The great French actress Simone Signoret was born in Wiesbaden on 25 March 1921, the eldest of three children. Her father André Kaminker, a linguist and translator, was a French officer of Polish-Jewish descent and worked for the French occupation forces in the Rhineland at the time Simone Signoret grew up in Paris in an intellectual…
UCM.ONE launches a new classics series with the award-winning film “Room at the Top” in Germany. “The Blue Series” is dedicated to both outstanding films that have shaped the film world as well as film pearls that have never been published on DVD or VoD portals.
Jack Clayton‘s film “Room at the Top” (German title: “Der Weg nach oben“), magnificently cast with Simone Signoret and Laurence Harvey, has been nominated for “Oscar” six times and has won twice (Best Actress for Simone Signoret and Best Adapted Screenplay) and was the winner of the British Film Academy Award for Best British Film of the Year 1959. Simone Signoret also received the Best Actress award in Cannes the same year.
25-year-old ambitious Joe Lampton (Laurence Harvey) wants to get to the top: As an employee of the tax office in the small town of Warnley in the North of England, he has realised that this cannot be achieved through hard work and proficiency in his profession alone. So, in his spare time he joins the theatre group in which Susan Brown (Heather Sears) plays, the daughter of a wealthy industrial magnate. She falls in love with Joe, as he had planned, but her parents are against the relationship. And Joe’s feelings thwart the plan of his ascent through marriage, because he falls in love with Alice (Simone Signoret), a French woman ten years his senior and unhappily married…
About director Jack Clayton:
Jack Clayton (*1921 in Brighton, East Sussex) began his career in the British film industry in 1935 as a “tea boy” and worked his way through almost sixty years all the way to the top. Already for the first film he directed, the short film “The Bespoke Overcoat” (1955), he won the award for Best Short Film at the Venice Film Festival as well as an Oscar. He achieved international fame with his second directorial work, the drama “Room at the Top” (1959), which heralded the “British New Wave”. The film was a great financial and artistic success and received six Oscar nominations, including one for Clayton as Best Director (Oscars went to the screenwriters and Simone Signoret as Best Actress in a Leading Role). Shortly thereafter followed the highly acclaimed horror film classic “The Innocents” (1961) after Henry James, starring Deborah Kerr. Another milestone of his career was “The Great Gatsby” from 1974 with Robert Reford, a film criticized by the critics, but that did fine at the box office and is now considered a classic in film history.
Clayton was a remarkably “choosy” director who kept taking long pauses between productions and, according to his own statements, “never made a film I didn’t want to make”. He repeatedly rejected movies that became big hits for other directors (e.g. “Alien”), but he was also plagued by bad luck and bad timing. The Hollywood studios called him “difficult”, and the studios stopped a number of film projects in the 1970s that were either taken out of his hands or cancelled in the final stages of preparation. As a producer, Clayton was involved in the John Huston films “Moulin Rouge“, “Beat The Devil” and “Moby Dick“.
Despite his relatively small oeuvre, Jack Clayton’s films are held in high esteem by critics and colleagues from the film industry such as Martin Scorsese, Guillermo del Toro, François Truffaut, Harold Pinter and Steven Spielberg.
About Simone Signoret:
Simone Signoret was born in 1921 in Wiesbaden (Germany) as the daughter of André and Georgette Kaminker. She was the oldest of the couple’s three children. Her father, a linguist and translator, was a French officer of Polish-Jewish descent and worked for the French occupying forces in the Rhineland. Signoret grew up in Paris in an intellectual atmosphere, studied English and became a teacher. She also worked as an author for the French newspaper Les Nouveaux Temps.
During the German occupation of France Signoret belonged to a group of writers and actors who met at the Café de Flore in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. At that time her interest in acting arose and she was encouraged by her friends to start an acting career. In 1942 she began to play supporting roles and was able to earn enough money to support her mother and brothers financially while her father was exiled in the UK. Signoret took her mother’s last name because she wanted to hide her Jewish roots.
