the ugly class schisms of the town, Lampton is instantly smitten. Blond, acerbic, brilliant and ambitious, she is everything his wife is not. Lampton sets his hat to winning Hauxley. But he soon finds, after following Hauxley back to London, that his position on the social class pecking order is not as secure as he thought. If his wife and wealthy father-in-law vouched for him in Warnley, compensating for his ignoble upbringing and lack of an education, in London the elites quickly sniff him out in some of the most excruciating and shaming moments in Life at the Top. Steeped in the grubby business of real life, the movie's title carries a touch of cynicism, since "the top" is characterized by talk of The Ice Storm -style (1997) key parties, suicide, betrayal, adultery and a profound streak of joylessness. Typical of the utter cynicism of Life at the Top, Lampton's best friend Mark (Michael Craig) who advises him to start an affair of his own, is sleeping with Lampton's wife. A trenchant examination of Britain's notoriously intractable class system, Life at the Top shows the ways social class defines nearly every facet of Lampton's life. But the essential dilemma Lampton faces is an existential one, notes Los Angeles Times writer Philip K. Scheuer. "What is life? What you want it to be or what you'll settle for?" he asks in a 1965 review of the film which compares the tale of ennui to La Dolce Vita (1960) and Darling (1965), two films about comparably amoral sophisticates. "If you thought the previous picture was cynical and immoral," he noted, "wait till you ogle this one." Life at the Top is a sequel to the 1959 drama Room at the Top, which told the back story of Lampton's crawl from the lower rungs of society by marrying Susan Brown (played in the prequel by Heather Sears). Room at the Top is considered one of the most influential in the British New Wave movement of gritty, naturalistic dramas, and both it and Life at the Top were based on novels by John Braine. Room at the Top won Simone Signoret an Academy Award for her performance as an unhappily married woman who falls for Lampton, a part that was originally offered to Vivien Leigh. Harvey received an Oscar® nomination in the 1959 prequel for his performance as a working class anti-hero. Set ten years after Room at the Top, Life at the Top eventually led to a 23-episode 1970 British TV series called Man at the Top starring Kenneth Haigh as Joe Lampton. Director: Ted Kotcheff Producer: James Woolf, William Kirby Screenplay: Mordecai Richler based on the novel Life at the Top by John Braine Cinematography: Oswald Morris Production Design: Edward Marshall Music: Richard Addinsell Cast: Laurence Harvey (Joe Lampton), Jean Simmons (Susan Lampton), Honor Blackman (Norah Hauxley), Michael Craig (Mark), Donald Wolfit (Abe Brown), Robert Morley (Tiffield), Margaret Johnston (Sybil), Ambrosine Phillpotts (Mrs. Brown), Allan Cuthbertson (George Aisgill), Paul A. Martin (Harry), Frances Cosslett (Barbara), Ian Shand (Hethersett), George A. Cooper (Graffham), Nigel Davenport (Mottram), Andrew Laurence (McLelland), Geoffrey Bayldon (Industrial Psychologist), Denis Quilley (Ben), David Oxley (Tim), David McKail (Oscar), Paul Whitsun-Jones (Keatley), Charles Lamb (Wincastle). BW-116m. by Felicia Feaster

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Opened in London in January 1966. A sequel to Room at the Top (1959).

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter December 14, 1965

Sequel to "Room at the Top" (1958) directed by Jack Clayton.

Released in United States Winter December 14, 1965