This Sporting Life


2h 14m 1963
This Sporting Life

Brief Synopsis

A rugby player finds the violence in his professional life tainting his personal relationships.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Sports
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1963
Premiere Information
New York opening: 16 Jul 1963
Production Company
Independent Artists
Distribution Company
Continental Distributing, Inc.
Country
United Kingdom
Location
England, United Kingdom
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel This Sporting Life by David Storey (London, 1960).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 14m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.66 : 1

Synopsis

"You see something you want and you go out and get it. It's as simple as that." Armed with this philosophy and a driving ambition to attain wealth and fame, Frank Machin rejects his obscure life as a miner in northern England and battles his way to public acclaim as the most aggressive player on an English Midlands rugby team. His skill and ruthlessness on the playing field impress all but the one person he is most anxious to please--Mrs. Hammond, the lonely widow in whose home he has taken lodgings. Embittered by the death of her husband in a factory accident (which was rumored to be a suicide), Mrs. Hammond rejects Frank's romantic overtures and denounces him as a self-centered and egotistical brute. Eventually, however, she succumbs to his sexual magnetism and permits him to seduce her, but she remains emotionally isolated. As his fame increases, Frank spends his money freely and flaunts Mrs. Hammond as his mistress. At the wedding of one of Frank's teammates, Mrs. Hammond is suddenly overcome with feelings of guilt, and she savagely reproaches Frank. A series of rows follows, each more vicious than the last, until Frank is forced to leave. He returns when he can no longer stand the separation but finds the house empty. He learns that Mrs. Hammond has suffered a brain hemorrhage and is close to death. Frank visits her at the hospital, and, although she is in a coma, he makes a desperate attempt to show that he is capable of tenderness. Following her death, he returns to the rugby playing field where the crowd admires only savagery and brute force.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Sports
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1963
Premiere Information
New York opening: 16 Jul 1963
Production Company
Independent Artists
Distribution Company
Continental Distributing, Inc.
Country
United Kingdom
Location
England, United Kingdom
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel This Sporting Life by David Storey (London, 1960).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 14m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.66 : 1

Award Nominations

Best Actor

1963

Best Actress

1963
Rachel Roberts

Articles

This Sporting Life


Often regarded as the capstone of the British New Wave of the late 1950s and early '60s, Lindsay Anderson's This Sporting Life (1963) is a stark depiction of life in an industrial town, focusing on the personal and professional struggles of a brutish rugby player.

Richard Harris stars as Frank Machin, a rugged coal miner who quits the pits to compete in a local rugby league. The narrative is comprised largely of flashbacks, woven from a dentist's chair where Machin awaits the replacement of six teeth dislodged by a brutal punch while huddled in a rugby scrum. He recalls his rise through the league, attracting the attention of a wealthy industrialist, Gerald Weaver (Alan Badel), who sponsors the professional team. He recalls his clumsy efforts to woo Mrs. Hammond (Rachel Roberts), the lonely widow in whose house he boards, and who still pines for her late husband (in one poignant scene, placing his freshly polished boots on the hearth, as if he might come claim them in the morning).

What Machin lacks in sophistication, he makes up for in raw ambition. "You see something and you go out and you get it," he says, "It's as simple as that." This philosophy serves him well on the field, but he soon rises out of his element and falls into the clutches of the team owner's man-hungry wife (Vanda Godsell). Despite the white sports car and the fur coat he purchases for Mrs. Hammond, Machin remains a boor, beautifully illustrated when he makes a spectacle of himself in a swank restaurant as the Weavers look on. When Mrs. Hammond characterizes him as "a great ape on the football field," she is perhaps more insightful than she realizes.

Anderson began his career as a film critic in the 1940s, contributing articles to Sight and Sound and The New Statesman, and co-founding the magazine Sequence. In the 1950s, he directed a series of documentary shorts, including Wakefield Express (1952) and Thursday's Children (1954). These were presented by the National Film Theatre, along with similar works by Karel Reisz, Tony Richardson and Lorenza Mazzetti, collected under the banner of "Free Cinema" (a term which Anderson reportedly coined). As this group of filmmakers (including cinematographer Walter Lassally) turned from documentary to fiction film, they would form the backbone of the British New Wave, which retained the Free Cinema's crisp black-and-white aesthetic and uncompromising social criticism.

