Tonight's Saturday Night Cinema is a taut, tough to watch film, Look Back in Anger. And with this film began the British realism movement. Richard Burton plays "the principal character in this ferocious account of the emotional vandalism committed by what is popularly known as an 'angry young man.'" Burton is, as always, larger than life. He is scary (even to most adults) juxtaposed to Claire Bloom's sweet, ethereal (pathetic) sweetness as the abused mistress. Burton is delicious to watch, He is so damn manly and smoldering hot that even when he is cast a total bastard, you can't help but lust after the brute.
Love affair: Richard Burton and Claire Bloom in 'Look Back in Anger' (1959)
On a side note, Burton and Bloom had a torrid five-year affair. It adds a certain titillation for the viewer (at least it did for me. )
The NY Times film review: Look Back in Anger (1958) By Bosley Crowther, September 16, 1959
THE fury and hate that John Osborne was able to pack into a flow of violent words in his stage play, "Look Back in Anger," are not only matched but also documented in the film that the original stage director, Tony Richardson, has made from that vicious play.
In a rush of pictorial reinforcement that leads one to suspect Mr. Richardson was just itching for the cinema medium to fill the background and heighten the fever of the play, the passion of the characters now comes at you through the drab and depressing milieu of a genuine British midlands city and the sweatiness of an ugly slum.
The film, produced in England by Harry Saltzman, opened here last night at the Forum and Baronet Theatres with benefit showings for the March of Dimes.
In our eyes, the principal character in this ferocious account of the emotional vandalism committed by what is popularly known as an "angry young man" is still a conventional weakling, a routine crybaby who cannot quite cope with the problems of a tough environment and, so, vents his spleen in nasty words. And the two women who let him run over them, his wife and his mistress, still seem to us to be strangely gullible creatures, a little self-piteous themselves.
But, at least, in this caca-phonic picture, which has a sort of metallic clatter and bang and a throbbing, eccentric jazz tempo that is picked up from time to time on the sound track. Mr. Richardson does provide us with a sense of the dismal atmosphere the prevalence of social stagnation, that helps to frustrate our young man.
The long accumulation of middle-class smugness against which he fitfully rebels by blowing a jazz trumpet at a Saturday-night hot spot and blasting the Sabbath dawn is brilliantly illustrated by shots of people going to church in the rain and by glimpses of rows of ugly houses and streets in which grimy youngsters play. And the piteousness of his occupation as the keeper of a candy stall is conveyed in a stinging little drama of discord with the market superintendent.
Mr. Richardson uses his camera in a hard, crisp documentary style that recalls the way Carol Reed used one in his memorable "The Stars Look Down."
In getting performances from his actors, Mr. Richardson repeats the quality of the play. Richard Burton is frenzied to the point of mania as the husband who hates the agony of life. His tirades are eloquent but tiring, his breast beatings are dramatic but dull and his occasional lapses into sadness are pathetic but endurable.
Mary Ure make a touching slavey as his nerve jangled, fear-cluttered wife, representing the female frustration that can come in a tortured atmosphere. And Claire Bloom is delightful, sharp and catty as the neighboring friend who won't take the blowhard's guff—until, by a curious reversal, she succumbs to his pathos and falls in love with him.
Gary Raymond, as a genial, weakling Welsh friend, is the most agreeable actor in the film, and Edith Evans is amusing but mystifying as an ancient huckster's wife.
The jazz score provided by Chris Barber and his band and the trumpet playing Pat Halcox does on behalf of Mr. Burton are exciting and helpful to the whole.
LOOK BACK IN ANGER, screen play by Nigel Kncale; based on the play by John Osborne; directed by Tony Richardson; produced for Woodfall Films by Harry Saltzman; distributed by Warner Brothers. At the Forum Broadway and Forty-sixth Street, and the Baronet. Third Avenue and Fifty-ninth Street. Running time: 100 minutes.
Jimmy Porter . . . . . Richard Burton
Helena Charles . . . . . Claire Bloom
Alison Porter . . . . . Mary Ure
Mrs. Tanner . . . . . Edith Evans
Cliff Lewis . . . . . Gary Raymond
Colonel Redfern . . . . . Glen Byam Shaw
Mrs. Redfern . . . . . Phyllis Nellson-Terry
Hurst . . . . . Donald Pleasence
Mrs. Drury . . . . . Jane Eccles
Kapoor . . . . . S. P. Kapoor