She was often offered roles as a lover or prostitute because of her appearance and personality. Her acting got great attention in “La Ronde” by Max Ophüls, a movie that was temporarily banned in New York because it was considered immoral. Her portrayal of a prostitute in Jacques Becker‘s “Casque D’Or“, for which she received the BAFTA for Best Actress, also caused a sensation. Simone Signoret played in some of the most famous French movies in the 1950’s, among them Marcel Carnés “Thérèse Raquin, Henri-Georges Clouzot‘s “Les Diaboliques” and, together with her partner Yves Montand, Rouleau‘s “The Crucible“, based on Arthur Miller‘s play and with a script by Jean-Paul Sartre.
In 1958 Simone Signoret travelled to England to shoot “Room at the Top“, for which she received several awards, including the Best Actress Award at the Cannes International Film Festival and the Oscar for Best Actress. She was the first French actress to receive an Oscar and the first woman to receive the award for her performance in a foreign film. Signoret then received offers to work in Hollywood but declined and continued to work in France and England. Among other films she played alongside Laurence Olivier in “Terms of Trial“. In 1965 she returned to the United States to shoot “Ship of Fools” for which she received another Oscar nomination, and played in several Hollywood movies before returning to France in 1969.
In addition to her acting career, Signoret was very involved in politics throughout her life, campaigning for a ban on nuclear weapons and against the Algerian War and the Franco regime in Spain. Signoret died of pancreatic cancer in 1985 at the age of 64 and was buried in the cemetery of Père-Lachaise.
Original title: Room at the Top
Director: Jack Clayton
Screenplay: Neil Paterson
Novel: John Braine
Actors & actresses: Simone Signoret, Laurence Harvey, Heather Sears, Donald Wolfit, Donald Houston, Hermione Baddeley, Allan Cuthbertson, Raymond Huntley, John Westbrook, Ambrosine Phillpotts, Richard Pasco, Beatrice Varley, Delena Kidd, Ian Hendry, April Olrich, Mary Peach, Anthony Newlands, Avril Elgar, Thelma Ruby, Paul Whitsun-Jones, Derren Nesbitt, Michael Atkinson, Hyma Beckley, Derek Benfield, Allan Bracewell, Bonita Bridgeman, Yvonne Buckingham, Honora Burke, Richard Caldicot, Isla Cameron, Wendy Craig, Angela Culbert, Doreen Dawn, Basil Dignam, Jane Eccles, Anthony Elgar, Gilda Emmanuelli, Janina Faye, Kathleen Fox, Everley Gregg, Anne Gunning, May Hallatt, Jack Hedley, Andrew Irvine, Stephen Jack, Miriam Karlin, Ruth Kettlewell, Pat Lanski, Wilfrid Lawson, Joan Leake, Linda Leo, Anne Leon, Denis Linford, Eric Louro, Pamela Manson, Harry Moore, Bill Morgan, John Moulder-Brown, Kendrick Owen, Katharine Page, Edward Palmer, Robert Palmer, Mandy Priestley, Sheila Raynor, Prunella Scales, Julian Somers, Hazel Sutton, Sandra Thompson, Kenneth Waller, John Welsh, Brian Worth
Producer: Raymond Anzarut, James Woolf, John Woolf
Cinematography: Freddie Francis
Camera and Electrical Department: Derek V. Browne, Maurice Gillett, Ray Jones, Ronnie Taylor
Sound: John Cox, Peter Handford, Stan Hawkes, Alastair McIntyre, Ken Ritchie
Cutting: Ralph Kemplen
Visual Effects: Bob Cuff
Makeup: Tony Sforzini
Costumes: Raemonde Rahvis
Music: Mario Nascimbene
Production companies: Romulus Films (as Romulus), Remus (as A Remus Production)
Year of production: 1959
Genres: Drama, Romance
Length: 113 Min
Rating: FSK 12
Aspect ratio: 1.66 : 1
Sound: Mono (Westrex Recording System)
German: Der Weg nach oben
French: Les chemins de la haute ville
Spanish: Un lugar en la cumbre
Portuguese: Um Lugar na Alta Roda
Italian: La strada dei quartieri alti
Russian: Путь наверх
1959 BAFTA Awards, UK: “BAFTA Film Award” for the Best British Film -> Room at the Top
1959 BAFTA Awards, UK: “BAFTA Film Award” for the Best Film from any Source -> Room at the Top
1959 BAFTA Awards, UK: “BAFTA Film Award” for the Best Foreign Actress -> Simone Signoret
1959 Cannes Film Festival, Frankreich: Award for the Best Actress -> Simone Signoret