Anderson's cinematic style grew more playful and provocative in the coming years, but he never neglected the issues of class and caste that made This Sporting Life so powerful. His 1968 film If... was a critical and commercial smash, a shocking examination of the hypocrisies of the educational system, the church and the military. In the years that followed, Anderson was never able to top these achievements. He created whimsical farces that exposed the ills of society -- such as O Lucky Man! (1973) and Britannia Hospital (1982) -- but his style of freewheeling, sharp-toothed filmmaking seemed better situated in decades of youthful rebellion. Anderson died on August 30, 1994.

Some historians consider This Sporting Life the end of the New Wave. Because of the film's disappointing box-office performance, producers began to shy away from the realist aesthetic and emotional rawness that had characterized such films as Jack Clayton's Room at the Top (1959) and Bryan Forbes's The L-Shaped Room (1962).

Even if it brought the British New Wave to an end, This Sporting Life was a launching pad for Richard Harris. A Best Actor Award at the 1963 Cannes Film Festival and an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor led the 32-year-old actor out of supporting roles and into stardom. Upon hearing of his Oscar® nomination, Harris reportedly replied, "I've struck a blow for the Irish rebellion!"

Born in Limerick, Ireland, Harris had been a rugby player long before appearing in This Sporting Life. He played for Munster Schools (Crescent College) but after contracting tuberculosis as a teenager, his athletic career was derailed, and he became interested in acting instead. A Shakespearean actor by training, Harris always wanted to play Hamlet on film, but never did. However, he did refer to This Sporting Life as "his" Hamlet. Even after achieving notoriety on the stage and screen, Harris still missed the rugby field. "Rugby has always been there for me. I grew up with the game in Limerick and have enjoyed its many pleasures, both as a player and a spectator," he told an interviewer just prior to the 2002 Heineken Cup final. "I would give up all the accolades -- people have occasionally written and said nice things -- of my showbiz career to play just once for Ireland or to appear in the senior Munster team. I will never win an Oscar® now, but even if I did I would swap it instantly for one sip of champagne from the Heineken Cup." Harris died of Hodgkin's Disease later that year, October 25, 2002.

Harris would best be remembered for his leading roles in Camelot (1967) and A Man Called Horse (1970). His later supporting roles include the villainous English Bob in Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven (1992) and Professor Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter films (2001, 2002). He received a second Oscar® nomination for his performance in Jim Sheridan's The Field (1990).

While conventional sports films tend to treat the viewer as a spectator (with obligatory shots of scoreboards and using sports commentators to explain the rules of the game and progress of the match), This Sporting Life thrusts the viewer onto the field with no such hand-holding. With jagged edits and topsy-turvy camerawork, the rugby matches are depicted as maelstroms of cold, muddy brutality, with no attempt to romanticize or valorize the players. Nor does Anderson downplay the homoeroticism of the sport. Instead, he depicts with refreshing frankness the sweaty scrums, steamy post-game showers and scenes of rowdy teammates being generous with their physical affection.

The production employed the use of wooden figures to supplement the crowd in the scenes shot at Belle Vue Stadium in Wakefield. Belle Vue is home to the Wakefield Trinity team (the Wildcats), which has been playing on the field since it was purchased in 1895 (the team itself had been in existence since 1873). Among Wakefield Trinity's most famous players is Derek Turner, who appears in This Sporting Life as the player who delivers the crushing blow that sends Machin to the dentist and sets the plot in motion.

Producer: Karel Reisz
Director: Lindsay Anderson
Screenplay: David Storey
Cinematography: Denys N. Coop
Film Editing: Peter Taylor
Art Direction: Alan Withy
Music: Roberto Gerhard
Cast: Richard Harris (Frank Machin), Rachel Roberts (Mrs. Margaret Hammond), Alan Badel (Gerald Weaver), William Hartnell ('Dad' Johnson), Colin Blakely (Maurice Braithwaite), Vanda Godsell (Mrs. Anne Weaver).
BW-134m. Letterboxed.

