7.4/10
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68 user 46 critic

Billy Liar (1963)

Not Rated | | Comedy, Drama, Romance | 16 December 1963 (USA)
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

John Schlesinger chose Tom Courtenay over Albert Finney who had originated the part of Billy Liar on stage, mainly because Courtenay was a less physically imposing figure than Finney and therefore more believable as a dreamer. See more »

Quotes

Rita: [after Billy reopens the door] You rotten. lying, crossed-eyed git. You're nothing else.
William Terrence 'Billy' Fisher: [clearly not wanting her to come inside] Hello, Rita. Sorry, I can't ask you in. We're havin' our chimney swept.
Rita: They'll be havin' you swept before I finish.
See more »

Connections

Followed by Billy (1979) See more »

Soundtracks

Scotland the Brave
(uncredited)
Traditional tune
Lyrics by Clifford Hanley
See more »

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User Reviews

Maturing like good wine (and no lie!)
23 May 2003 | by oldreekie546See all my reviews

Tragi-comic misadventures of a young man who invents a fantasy world as cover for his troubles and dreary middle-class existence in sixties Yorkshire.

Billy Liar was always a terrific film, but like so many of its kitchen-sink contemporaries (Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, A Kind of Loving) it has actually grown in substance and depth since its release. Part of the reason is the extensive use of on-location filming all these movies utilised: a post-war industrial landscape long since lost and therefore all the more vivid in its posterity. But where Billy Liar gets a bigger march on its predecessors - whether by intent or accident - is that it captures this landscape on the cusp of the swinging sixties, when architecture, culture, leisure and morality were all rapidly changing. In doing so it heralds many of the themes and issues that were to dominate western culture for the remainder of the 20th Century: pop culture, advertising, media obsession, celebrity, race relations and fantasy lifestyles.

Billy seemed an endearing but essentially lost soul in his day; an immature weakling unable to face up to the realities and responsibilities of adulthood. But looked at from the hindsight of 40 years he now seems symptomatic of what is today regarded as normal, almost aspirational, behaviour: self-absorption; avoidance of responsibility; glorification of celebrity; escape culture.

Whether director John Schelsinger and writers Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall foresaw all the cultural and sociological changes they captured is something only they would know (they surely couldn't have seen the significance of casting Julie Christie - one of the ultimate swinging sixties icons). Whatever the case, what makes Billy Liar such a fascinating film is the casual, uncritical and unselfconscious way its many themes are observed. Its lack of preachiness or self-righteousness help keep it a fresh and funny entertainment that can be enjoyed at that level. Its historical importance as a perfect snapshot of a country at a time of rapid and fundamental change is nothing less than priceless.


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