1959 Jussi Awards, Finnland: “Diploma of Merit” for the Best Foreign Actress -> Simone Signoret
1960 Academy Awards, USA: “Oscar” for the Best Actress in a Leading Role -> Simone Signoret
1960 Academy Awards, USA: “Oscar” for the Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium -> Neil Paterson
1960 Golden Globes, USA: “Samuel Goldwyn Award” for the Best Film -> Room at the Top
1960, National Board of Review, USA: “NBR Award” for the Best Film -> Room at the Top
1960, National Board of Review, USA: “NBR Award” for the Best Actress -> Simone Signoret
Filmlabel: M-Square Classics
Premiere UK: January 22, 1959 (London)
Premiere USA: March 30, 1959 (New York)
Premiere France: May 01, 1959 (Cannes Film Festival)
DVD-Start: November 08, 2019 (Germany)
About Laurence Harvey:
Laurence Harvey was born Zvi Mosheh Skikn 1928 in Lithuania into a Jewish family. He spent most of his youth in South Africa, where the family moved when he was 5 years old. In 1946 he went to London, where he took his stage name and first gained stage experience at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, only to start a successful film career soon afterwards. In 1958 he had his breakthrough with the male leading role in “Room at the Top” at Simone Signoret‘s side. For this role he was the first Lithuanian actor in film history to be nominated for an Oscar.
With this success he got into the A-League of Hollywood and played at the side of the greatest stars of the time: In 1960, he played the male leading role in “Butterfield 8” next to Elizabeth Taylor, who received the Oscar for Best Actress. In the same year he played alongside John Wayne in the heroic epic “The Alamo“, 1962 alongside Frank Sinatra in “The Manchurian Candidate“, 1964 alongside Paul Newman in “The Outrage” or 1969 with Peter Sellers in “The Magic Christian“. He also directed three movies. Harvey died of stomach cancer in London in 1973 at the age of 45.
• The literary model of the same title by John Braine appeared only two years earlier. The plot looks back on the year 1947.
• Award-winning film: 1960 Nominated for 6 Oscars (including the 5 most important: Best Actor, Best Film, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay) and Best Female Supporting Role, of which Neil Paterson was awarded for his screenplay and – sensationally for a non-native English-speaking actress – Simone Signoret for Best Actress;
• In 1959 the film received the British Film Academy Award for Best British Film, Simone Signoret won the award for Best Foreign Actress. At the Cannes International Film Festival in 1959 she was awarded the prize for Best Actress in the same year.
• The British Film Institute chose “Room at the Top” in 1999 to rank 32 among the best British films of all time.
• A scandalous film that was X-rated in England in 1959 because of its sexual explicitness, but has since received “FSK 12” approval in both England and Germany.
Press comments & quotes
“The movie itself is great, full of good acting and masterful directing. The shot that announces the beginning of the new wave and doesn’t really fit into the movement itself.” (Cineoutsider)
“Room at the Top” was a milestone for the British film industry. At that time the love scenes belonged to “the hottest thing that ever left British film studios” (Cinema-Filmlexikon)
“…excellently played and atmospherically densely staged.” (Encyclopedia of International Film)
“Room at the Top” may be fundamentally gloomy and joyless, but it leaves a surprisingly lasting impression.” (New York Times)
“The latest work from France’s “New Wave” makes it clear how oppressively old-fashioned and internationally insignificant top German films are.” (Remus in SPIEGEL on August 26, 1959)
Original Trailer from 1959 (English)
Unedited cinema version, for the first time in cinema format on DVD, digitally remastered | Aspect ratio: WS 1.66:1 (anamorphic), black and white film | Running time: 113 min | Sound format: German DD 2.0, English DD 2.0 | artwork slide show, original theatrical trailer | FSK 12 | The blue series No. 1