by Bret Wood
This Sporting Life

This Sporting Life

Often regarded as the capstone of the British New Wave of the late 1950s and early '60s, Lindsay Anderson's This Sporting Life (1963) is a stark depiction of life in an industrial town, focusing on the personal and professional struggles of a brutish rugby player. Richard Harris stars as Frank Machin, a rugged coal miner who quits the pits to compete in a local rugby league. The narrative is comprised largely of flashbacks, woven from a dentist's chair where Machin awaits the replacement of six teeth dislodged by a brutal punch while huddled in a rugby scrum. He recalls his rise through the league, attracting the attention of a wealthy industrialist, Gerald Weaver (Alan Badel), who sponsors the professional team. He recalls his clumsy efforts to woo Mrs. Hammond (Rachel Roberts), the lonely widow in whose house he boards, and who still pines for her late husband (in one poignant scene, placing his freshly polished boots on the hearth, as if he might come claim them in the morning). What Machin lacks in sophistication, he makes up for in raw ambition. "You see something and you go out and you get it," he says, "It's as simple as that." This philosophy serves him well on the field, but he soon rises out of his element and falls into the clutches of the team owner's man-hungry wife (Vanda Godsell). Despite the white sports car and the fur coat he purchases for Mrs. Hammond, Machin remains a boor, beautifully illustrated when he makes a spectacle of himself in a swank restaurant as the Weavers look on. When Mrs. Hammond characterizes him as "a great ape on the football field," she is perhaps more insightful than she realizes. Anderson began his career as a film critic in the 1940s, contributing articles to Sight and Sound and The New Statesman, and co-founding the magazine Sequence. In the 1950s, he directed a series of documentary shorts, including Wakefield Express (1952) and Thursday's Children (1954). These were presented by the National Film Theatre, along with similar works by Karel Reisz, Tony Richardson and Lorenza Mazzetti, collected under the banner of "Free Cinema" (a term which Anderson reportedly coined). As this group of filmmakers (including cinematographer Walter Lassally) turned from documentary to fiction film, they would form the backbone of the British New Wave, which retained the Free Cinema's crisp black-and-white aesthetic and uncompromising social criticism. Anderson's cinematic style grew more playful and provocative in the coming years, but he never neglected the issues of class and caste that made This Sporting Life so powerful. His 1968 film If... was a critical and commercial smash, a shocking examination of the hypocrisies of the educational system, the church and the military. In the years that followed, Anderson was never able to top these achievements. He created whimsical farces that exposed the ills of society -- such as O Lucky Man! (1973) and Britannia Hospital (1982) -- but his style of freewheeling, sharp-toothed filmmaking seemed better situated in decades of youthful rebellion. Anderson died on August 30, 1994. Some historians consider This Sporting Life the end of the New Wave. Because of the film's disappointing box-office performance, producers began to shy away from the realist aesthetic and emotional rawness that had characterized such films as Jack Clayton's Room at the Top (1959) and Bryan Forbes's The L-Shaped Room (1962). Even if it brought the British New Wave to an end, This Sporting Life was a launching pad for Richard Harris. A Best Actor Award at the 1963 Cannes Film Festival and an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor led the 32-year-old actor out of supporting roles and into stardom. Upon hearing of his Oscar® nomination, Harris reportedly replied, "I've struck a blow for the Irish rebellion!" Born in Limerick, Ireland, Harris had been a rugby player long before appearing in This Sporting Life. He played for Munster Schools (Crescent College) but after contracting tuberculosis as a teenager, his athletic career was derailed, and he became interested in acting instead. A Shakespearean actor by training, Harris always wanted to play Hamlet on film, but never did. However, he did refer to This Sporting Life as "his" Hamlet. Even after achieving notoriety on the stage and screen, Harris still missed the rugby field. "Rugby has always been there for me. I grew up with the game in Limerick and have enjoyed its many pleasures, both as a player and a spectator," he told an interviewer just prior to the 2002 Heineken Cup final. "I would give up all the accolades -- people have occasionally written and said nice things -- of my showbiz career to play just once for Ireland or to appear in the senior Munster team. I will never win an Oscar® now, but even if I did I would swap it instantly for one sip of champagne from the Heineken Cup." Harris died of Hodgkin's Disease later that year, October 25, 2002. Harris would best be remembered for his leading roles in Camelot (1967) and A Man Called Horse (1970). His later supporting roles include the villainous English Bob in Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven (1992) and Professor Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter films (2001, 2002). He received a second Oscar® nomination for his performance in Jim Sheridan's The Field (1990). While conventional sports films tend to treat the viewer as a spectator (with obligatory shots of scoreboards and using sports commentators to explain the rules of the game and progress of the match), This Sporting Life thrusts the viewer onto the field with no such hand-holding. With jagged edits and topsy-turvy camerawork, the rugby matches are depicted as maelstroms of cold, muddy brutality, with no attempt to romanticize or valorize the players. Nor does Anderson downplay the homoeroticism of the sport. Instead, he depicts with refreshing frankness the sweaty scrums, steamy post-game showers and scenes of rowdy teammates being generous with their physical affection. The production employed the use of wooden figures to supplement the crowd in the scenes shot at Belle Vue Stadium in Wakefield. Belle Vue is home to the Wakefield Trinity team (the Wildcats), which has been playing on the field since it was purchased in 1895 (the team itself had been in existence since 1873). Among Wakefield Trinity's most famous players is Derek Turner, who appears in This Sporting Life as the player who delivers the crushing blow that sends Machin to the dentist and sets the plot in motion. Producer: Karel Reisz Director: Lindsay Anderson Screenplay: David Storey Cinematography: Denys N. Coop Film Editing: Peter Taylor Art Direction: Alan Withy Music: Roberto Gerhard Cast: Richard Harris (Frank Machin), Rachel Roberts (Mrs. Margaret Hammond), Alan Badel (Gerald Weaver), William Hartnell ('Dad' Johnson), Colin Blakely (Maurice Braithwaite), Vanda Godsell (Mrs. Anne Weaver). BW-134m. Letterboxed. by Bret Wood

