7.8/10
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70 user 46 critic

This Sporting Life (1963)

Not Rated | | Drama, Sport | 22 May 1963 (France)
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Despite success on the field, a rising rugby star senses the emerging emptiness of his life as his inner angst begins to materialize through aggression and brutality, so he attempts to woo his landlady in hopes of finding reason to live.

Director:

Lindsay Anderson

Writers:

David Storey (based on the novel by), David Storey (screenplay)
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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 3 wins & 8 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Richard Harris ... Frank Machin
Rachel Roberts ... Mrs. Hammond
Alan Badel ... Weaver
William Hartnell ... Johnson
Colin Blakely ... Maurice Braithwaite
Vanda Godsell ... Mrs. Weaver
Anne Cunningham Anne Cunningham ... Judith
Jack Watson ... Len Miller
Arthur Lowe ... Slomer
Harry Markham Harry Markham ... Wade
George Sewell ... Jeff
Leonard Rossiter ... Phillips
Katherine Parr Katherine Parr ... Mrs. Farrer (as Katharine Parr)
Bernadette Benson Bernadette Benson ... Lynda
Andrew Nolan Andrew Nolan ... Ian
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Storyline

In Northern England in the early 1960s, Frank Machin is mean, tough and ambitious enough to become an immediate star in the rugby league team run by local employer Weaver. Machin lodges with Mrs Hammond, whose husband was killed in an accident at Weaver's, but his impulsive and angry nature stop him from being able to reach her as he would like. He becomes increasingly frustrated with his situation, and this is not helped by the more straightforward enticements of Mrs Weaver. Written by Jeremy Perkins {J-26}

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | Sport

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

22 May 1963 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

Lockender Lorbeer See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

It was William Hartnell's appearance in this film that brought him to the attention of Verity Lambert, producer of Doctor Who (1963). See more »

Goofs

The sash window in Mrs Hammond's living room, as seen from the inside (presumably a studio set), has been fitted back-to-front and upside-down. The curved "horns" (moulded wood) are at the top of the lower, inside (sliding) pane, when they should be at the bottom of the upper, outside (fixed) pane. See more »

Quotes

Frank Machin: We don't have stars in this game, Mrs Weaver, that's soccer.
Mrs. Anne Weaver: What *do* you have?
Frank Machin: People like me.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Free Cinema (1986) See more »

Soundtracks

For He's A Jolly Good Fellow
(uncredited)
Sung by the guests at the Christmas party
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Dark but Rewarding
10 February 2008 | by dr_foremanSee all my reviews

"This Sporting Life" is in some ways a sinister version of "Rocky" - a tale of a tough-guy athlete taking his best shot at the big time. But while "Rocky" presents a fairly optimistic view of the world, this film is definitely of a darker nature.

Dark. Yes, that's the key word for "This Sporting Life." The movie weaves a sad tale of poverty, unrequited loves and human failings. It's not entertaining to watch by any means, but if you brace yourself for the film's depressing impact you will probably find it rewarding.

Several commentators on this site have suggested that the movie doesn't work because the central character, Frank Machin - played by an excellent Richard Harris - is too thuggish and unsympathetic. I can't agree with that perspective, however. Machin is a bit of a beast, sure, but he also demonstrates sensitivity (he likes kids!) and tremendous loyalty to the people around him. He makes mistakes and behaves cruelly sometimes, but I think that it's a bit snobbish and bourgeois to dismiss him as a mere thug.

Harris' performance as Machin certainly helps to ground a film that is perhaps too weak on the plot side to be a true four-star classic. The rest of the cast is excellent as well, ranging from Rachel Roberts as the tragic landlady Mrs. Hammand to William ("Doctor Who") Hartnell as the lonely old man, Johnson. The acting all seems naturalistic and believable to me, though I suppose I'm not qualified to judge whether everybody got their regional accents right.

Director Lindsay Anderson, meanwhile, gives the film a bleak, cold and very realistic look. Somehow, he manages to make shadowy suburban streets look like the eeriest settings imaginable, and he also directs the rugby scenes with tremendous violence and energy.

I just wish that "This Sporting Life" was a bit stronger on plot. I'm not exactly sure what it's missing, but I think it's merely excellent rather than a classic. And it's tough to watch such a dark movie that's not quite perfect. Still, I would definitely recommend this to cinema buffs and casual viewers who wouldn't be too put off by the bleakness.


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