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Lunch Hour (1963)

| Comedy | 1963 (UK)
A young designer and a married executive may be about to start an affair. A series of lunch hours play out the relationship.


James Hill


John Mortimer (story), John Mortimer (screenplay)


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Complete credited cast:
Shirley Anne Field ... Girl
Robert Stephens ... Man
Kay Walsh ... Manageress
Hazel Hughes Hazel Hughes ... Auntie
Michael Robbins ... Harris
Nigel Davenport ... Personnel Manager
Neil Culleton Neil Culleton ... Little Boy
Sandra Leo Sandra Leo ... Little Girl
Peter Ashmore Peter Ashmore ... Lecturer
Vi Stevens Vi Stevens ... Waitress


A young designer and a married executive may be about to start an affair. A series of lunch hours play out the relationship.

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Release Date:

1963 (UK) See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Eyeline Productions See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Opening credits: The characters portrayed in this film are entirely fictitious and not based on actual persons. See more »


Harris: Girls!
Man: What?
Harris: I said girls
Man: Oh, yeah
Harris: They can't spell, they can't type, they make 15 pounds a week, which took me the best part of my life to rise up to, and what use are they? Will you please tell me that, number two? They sit and read their horoscopes all day, they fill their desks with wet towels and flannels and toothpaste, they bung up the toilet with tea leaves, they burst into tears if you so much as mention the fact that they're half an hour late. What earthly use they are, I don't...
Man: ...
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Featured in Talkies: Shirley Anne Field (2019) See more »

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User Reviews

Lunch Hour - an early '60s hidden British gem
14 January 2019 | by johnruffle-27500See all my reviews

Lunch Hour is an early '60s hidden British gem; an overlooked work of cinematic art.

This phenomenal piece of British cinematic art is like a time-capsule of the pre-swinging London early 1960s, and shoots straight to the top of one of my all-time favourite motion pictures, without thinking too deeply, up there with the likes of Casablanca, Singing in the Rain, Black Narcissus, The Red Shoes and Persona.

The cinematography not only captures London superbly, but the lighting reflects Shirley Anne Field's every nuance and inner emotion perfectly. Her performance is sensitive and sensual. Apparently, she really enjoyed making this piece, with a small and tight-knit crew getting it in the can in just 4 weeks. In the movie, the "man", played by Robert Stephens asks her how old she is (after being promoted by Shirley, who is simply "girl"), and she replies that she's 24 - which was her real age as it happened. Not a coincidence, really, because the entire film and script fits the players like a glove.

This is New Wave British cinema at its best, with restrained, unobtrusive camera work which just always seems to capture the action flawlessly in frame - in this respect, equalling the best of European cinema. Without going back and analysing every shot, I don't recall a single zoom shot - thank goodness.

What I don't understand is how Talking Pictures TV and non-other than the BFI list the picture as a comedy. It's first rate drama that probes the usually hidden and dark inner workings of relationships, yes, peppered with comedic elements for sure - just like as in real life. But the film is saying something timeless and the direction never plays just for laughs, and is a profound social document of the early 1960s, avoiding the typical British "beat generation" cliches and prefiguring the hippy generation. It's hard to release that Beatlemania was still off in the future when the film was being made, and were still under contract playing in Hamburg.

Having scanned through some reviews here on IMDb and print reviews, I'm amazed that some feel it is "very dated" and there is a lot of ambivalence toward the plot twist that reveals itself in the second half. Maybe it's because a younger generation find it impossible to identify with British life in the 1950s and '60s. That is not the fault of the film, but it may indicate that today's youth are more out of touch with the past than might be imagined.

Of course with a run-time of just over 60 minutes, it had general release challenges. It's not a B picture, and to bill it as such is to sideline the massive artistic talent that comes alive on screen. It has it's place in art-house cinemas, and I'm going to wild-guess that it was shown a the Curzon when first released.

It is interesting to compare "Interlude", a main stream 1968 British film with an almost identical plot line to "Lunch Hour". Oh boy, what a lot can happen in the six year interval between the two (unrelated) films and society in general! Despite garnering a BAFTA award and featuring Oskar Werner in the male lead, (who ironically appeared in Truaffaut's French New Wave, "Jules et Jim"), "Interlude" falls down heavily and is stylistically quite dated in comparison to this much overlooked black and white early '60s hidden British gem, "Lunch Hour", which still has a fresh crispness that I believe future generations will learn to appreciate and value. Truly, an overlooked work of cinematic art.

Rating: 10/10 John E. Ruffle, January 14, 2019. 585 words.

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