Room at the Top
Laurence Harvey, Simone Signoret, Heather Sears, Hermione Baddeley,
As if to prove there’s nothing new in New Wave, Laurence Harvey’s Joe Lampton is right up there with some of the great working-class social climbers of literature and film—Stendhal’s Julian Sorel, Dreiser’s Clyde Griffiths (cum Montgomery Clift’s George Eastman)—adrift in an alien world of the moneyed. Joe’s past is a bomb site, literally and figuratively; the way he sees it, he has no place to go but up. Why stay angry when you can move to a factory town, catch the eye of the boss’s daughter, better yet, marry the insipid girl? But class anger doesn’t work that way, and Joe’s vulnerability allows him to be sidelined by love for Alice, a mature French woman married to a sadistic husband, making Room at the Top a showcase for Simone Signoret, and, famously, for sexual openness on screen. No one can look at the film today and see a social treatise. In fact, we suggest two handkerchiefs.