Room at the Top

Room at the Top Information

Room at the Top is a 1959 British film based on the novel of the same name by John Braine. The novel was adapted by Neil Paterson with uncredited work by Mordecai Richler. It was directed by Jack Clayton and produced by James and John Woolf.

The film stars Simone Signoret, Laurence Harvey, Heather Sears, Donald Wolfit, Donald Houston and Hermione Baddeley. Signoret won the Academy Award for Best Actress for this film, while Baddeley's performance became the shortest ever to be nominated for an acting Oscar (she had 2 minutes and 20 seconds of screen time).


In late 1940s Yorkshire, England, ambitious young man Joe Lampton (Laurence Harvey), who has just moved from the dreary factory town of Dufton, arrives in Warnley, to assume a secure, but poorly-paid, post in the Borough Treasurer's Department. Determined to succeed, and ignoring the warnings of a colleague, Soames (Donald Houston), he is drawn to Susan Brown (Heather Sears), daughter of the local industrial magnate, Mr. Brown (Donald Wolfit). He deals with Joe's social climbing by sending Susan abroad; Joe turns for solace to Alice Aisgill (Simone Signoret), an unhappily married older woman who falls in love with him.

When Susan returns from her holiday, shortly after the lovers (Joe and Alice) have quarrelled, Joe seduces Susan, and then returns to Alice. Discovering that Susan is pregnant, Mr. Brown, after failing to buy off Joe, coerces him to give up Alice and marry his daughter. Deserted and heartbroken, Alice launches on a drinking bout that culminates in her car-accident death. Distraught, Joe disappears, and after being beaten unconscious by a gang of thugs for making a drunken pass at one of their women, he is rescued by his colleague Soames in time to marry Susan.


There are some differences from Braine's novel. His friend Charles, whom he meets at Warnley in the film, is a friend from his hometown Dufton in the novel. Warnley is called Warley in the novel. More emphasis is paid to his lodging at Mrs Thompson's, which in the novel he has arranged beforehand (in the film, his friend Charles arranges it soon after they meet). In the book, the room is itself significant, and is strongly emphasised early in the story; Mrs Thompson's room is noted as being at "the top" of Warley geographically, and higher up socially than he has previously experienced, and serves as a metaphor for Lampton's ambition to rise in the world.

Background and production

Producer James Woolf bought the film rights to the novel, originally intending to cast Stewart Granger and Jean Simmons. Vivien Leigh was originally offered the part of Alice, in which Simone Signoret was eventually cast. He hired Jack Clayton as director after seeing The Bespoke Overcoat. a short which John Woolf had worked (uncredited) and their film company had produced.

Room at the Top is thought to be the first of the British New Wave of realistic film dramas. It was filmed at Shepperton Studios in Surrey, with extensive location work in Halifax, Yorkshire, which stood in for the fictional towns of Warnley and Dufton. Some scenes were also filmed in Bradford, notably with Joe travelling on a bus and spotting Susan in a lingerie shop and the outside of the amateur dramatics theatre. Greystones, a large mansion in the Savile Park area of Halifax, was used for location filming of the outside scenes of the Brown family mansion. Halifax railway station doubled as Warnley Station in the film, and Halifax Town Hall was used for the Warley Town Hall filming.


The film's relatively strong sexual content ensured it an "X" certificate, but it was saved from failure when Associated British Cinemas agreed to screen the film, making it a surprising commercial success - it was the third most popular movie at the British box office in 1959 after Carry on Nurse and Inn of the Sixth Happiness.

The film was critically acclaimed and marked the beginning of Jack Clayton's career as an important director.

Room at the Top was followed by a sequel in 1965 called Life at the Top.

The film is rated PG in Australia and R16 in New Zealand.


  • Laurence Harvey - Joe Lampton
  • Simone Signoret - Alice Aisgill
  • Heather Sears - Susan Brown
  • Donald Wolfit - Mr. Brown
  • Donald Houston - Charlie Soames
  • Hermione Baddeley - Elspeth
  • Allan Cuthbertson - George Aisgill
  • Raymond Huntley - Mr. Hoylake
  • John Westbrook - Jack Wales
  • Ambrosine Phillpotts - Mrs. Brown
  • Richard Pasco - Teddy
  • Beatrice Varley - Aunt
  • Delena Kidd - Eva
  • Ian Hendry - Cyril
  • April Olrich - Mavis
  • Mary Peach - June Samson
  • Anthony Newlands - Bernard
  • Avril Elgar - Miss Gilchrist
  • Thelma Ruby - Miss Breith
  • Paul Whitsun-Jones - Laughing Man at Bar
  • Derren Nesbitt - Thug in Fight On Tow Path
  • Derek Benfield - Man in bar
  • Richard Caldicot - Taxi driver
  • Wendy Craig - Joan
  • Basil Dignam - Priest
  • Jack Hedley - Architect
  • Miriam Karlin - Gertrude
  • Wilfrid Lawson - Uncle Nat
  • Prunella Scales - Council Office Worker
  • John Welsh - Mayor
  • Sheila Raynor - Vera
  • John Moulder Brown " Urchin (uncredited)

Awards and nominations

Academy Awards


  • Best Actress in a Leading Role (Simone Signoret)
  • Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium.

  • Best Picture
  • Best Actor in a Leading Role, (Laurence Harvey)
  • Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Hermione Baddeley)
  • Best Director (Jack Clayton)

BAFTA Awards


  • Best British Film
  • Best Film from any Source
  • BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Simone Signoret)

  • Best British Actor (Laurence Harvey)
  • Best British Actor (Donald Wolfit)
  • Best British Actress (Hermione Baddeley)
  • Most Promising Newcomer (Mary Peach)

Golden Globe Awards


  • Samuel Goldwyn Award

  • Best Motion Picture Actress - Drama (Simone Signoret)

Cannes Film Festival


  • Best Actress (Simone Signoret)

  • Golden Palm (Jack Clayton)

This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "Room_at_the_Top_%281959_film%29" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.



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