This Sporting Life - Richard Harris in Lindsay Anderson's THIS SPORTING LIFE on DVD


English director and critic Lindsay Anderson is now best known for his Malcolm McDowell movies If... and O Lucky Man!, but his most accomplished film is surely his first. 1963's This Sporting Life is a powerful addition to the British New Wave; Richard Harris' working-class Rugby star Frank Machin may be the angriest 'angry young man' of them all.

Synopsis: Tough coal miner Frank Machin (Richard Harris) rooms in the house of the widowed Mrs. Margaret Hammond (Rachel Roberts) and is frustrated by her indifference to his advances: she remains devoted to her dead husband. Frank bulls his way into a lucrative spot on a professional Rugby team and meets several new people. The club scout "Dad" Johnson (William Hartnell, TV's original Dr. Who) dotes on Frank. Club owners Gerald Weaver and Charles Slomer (Alan Badel & Arthur Lowe) consider how best to exploit him. Teammates Maurice Braithwaite and Len Miller (Colin Blakely and Jack Watson) find it difficult to consider a life beyond the playing field and all-night parties. Frank tries his best to win Margaret's affections. She's unimpressed by his new car but slowly allows Frank into her personal life -- which only leads to more unhappiness.

The determined Frank Machin is quick to resort to brute force. Envious of the celebrity status of Rugby stars, he secures his team audition by starting a fight with one of the players. In his trial game, Frank realizes that a teammate is ruining his chance to shine, so he decks him with a sucker punch and lets someone from the opposing team take the blame. Toughness is an asset on the playing field, but Frank finds himself ill equipped to deal with Margaret Hammond. The emotionally numbed woman keeps her dead husband's shoes polished and refuses to acknowledge any kind of personal connection with her tenant.

Wakefield is an industrial town with few options for advancement. The Rugby games are bruising, muddy combat, and Frank is never allowed to forget that he's a highly paid 'pet' of the mill owners. Although those same mill owners denied Margaret a decent pension, Frank is not a helpless victim of the system, as is Tom Courtenay in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. Author / screenwriter David Storey does not frame This Sporting Life as an allegory about class inequity. If Frank Machin's big opportunity turns out to be a dead end, it is mostly Frank's doing.

Frank's associates cannot penetrate his tough exterior even though Anderson often presents the team as an idealistic unit. They roughhouse in the baths and the pubs. Dad Johnson, the lonely team hanger-on, tries but fails to form a lasting friendship with Frank. Teammate Maurice provides an example of stability by marrying his longtime girlfriend, but Frank is too wild to consider marriage. Sex is also at the root of Frank's professional troubles. The wife of one of the team owners, Anne Weaver (Vanda Goodsell), tries to seduce him. When he turns her down, Anne poisons Frank's relationship with her husband and threatens his livelihood. Brute methods don't help in solving personal and business problems, and Frank ends up squandering his big chance at happiness.

