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The Fleeting Brilliance Of The British New Wave

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THE British New Wave lasted only a few years – say from about 1959 to 1963 and it consisted of little more than seven or eight films. Most of the them were adapted from books or plays written by young contemporary writers such as John Braine, Alan Sillitoe and Shelagh Delaney. A slight relaxation of censorship by the late fifties together with the invention of lightweight portable cameras and faster film stock enabled directors such as Tony Richardson, Karel Reisz and Lindsay Anderson to start making films about gritty northern working-class life but also set the films on location away from London and the usual film studios. The British audiences found this as pretty revolutionary stuff and a cinematic breath of fresh air.

Room at the Top, released in 1959, was given an ‘X’ certificate, mostly because it featured a woman on screen admitting that she had enjoyed sex. Initially the distributors refused to touch it but the ABC chain took a chance and the film went on to become a critical and commercial hit, paving the way for the rest of the ‘kitchen sink’ British New Wave that followed.

British New Wave

Room at the Top is a 1959 British film based on the novel of the same name by John Braine. Room at the Top was widely lauded, and was nominated for six Academy Awards, for Best Picture, Best Director for Clayton, Best Actor for Harvey, and Best Supporting Actress for Baddeley, winning Best Actress for Signoret and Best Adapted Screenplay for Paterson. Baddeley’s performance became the shortest ever to be nominated for an acting Oscar (she had 2 minutes and 20 seconds of screen time).

 

British New Wave

John Braine was born in Bingley, near Bradford and left his grammar school at sixteen and after the war became a librarian. He’s remembered mostly now for Room at the Top published in 1957 by Eyre & Spottiswoode. He would later say it was based on Guy de Maupassant’s Bel Ami but that “the critics didn’t pick it up”. He was associated with the Angry Young Men movement and was vaguely left-wing when young but turned to the political right later in his life and supported the US role in Vietnam. he died in 1986 aged just 64.

 

British New Wave

Simone Signoret arriving at London Airport for the premiere of “Room at the Top” at the Plaza, Piccadilly.

British New Wave

Look Back in Anger released in 1959

Look Back in Anger Lobby Card

Look Back in Anger Lobby Card from 1959.

British New Wave

Mary Ure and Richard Burton in a still from Look Back in Anger.

British New Wave

The Faber edition of John Osborne’s play from 1958.

British New Wave

Richard Burton playing the trumpet from a scene from “Look Back in Anger”.

 

British New Wave

Tiger Bay poster from 1959.

British New Wave

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, 1960.

British New Wave

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning Pan Paperback.

British New Wave

Albert Finney, Shirley Anne Field and Alan Sillitoe at the premiere for Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, October 1960.

 

Taste of Honey poster 1961.

Taste of Honey poster 1961.

British New Wave

Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey West End Edition.

British New Wave

A Kind of Loving was released in 1962.

 

British New Wave

The Penguin edition of A Kind of Loving by Stan Barstow first published in 1960.

British New Wave

A Kind of Loving lobby card.

 

British New Wave

A Kind of Loving first edition.

British New Wave

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner released in 1962.

British New Wave

Alan Sillitoe – The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner published in 1959 as a short story in a collection of the same name.

British New Wave

Billy Liar released in 1963

 

British New Wave

The Penguin edition of Billy Liar.

 

British New Wave

Tom Courtenay and Julie Christie from a Billy Liar promotional Lobby Card.

British New Wave

Billy Liar promotional still.

British New Wave

This Sporting Life was released in 1963 and directed by Lindsay Anderson.

British New Wave

This Sporting Life Cinema Promotion poster

British New Wave

This Sporting Life by David Storey – US edition

 

British New Wave

This Sporting Life by David Storey was first published in 1960 and won the Macmillan Fiction Award.

British New Wave

This Sporting Life – Penguin edition

British New Wave

Richard Harris from This Sporting Life, March 1963. (AP)

British New Wave

The L-Shaped Room was released in 1963 and directed by Bryan Forbes.

 

British New Wave

Lobby card for the L-Shaped Room.

 

British New Wave

French actress Leslie Caron, Best Actress Award for “The L-Shaped Room” and English actor Tom Courtenay, most promising newcomer for his role in “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner” at the British Film Academy Awards Dinner at London’s Hilton Hotel. May 1963.

 

British New Wave

The L-Shaped Room by Lynne Reid Banks was first published in 1960.