7.4/10
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Billy Liar (1963)

A lazy, irresponsible young clerk in provincial Northern England lives in his own fantasy world and makes emotionally immature decisions as he alienates friends and family.

Director:

John Schlesinger

Writers:

Keith Waterhouse (screenplay), Willis Hall (screenplay) | 3 more credits »

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Nominated for 6 BAFTA Film Awards. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Tom Courtenay ... Billy Fisher
Wilfred Pickles ... Geoffrey Fisher
Mona Washbourne ... Alice Fisher
Ethel Griffies ... Grandma Florence
Finlay Currie ... Duxbury
Gwendolyn Watts Gwendolyn Watts ... Rita
Helen Fraser Helen Fraser ... Barbara
Julie Christie ... Liz
Leonard Rossiter ... Emanuel Shadrack
Rodney Bewes ... Arthur Crabtree
George Innes ... Stamp
Leslie Randall Leslie Randall ... Danny Boon
Patrick Barr ... Insp. MacDonald
Ernest Clark ... Prison Governor
Godfrey Winn Godfrey Winn ... Disc Jockey
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Storyline

A young British clerk in a gloomy North Country undertaker's office, Billy is bombarded daily by the propaganda of the media that all things are for the asking. This transparently false doctrine, coupled with the humdrum job and his wild imagination, leads him on frequent flights to "Ambrosia," a mythical kingdom where he is crowned king, general, lover or any idealized hero the real situation of the moment makes him desire. His vacillating commitment and post-adolescent immaturity have created situations which make Ambrosia all the more attractive. He's succeeded in becoming engaged to two different girls, simultaneously, while in love with a third, Liz. He's in hot water with his employer, having spent a rather large sum of postage money on his personal frivolities. And last, but not least, his dream of becoming a highly-paid, famous scriptwriter in London seems doomed to failure. The only person in his life capable of bringing him down to earth is Liz, and she's having a difficult ... Written by alfiehitchie

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

one guy... three girls... one ring!

Genres:

Comedy | Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

16 December 1963 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Lažov Bili See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$10,785, 19 November 2000, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$35,609, 3 December 2000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The audience's first introduction to the character of Liz was shot on the street, verite style. More often than not, the turned heads of the passers-by are genuine as John Schlesinger filmed their reactions to Julie Christie. See more »

Quotes

Arthur Crabtree: Hey, I got those things for you.
William Terrence 'Billy' Fisher: What? What things?
Arthur Crabtree: Passion pills - what I said I'd get you.
William Terrence 'Billy' Fisher: Let's have a look. Where'd you get them?
Arthur Crabtree: This mate of mine fetched them from Singapore.
William Terrence 'Billy' Fisher: I bet they're bloody aspirins.
Arthur Crabtree: What?
William Terrence 'Billy' Fisher: [Billy swallows some] Eh, steady on! They'll give yuh the screamin' abdabs. One of these, two two-and-nines at the Regal, bag of chips and you're away!
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Jersey Girl (2004) See more »

Soundtracks

Casanova: Nun's Chorus
(uncredited)
Written by Johann Strauss
Arranged by Ralph Benatzky
Performed by Anni Frind
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Good performances overcomes well worn themes.
8 May 2003 | by Pedro_HSee all my reviews

A north of England funeral clerk is bored with his life and builds a world of elaborate lies to compensate for it.

A classic of the English kitchen sink period, but it will not have full impact unless you are coming to it fresh and without prejudice. As someone that was forced to read the book several times at school I find the material and the morals worn thin - especially when it was later turned in to a TV series and then a musical!

(The reason why it is so popular is that is about the limits of (English) working class life and, and if you are working class yourself, you are supposed to be able to "relate to it." Other suchlike novels (and later films) include Kes (which is better), A Taste of Honey (which is far better) and the Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (which is even better still.)

Good portrait of grey working class life in the sixties (if you are at all interested) and a template for a million films and television series to come (all barbs, mini jokes and evasions over the family breakfast table). While Billy is not always likeable, the people around him seem to put up with him and give him a second, third and fourth chance. We are not really living in the world of heroes and villains.

If you live in a world of lies, you drown in a world of lies, but I knew that without seeing this film. A lot is also cribbed from the Secret Life of Walter Mittey - another film that didn't live up to the book.

Thankfully lead Tom Courtney's performance is first class, indeed I have never seem him get a bad notice in anything. Even today when he himself is the parent doing the "what time do you call this?"

(Check out "Let Him Have It" if you want to experience the above.)

While a good and watchable film with high production values, I recommend you read the Keith Waterhouse novel which paints the period between childhood and being an adult in detailed and believable colours.


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