In Room at the Top, Joe (Laurence Harvey) is a young, headstrong accountant who has just found a job in a small town. With the help of a friend, he gets joins a theater club to meet young and beautiful Susan (Heather Sears). While Joe attempts to woo her, he becomes closer to an older woman, Alice (Simone Signoret). Very soon, Joe experiences the struggles and strife of being with two women and ends up with tragic consequences.
Susan is a not only an innocent beauty, but a high class girl. Her father owns a factory, and once Joe is in her family’s radar, he is seen as a threat. You see, Joe comes from a town that is now largely piles of rubble from the war and is considered lower class. Joe pursues Susan, partially for a possible future of gaining higher class status, but also just for lustful kicks. But a clean cut girl like Susan is hard to get to, especially with such protective parents, and in the end will she even be what Joe really wants?
Then there is Alice, a friend Joe never meant to fall in love with. While Susan is a wide-eyed girl, Alice is a strong, seasoned and careful woman. She is ten years older than Joe and skeptical, (not so much of his intentions, she seems comfortable with casual sex) but of getting too serious. Alice is a much more interesting and likeable woman than Susan. She is smarter, more cultured with a lifetime more of experiences than girlish Susan. Even better, she is a surprisingly modern feminist, seeing herself and her body as more than a plaything for Joe. I did not expect these bold conversations from a film from 1959. When Alice finally does fall completely and trust Joe, she falls hard, and losing him would tear her apart.
A film with so much lust, adultery and the idea of sex being an enjoyable act landed Room at the Top with an X rating by the ABC. It was so racy for 1959 that film distributors were afraid to touch the film. However, once it was released, it proved to be a big hit, both critically and financially, and ushered in a new age of adult themes in film.
At the Oscars Room at the Top was nominated for six awards, including Best Picture. Jack Clayton was nominated for best director, Harvey for best actor and Hermione Baddeley was nominated for best supporting actress for only being in a couple short scenes, but making quite an impact. The film won the award for best adapted screenplay and Signoret won the Oscar for lead actress. The way she can put up walls and let them fall and become so vulnerable earned her that Oscar.
Readers, I am so happy to have finally seen Room at the Top. It was worth the wait and such a surprise. The acting is superb all around and the story is juicy, enticing and pulls you in so well that you end up just as crushed at the end. This film is an amazing ride, and i really wish it was more widely available. I got it off Amazon UK as a second hand DVD, the only one I could find.
“I own my own body and I’m not ashamed of it.”
Excellent post, I’m adding this to my Films to see list.
Wonderful, best of luck finding it.
I’m a huge Laurence Harvey fan, so reading your review first thing in the morning definitely has made my day. 🙂 This film also has some interesting dynamics going on behind the scenes — Harvey and Baddeley (at least twice his age) were a couple (if you know what I mean) years before this movie and appeared in other films together like “Expresso Bongo.” Also, Harvey was the first Lithuanian-born actor to be nominated for an Oscar. If you get a chance, watch the highly underrated sequel “Life at the Top” (last time I checked, you can watch the full movie in parts on YouTube!). Best regards, G. E.
Oh wow, thanks for the fascinating information. I’ll have to check out Life at the Top now. So happy this made your day!
I was reading thing and thinking, “Why don’t I know about this movie?” Well, I added it to my “Saved” queue in Netflix. May it will show up somedy.
It’s a shame more people don’t know about this one. Sure hope you find it sooner rather than later.