Irishman Richard Harris is not as versatile an actor as Albert Finney but he's better suited for this highly physical role. Frank reads a dog-eared copy of Someone Up There Likes Me for personal inspiration. Goaded into singing at a pub, he shows signs of unexpected vulnerability. The dramatic encounters between Richard Harris and Rachel Roberts are almost painfully acute. She's the true wonder of the movie, and we wish she had played more leading film roles. Margaret cannot take the strain of being Frank's 'kept woman' and is further repulsed by his newfound arrogance as a celebrity. Her bitterness and his anger are a bad combination, and his material success only makes things worse. Their relationship crumbles under frustration and shame.

Lindsay Anderson's This Sporting Life is nothing like his later satires and black comedies. It's an intense tragedy with highly original characters. People with Margaret Hammond's problems don't normally appear in movies, not even the progressive dramas of the British New Wave. This Sporting Life doesn't compromise at any level, not even with the conventions of other 'kitchen sink' films.

Criterion's DVD of This Sporting Life presents this gritty drama in a fine enhanced B&W transfer. Disc producer Karen Stetler's extras reach deep into Lindsay Anderson's background. Anderson biographer Paul Ryan joins author David Storey on a particularly good commentary. Besides learning about Anderson's background as a stage director, we find out that Storey's novel was written from first-hand experience -- he became a Rugby player as a way of making a living so he could write and paint. Producer Karel Reisz was a heavy influence on the film, as he'd already scored with the 'kitchen sink' hit Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.

The first disc also contains an original trailer. Disc two begins with Lindsay Anderson: Lucky Man?, a thorough career docu that uses some of the same interviews seen in Warner Home Video's extras on their recent O Lucky Man! DVD.

Meet the Pioneers is Anderson's first job of direction, an industrial film about a company that manufactures mining equipment. It's impressively organized and filmed, and much more interesting than its subject suggests. Pioneers is accompanied by a new interview with Lois Sutcliffe Smith, a movie enthusiast who knew Anderson as a film critic. When her father, the owner of the mining company needed a film made, Smith suggested that Anderson be given the job.

Wakefield Express captures a snapshot of English life in 1952 by examining the workings of a newspaper in an industrial town. Anderson later returned to Wakefield when he needed a setting for This Sporting Life.

Lindsay Anderson's final film Is That All There Is? is a semi-docu that follows the director on a typical day of marketing and receiving visitors in his modest apartment. A visit from producer David Sherwin looks authentic but other invented moments play very awkwardly. Anderson takes a bath, watches television, makes plans for future movies and goes over research materials for a friend's show on John Ford. The ending finds Lindsay and his friends & collaborators on a boat party on the Thames. Musician Alan Price sings as the celebrants spread the ashes of actresses Rachel Roberts and Jill Bennett on the waters.

Criterion's fat insert booklet has an article by Anderson on his film, and a new essay from film scholar Neil Sinyard.

For more information about This Sporting Life, visit The Criterion Collection. To order This Sporting Life, go to TCM Shopping.

by Glenn Erickson

This Sporting Life - Richard Harris in Lindsay Anderson's THIS SPORTING LIFE on DVD

