14 user 3 critic

The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (1960)

Approved | | Drama | 8 October 1960 (USA)
In Oklahoma in the 1920s, Ruben Flood loses his job as a traveling salesman, when the company goes bankrupt. This adds to his worries at home. His wife Cora is frigid because of trying to ... See full summary »



(screenplay), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win & 6 nominations. See more awards »


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Director: Delbert Mann
Stars: Sophia Loren, Anthony Perkins, Burl Ives


Complete credited cast:
... Rubin Flood
... Cora Flood
... Lottie Lacey
... Mavis Pruitt
... Reenie Flood
Lee Kinsolving ... Sammy Golden
... Morris Lacey
Robert Eyer ... Sonny Flood
Penney Parker ... Flirt Conroy (as Penny Parker)
... Harry Ralston


In Oklahoma in the 1920s, Ruben Flood loses his job as a traveling salesman, when the company goes bankrupt. This adds to his worries at home. His wife Cora is frigid because of trying to make ends meet. His teenage daughter Reenie is afraid of going out on dates, but eventually makes friends with a troubled Jewish boy Sammy, and his son is a mama's boy. He finally storms out of the house when Cora falsely accuses him of having an affair with Mavis Pruitt. Written by Will Gilbert

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Everytime a woman turns her face away because she's tired or unwilling - there's someone waiting like me! See more »




Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

8 October 1960 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La oscuridad al final de la escalera  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound Recording)


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Did You Know?


When asked which of her movies stands out to her, Angela Lansbury cited this film, saying, "That's one I felt we did a good job with, one that didn't get the attention it deserved." See more »


Mavis Pruitt: I'm going to tell you something, Mrs. Flood. Every time a door is slammed in a marriage... every time a woman turns her face away because she's tired or unwilling... there's someone waiting. Someone like me.
See more »


References The Sheik (1921) See more »


The Dark At The Top Of The Stairs
Composed by Max Steiner
Performed by Chet Atkins with Bob Thompson And His Strings
See more »

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User Reviews

Time may pass, but human problems remain the same.
27 January 2005 | by See all my reviews

I was fortunate to find someone who'd saved this film on videotape so I could archive it on DVD. It is one of the more profound films to come out of that period and one which stands the test of time.

Rubin Flood (Robert Preston) is a victim of progress. At middle-age, he finds himself losing his job because his boss faces bankruptcy. With the coming of automobiles, no one wants the horse-related leather goods he used to sell. Cora Flood (Dorothy McGuire), his wife, is a victim too. Forced to 'make due' with little money even before Rubin lost his job, she must also face the problems of a her daughter, Reenie (Shirley Knight), as she transitions from adolescence to young adulthood ... and the problems of her son, Sonny (Robert Eyer), as he transitions from childhood to adolescence.

Times are tough for the entire Flood family. But, they must come to terms with their problems of love, timidity, suspected infidelity, religious prejudices and the changing times in which they live. While the gadgets may have changed, the problems modern families face are no different than theirs ... making this film one that I think should be 'required' of all high school students to view.

I rate this film 10 out of 10 ... and rate Warner Brothers 'zero' for taking a 'dog-in-the-manger' attitude toward releasing this gem on home video. Preston, McGuire, Knight, and Eyer ... not to mention Lee Kinsolving (Sammy Golden), Eve Arden (Aunt Lottie) and Angela Lansbury (Mavis Pruitt) all turn in stellar performances in their roles. Kudos go to Shirley Knight who was nominated for an Oscar in the film and Lee Kinsolving, who only appeared in one more film and a handful of TV shows before his untimely death at age 36. And special kudos go to William Inge (stage play writer), Harriet Frank, Jr. (screenplay writer) and Delbert Mann for his masterful direction of an enduring work.

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