Movie Diary 8/7/2018

Room at the Top (Jack Clayton, 1959). The first time I watched this on TV (over 40 years ago) it had a reputation as a famously serious, adult movie; it was nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture, and it won for Actress (Simone Signoret) and adapted screenplay (over Some Like It Hot!). It seems to have fallen from classic status, but there are many things to admire about it, including Laurence Harvey’s smoldering hostility. Clayton’s direction tends to be superficially handsome, a quality that would continue throughout his work; it’s possible the film’s crowded, dynamic frames are down to the great eye of cinematographer Freddie Francis. Signoret is very touching, and Donald Wolfit tones down his hammier tendencies to deliver a sly portrait of privilege (it’s his daughter that lower-class nobody Harvey wants to marry).

Sea of Sand (Guy Green, 1958). Potent, efficient WWII North Africa item, with John Gregson as an uptight officer wading into a Long Range Desert Group squad that looks pretty scruffy – they even have beards. Michael Craig plays the other officer, a more cynical type (with a beard), Richard Attenborough goes the character-actor route as a rascally soldier. The movie is not without its familiar touches, but the suspense is frequent and the location shooting in Libya is thirst-making. Director Green, who won an Oscar for photographing Great Expectations, had an odd directing career that included A Patch of Blue and The Magus.

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