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Room at the Top (1959)
Neil Sinyard

Jack Clayton's film of Room at the Top has been widely credited with launching the 'new wave' in British film, bringing realism, the working class and sex to the national cinema. Room at the Top was only part of a tide of change in art and society that was pushing so hard against the British Establishment that something eventually had to give. In film terms, it might be said that Clayton's Room at the Top had the same kind of impact at the end of the 1950s as David Lean's Great Expectations in 1946, both debating the promise of class mobility and social change. The X certificate was an issue partly because at the time Room at the Top was made the Rank Organisation had a policy of not screening X-certificate films, associated in some eyes with sleaziness and horror.

in Jack Clayton
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Lonely passions - the cinema of Jack Clayton
Neil Sinyard

Jack Clayton would have been the first to acknowledge the cinema as a collaborative medium and to pay tribute to his cast and crew. Writing about Clayton, Roy Armes claimed that 'good intentions in no way compensate for lack of real passion or concern'. The fact that Clayton's films fit David Bordwell's paradigm of the art film is one explanation why producers had difficulty with him and why mainstream cinema found his work hard to place and assimilate. Bordwell writes of narratives that drift rather than are goal-oriented, that are dissections of feeling and emphasise reaction more than action, and have a hero or heroine 'shuddering on the edge of breakdown'. Again that can be applied directly to Clayton's films such as The Innocents, The Pumpkin Eater and The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne.

in Jack Clayton
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Naples is a Battlefield (1944); The Bespoke Overcoat (1955)
Neil Sinyard

Thorold Dickinson's evocation of the Russian atmosphere and, in particular, his use of suspenseful soundtrack to suggest ghostly visitation undoubtedly had an influence on Jack Clayton's style in both The Bespoke Overcoat and The Innocents. After volunteering for the Royal Air Force in 1940 and being recruited as a flight mechanic, Clayton was assigned to the RAF Film Unit in the capacity of cameraman, editor and director and eventually became a commanding officer. He directed one film during that time, Naples is a Battlefield for the Ministry of Information. The turning point in Clayton's career came in the 1950s, when the brothers John and James Woolf, who owned Romulus Films, were looking for a good production manager and associate producer for their new film, Moulin Rouge, to be directed by John Huston.

in Jack Clayton
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Neil Sinyard
in Jack Clayton
A celebration

This book offers a startling re-evaluation of what has until now been seen as the most critically lacklustre period of the British film history. It includes fresh assessment of maverick directors; Pat Jackson, Robert Hamer and Joseph Losey, and even of a maverick critic Raymond Durgnat. The book features personal insights from those inidividually implicated in 1950s cinema; Corin Redgrave on Michael Redgrave, Isabel Quigly on film reviewing, and Bryony Dixon of the BFI on archiving and preservation. A classic image from 1950s British cinema would be Jack Hawkins in The Cruel Sea, the epitome of quiet English integrity. Raymond Durgnat's A Mirror for England: British Movies from Austerity to Affluence, which deals extensively with British films of the 1950s, was written in the mid-1960s and was published in 1970. In a 1947 article called 'Angles of Approach' Lindsay Anderson delivered a fierce attack on contemporary British film culture, outlining a model for a devoted politics of creation, well in line with what we would later understand as auteurism and art cinema aesthetics . The war films of the 1950s together constitute the assented-to record of the emotions and moral judgments called upon to set in order those disorderly events. The book also talks about the Festival of Britain, White Corridors, and four Hamer's post-Ealing films: The Spider and the Fly, The Long Memory, Father Brown and The Scapegoat. A number of factors have contributed to the relative neglect of the 1950s as a decade in British cinema history.

Ian Mackillop and Neil Sinyard

Far from being cinematically backward, 1950s British film had dashes of imagination that outdid more famous or prestigious examples from the cinematic canon. In his contribution to this book, Dave Rolinson, particularly in his recovery of the neglected The Horse's Mouth, aptly draws attention to a sharper edge to 1950s British film comedy than is always acknowledged. British film of this period is not often credited with that kind of audacity or comic cheek. The comedy is often characterised as postcard or parochial, with the likeable but limited registers of, say, Henry Cornelius's Genevieve or Basil Dearden's The Smallest Show on Earth being typical of the range. Again a classic image from 1950s British cinema would be Jack Hawkins in The Cruel Sea, the epitome of quiet English integrity.

in British cinema of the 1950s