25.1.10

This Sporting Life, 1963




The Players:

Frank Machin: Richard Harris
Margaret Hammond: Rachel Roberts
Gerald Weaver: Alan Badel
Mr "Dad" Johnson: William Hartnell
Director: Lindsay Anderson -film debut
British New Wave, Kitchen Sink Drama, 1963

I liked this film very much and thought I would a post on it. For some reason or another I'm easily drawn towards British New Wave films. This was Lindsay Anderson's first major movie, previously he was a  reporter, which is what many other Brit New Wave film makers were, and documentary, short film maker. This Sporting life is a late comer to the stylized New Wave period, films like Tony Richardson's Tom Jones (Won Best Picture 1964 ) a comedyslowly changed the style to more optimistic charming pictures. What came out of the period between 1958 and early 60s were some real gems like one of my all time favorites A Taste of Honey also there is Look Back in Anger, A Kind Of Loving, Room At The Top, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning and The Entertainer. More often than not the back bone stories were derived from writer's famous for their style of writing realism, focusing on an angry protagonist.

Sporting life was a hit with the critics but a miss with the British Audiences,  funnily enough it wowed audiences abroad in the States of America. Ex Rugby league player David Storey wrote the novel to which this is based upon, he also wrote the screenplay.




If you have seen this you should agree that this film is amazing, and if you haven''t seen it, it would not hurt to. For these reasons: this is one of the greatest British 60s classic's I have seen, Richard Harris (1st Dumbledore) gives an absolutely terrific performance as the quintessential Brute. Harris mirrors Marlon Brando's acting style and you receive definite Stanley Kowalski Vibes. Harris may be known for playing classic British roles like King Arthur in "Camelot", and although he never got to play Hamlet, he called  his role in This Sporting Life his Hamlet.  Rachel Robert's, who was once married to Rex Harrison and played Brenda  in the New Wave Classic  Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, she is equally wonderful as a forsaking house-bird. This is a standout in her acting career.
 Both Harris and Robert's were Oscar Nominated for their leading roles, Rachel lost out to Patricia Neal for Hud and Richard lost out to Sidney Poitier for his role in Lilies of The Field. Rachel Roberts and Richard Harris's pairing is electrifying, the harsh words are thrown back and forth with dramatizing effect, full of vigor. There are so many spellbinding scenes that get you emotionally into the film.
Lindsay used a non-realistic effect of having us in flash back in the first half of the film.


Summary:
Frank Machin is an unjustifiably angry young man who lodges with Margaret Hammond and her two young ones. Margaret is a grieving widow who cant get over her husbands death. Frank has been living with Margaret for 6 months, since the passing of her husband. Frank's sheer determination to be well respected man about town gets him from being a poorly paid coal miner to a well to do rugby league star.
His angry nature and lack of understanding towards others isolates him from the crumbling lives of those close to him.
Margaret Hammond chooses to be a hermit, she is decidedly unhappy, but refuses to admit it. Because she feels as though she could have made her deceased husbands life better when he was alive she is slowly dying inside as well, she fuels this by annually polishing her dead husbands boots.
"Dad" or Mr. Johnson, Dad because he is old, helped Frank get the job on the field. Dad gives the impression that he needs these young men in his life, not just because he likes to help them out but because he's just a lonely old man who has no family and lives with a bunch of drunks in a poor boarding house. He takes great pride in Frank, but their relationship deteriorates because Frank is simply unaware of his neediness and lonely heart.
  Frank may be something of  a tool, but he is sincere in wanting Margaret and the two kids to be happy.  His situation with the rugby club sends him into anguish as the owners of the club make him feel more like an object than a great rugby player he wants to be. Life at home is not all roses either, Margaret and Frank eventually get into an affair, but Margaret's provincial nature conjures her, as she continues to treat Frank like dirt and in fabulous dramatic fashion calls him "Just a great ape on the football field". Although Margaret's socially conscious and "proper" attitude is what appealed to Frank, this succeeds him and he is eventually turned loose. But it doesn't end here. I won't spoil. 

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