English director and critic Lindsay Anderson is now best known for his Malcolm McDowell movies If... and O Lucky Man!, but his most accomplished film is surely his first. 1963's This Sporting Life is a powerful addition to the British New Wave; Richard Harris' working-class Rugby star Frank Machin may be the angriest 'angry young man' of them all. Synopsis: Tough coal miner Frank Machin (Richard Harris) rooms in the house of the widowed Mrs. Margaret Hammond (Rachel Roberts) and is frustrated by her indifference to his advances: she remains devoted to her dead husband. Frank bulls his way into a lucrative spot on a professional Rugby team and meets several new people. The club scout "Dad" Johnson (William Hartnell, TV's original Dr. Who) dotes on Frank. Club owners Gerald Weaver and Charles Slomer (Alan Badel & Arthur Lowe) consider how best to exploit him. Teammates Maurice Braithwaite and Len Miller (Colin Blakely and Jack Watson) find it difficult to consider a life beyond the playing field and all-night parties. Frank tries his best to win Margaret's affections. She's unimpressed by his new car but slowly allows Frank into her personal life -- which only leads to more unhappiness. The determined Frank Machin is quick to resort to brute force. Envious of the celebrity status of Rugby stars, he secures his team audition by starting a fight with one of the players. In his trial game, Frank realizes that a teammate is ruining his chance to shine, so he decks him with a sucker punch and lets someone from the opposing team take the blame. Toughness is an asset on the playing field, but Frank finds himself ill equipped to deal with Margaret Hammond. The emotionally numbed woman keeps her dead husband's shoes polished and refuses to acknowledge any kind of personal connection with her tenant. Wakefield is an industrial town with few options for advancement. The Rugby games are bruising, muddy combat, and Frank is never allowed to forget that he's a highly paid 'pet' of the mill owners. Although those same mill owners denied Margaret a decent pension, Frank is not a helpless victim of the system, as is Tom Courtenay in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. Author / screenwriter David Storey does not frame This Sporting Life as an allegory about class inequity. If Frank Machin's big opportunity turns out to be a dead end, it is mostly Frank's doing. Frank's associates cannot penetrate his tough exterior even though Anderson often presents the team as an idealistic unit. They roughhouse in the baths and the pubs. Dad Johnson, the lonely team hanger-on, tries but fails to form a lasting friendship with Frank. Teammate Maurice provides an example of stability by marrying his longtime girlfriend, but Frank is too wild to consider marriage. Sex is also at the root of Frank's professional troubles. The wife of one of the team owners, Anne Weaver (Vanda Goodsell), tries to seduce him. When he turns her down, Anne poisons Frank's relationship with her husband and threatens his livelihood. Brute methods don't help in solving personal and business problems, and Frank ends up squandering his big chance at happiness. Irishman Richard Harris is not as versatile an actor as Albert Finney but he's better suited for this highly physical role. Frank reads a dog-eared copy of Someone Up There Likes Me for personal inspiration. Goaded into singing at a pub, he shows signs of unexpected vulnerability. The dramatic encounters between Richard Harris and Rachel Roberts are almost painfully acute. She's the true wonder of the movie, and we wish she had played more leading film roles. Margaret cannot take the strain of being Frank's 'kept woman' and is further repulsed by his newfound arrogance as a celebrity. Her bitterness and his anger are a bad combination, and his material success only makes things worse. Their relationship crumbles under frustration and shame. Lindsay Anderson's This Sporting Life is nothing like his later satires and black comedies. It's an intense tragedy with highly original characters. People with Margaret Hammond's problems don't normally appear in movies, not even the progressive dramas of the British New Wave. This Sporting Life doesn't compromise at any level, not even with the conventions of other 'kitchen sink' films. Criterion's DVD of This Sporting Life presents this gritty drama in a fine enhanced B&W transfer. Disc producer Karen Stetler's extras reach deep into Lindsay Anderson's background. Anderson biographer Paul Ryan joins author David Storey on a particularly good commentary. Besides learning about Anderson's background as a stage director, we find out that Storey's novel was written from first-hand experience -- he became a Rugby player as a way of making a living so he could write and paint. Producer Karel Reisz was a heavy influence on the film, as he'd already scored with the 'kitchen sink' hit Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. The first disc also contains an original trailer. Disc two begins with Lindsay Anderson: Lucky Man?, a thorough career docu that uses some of the same interviews seen in Warner Home Video's extras on their recent O Lucky Man! DVD. Meet the Pioneers is Anderson's first job of direction, an industrial film about a company that manufactures mining equipment. It's impressively organized and filmed, and much more interesting than its subject suggests. Pioneers is accompanied by a new interview with Lois Sutcliffe Smith, a movie enthusiast who knew Anderson as a film critic. When her father, the owner of the mining company needed a film made, Smith suggested that Anderson be given the job. Wakefield Express captures a snapshot of English life in 1952 by examining the workings of a newspaper in an industrial town. Anderson later returned to Wakefield when he needed a setting for This Sporting Life. Lindsay Anderson's final film Is That All There Is? is a semi-docu that follows the director on a typical day of marketing and receiving visitors in his modest apartment. A visit from producer David Sherwin looks authentic but other invented moments play very awkwardly. Anderson takes a bath, watches television, makes plans for future movies and goes over research materials for a friend's show on John Ford. The ending finds Lindsay and his friends & collaborators on a boat party on the Thames. Musician Alan Price sings as the celebrants spread the ashes of actresses Rachel Roberts and Jill Bennett on the waters. Criterion's fat insert booklet has an article by Anderson on his film, and a new essay from film scholar Neil Sinyard. For more information about This Sporting Life, visit The Criterion Collection. To order This Sporting Life, go to TCM Shopping. by Glenn Erickson

Richard Harris, 1930-2002 - TCM Remembers Richard Harris


Two-time Best Actor nominee Richard Harris, who was also famous for his feisty, off-screen exploits, was once characterized along with Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole as one of Britain's most charismatic and unpredictable leading men during the heyday of their popularity in the '60s and '70s. He died at the University College of London Hospital on Friday, Oct. 25. He had been suffering from Hodgkin's disease, a form of lymphatic cancer, and was 72 years old.

Harris was born October 1, 1930, in Limerick, Ireland, one of nine children born to farmer Ivan Harris and his wife, Mildred Harty. He was a noted rugby player as a youth, but shortly after his move to London in the mid-50s, Harris studied classical acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. After a few years of stage experience, he made his screen debut in Alive and Kicking (1958) and quickly developed a reputation as a talented young actor. His film career became increasingly impressive with such strong supporting turns in Shake Hands with the Devil (1959), The Guns of Navarone (1961) and Mutiny on the Bounty (1962).

Yet it wasn't until 1963 that Harris became an unlikely star after thrilling movie viewers and critics with his electrifying performance in This Sporting Life. His portrayal of a bitter young coal miner who becomes a professional rugby star marked the arrival of a major international talent and won him the Best Actor award at Cannes and an Oscar nomination.

Strangely enough, Harris' next projects were multimillion dollar epics and he went largely unnoticed amid the all-star casts; he had a small role as Cain in John Huston's production of The Bible (1966) and in Hawaii (1966) he played a sea captain who falls in love with a married woman (Julie Andrews). He also tried his hand at a mod spy comedy opposite Doris Day - Caprice (1967). A much better role for him was playing King Arthur in the film version of the Broadway hit Camelot (1967). The movie was not well received critically, but Harris' singing skills proved to be a surprise; not only did he win a Golden Globe for his performance, but the film's soundtrack album proved to be a bigger commercial hit than the film itself. Even more surprising was his unexpected success the following year with the pop hit "MacArthur Park" - that kitsch cornerstone of lounge karaoke. The song just missed topping the Billboard singles chart in the "Summer of 1968;" It was topped by Herb Albert's "This Guy's In Love with You."

The '70s proved to be a mixed bag for Harris. He scored a huge commercial hit with his best-known film of that decade, A Man Called Horse (1970). It became a cult Western and featured him as an English aristocrat captured, tortured and eventually adopted by Sioux Indians. He also showed some promise behind the camera, co-writing the screenplay for the psychological thriller The Lady in the Car With Glasses and a Gun (1970) and directing (as well as starring) in The Hero (1972), a drama about an aging soccer star. But the quality of films in which Harris appeared declined as the decade progressed: Orca (1977) - a terrible Jaws rip-off, The Wild Geese(1978), and worst of all, Tarzan, the Ape Man (1981), in which he had a thankless role as Bo Derek's explorer father.

Based on those films and his general inactivity in the '80s, Harris' comeback performance in The Field (1990) was a wonderful surprise. In that film he played a man who has nurtured a field into a prized piece of real estate only to lose his sanity as the property is taken from him; the role earned him a deserved Oscar nomination and showed that he was still a vital screen presence. Harris took full advantage of this new spurt in his career by committing himself to many fine character roles: the cool, refined gunslinger in Unforgiven(1992), his intense portrayal of a father mourning the death of his son in Cry the Beloved Country (1995), the resident villain of Smilla's Sense of Snow (1997), and as the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius in the epic Gladiator (2000).

Yet Harris will probably be best remembered by current audiences for his portrayal of Dumbledore, the benevolent and wily head of Hogwarts School in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001) and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) which will be released nationwide in just three weeks. Harris is survived by his three sons, Jared, Jamie (both actors) and the director Damian Harris.

by Michael T. Toole

Richard Harris, 1930-2002 - TCM Remembers Richard Harris

Two-time Best Actor nominee Richard Harris, who was also famous for his feisty, off-screen exploits, was once characterized along with Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole as one of Britain's most charismatic and unpredictable leading men during the heyday of their popularity in the '60s and '70s. He died at the University College of London Hospital on Friday, Oct. 25. He had been suffering from Hodgkin's disease, a form of lymphatic cancer, and was 72 years old. Harris was born October 1, 1930, in Limerick, Ireland, one of nine children born to farmer Ivan Harris and his wife, Mildred Harty. He was a noted rugby player as a youth, but shortly after his move to London in the mid-50s, Harris studied classical acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. After a few years of stage experience, he made his screen debut in Alive and Kicking (1958) and quickly developed a reputation as a talented young actor. His film career became increasingly impressive with such strong supporting turns in Shake Hands with the Devil (1959), The Guns of Navarone (1961) and Mutiny on the Bounty (1962). Yet it wasn't until 1963 that Harris became an unlikely star after thrilling movie viewers and critics with his electrifying performance in This Sporting Life. His portrayal of a bitter young coal miner who becomes a professional rugby star marked the arrival of a major international talent and won him the Best Actor award at Cannes and an Oscar nomination. Strangely enough, Harris' next projects were multimillion dollar epics and he went largely unnoticed amid the all-star casts; he had a small role as Cain in John Huston's production of The Bible (1966) and in Hawaii (1966) he played a sea captain who falls in love with a married woman (Julie Andrews). He also tried his hand at a mod spy comedy opposite Doris Day - Caprice (1967). A much better role for him was playing King Arthur in the film version of the Broadway hit Camelot (1967). The movie was not well received critically, but Harris' singing skills proved to be a surprise; not only did he win a Golden Globe for his performance, but the film's soundtrack album proved to be a bigger commercial hit than the film itself. Even more surprising was his unexpected success the following year with the pop hit "MacArthur Park" - that kitsch cornerstone of lounge karaoke. The song just missed topping the Billboard singles chart in the "Summer of 1968;" It was topped by Herb Albert's "This Guy's In Love with You." The '70s proved to be a mixed bag for Harris. He scored a huge commercial hit with his best-known film of that decade, A Man Called Horse (1970). It became a cult Western and featured him as an English aristocrat captured, tortured and eventually adopted by Sioux Indians. He also showed some promise behind the camera, co-writing the screenplay for the psychological thriller The Lady in the Car With Glasses and a Gun (1970) and directing (as well as starring) in The Hero (1972), a drama about an aging soccer star. But the quality of films in which Harris appeared declined as the decade progressed: Orca (1977) - a terrible Jaws rip-off, The Wild Geese(1978), and worst of all, Tarzan, the Ape Man (1981), in which he had a thankless role as Bo Derek's explorer father. Based on those films and his general inactivity in the '80s, Harris' comeback performance in The Field (1990) was a wonderful surprise. In that film he played a man who has nurtured a field into a prized piece of real estate only to lose his sanity as the property is taken from him; the role earned him a deserved Oscar nomination and showed that he was still a vital screen presence. Harris took full advantage of this new spurt in his career by committing himself to many fine character roles: the cool, refined gunslinger in Unforgiven(1992), his intense portrayal of a father mourning the death of his son in Cry the Beloved Country (1995), the resident villain of Smilla's Sense of Snow (1997), and as the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius in the epic Gladiator (2000). Yet Harris will probably be best remembered by current audiences for his portrayal of Dumbledore, the benevolent and wily head of Hogwarts School in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001) and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) which will be released nationwide in just three weeks. Harris is survived by his three sons, Jared, Jamie (both actors) and the director Damian Harris. by Michael T. Toole

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Originally released in Great Britain in January 1963; running time: 134 min.

Miscellaneous Notes

Voted One of the Year's Ten Best Films by the 1963 National Board of Review.

Winner of the Best Actor (Harris) and International Critics Prizes at the 1963 Cannes Film Festival.

Released in United States 2000

Released in United States on Video April 20, 1988

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1963

Feature directorial debut for documentarian and theatre director Lindsay Anderson.

Released in United States 2000 (Shown in New York City (Film Forum) as part of program "The British New Wave: From Angry Young Men to Swinging London" October 27 - November 16, 2000.)

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1963

Released in United States on Video April 20, 1988