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L-Shaped Room, The (1962)


Main image of L-Shaped Room, The (1962)
DirectorBryan Forbes
Production CompanyRomulus Films
ProducerJames Woolf
ProducerRichard Attenborough
ScreenplayBryan Forbes
From the novel byLynne Reid Banks
CinematographyDouglas Slocombe
Jazz sequencesJohn Barry

Cast: Leslie Caron (Jane Fosset); Tom Bell (Toby); Brock Peters (Johnny); Cicely Courtneidge (Mavis); Bernard Lee (Charlie)

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A pregnant young French woman comes to stay in a boarding house in London. She makes friends with the mixed and impoverished occupants and starts a romance with one of them, a young writer.

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The L-Shaped Room (1962) has a strange position within the British 'new wave'. It feels like half a new wave film - a mid-point between the innovation of the Woodfall Films and the mainstream of the British film industry.

The frankness about sex and the sympathetic treatment of outsiders - whether they be unmarried mothers, lesbian or black - and the largely natural and non-judgmental handling of their problems seem part of the movement, but the narrative style and direction are more conventional. Director Bryan Forbes was, and still is, very much part of the British film industry establishment. As an actor he was a mainstay of war films and thrillers in the 1950s. As a director with Whistle Down the Wind (1961) and then this film, he set down a more romantic, wistful type of realism than that of Tony Richardson or Lindsay Anderson.

What The L-Shaped Room conveys best is a feeling for Englishness, which is affectionate but not uncritical. Having a French heroine accentuates this. Her outsider status within the community in the boarding house means we are more aware of the national traits on display through the characters. There is a mean-mindedness seen in Doris, a bitterness and profound insecurity in Toby, envy in Johnny and a resignation to unsatisfactory circumstances in Sonia and Mavis. Yet there is also togetherness, tolerance and a spirit of endurance. For all their flaws the characters remain essentially sympathetic. Eventually Jane, the outsider, initially fearful and brittle, comes to appreciate this.

The film has many flaws of its own - it's too long, very episodic and tends to the predictable - but it has a warmth and empathy that is likeable and endearing. One can only feel well disposed to a film featuring Tom Bell before he got typecast as a hard-nosed villain, and the incomparable Cicely Courtneidge blasting out 'Take me back to dear old Blighty'.

Phil Wickham

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Video Clips
1. In the pub (3:42)
2. In the club (2:48)
3. Dear Old Blighty (3:38)
Behind the scenes stills
Production stills
Publicity materials
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Billy Liar (1963)
Kind of Loving, A (1962)
Room at the Top (1958)
This Sporting Life (1963)
Barry, John (1933-2011)
Bell, Tom (1932-2006)
Caron, Leslie (1931-)
Courtneidge, Cicely (1893-1980)
Forbes, Bryan (1926-2013)
Lee, Bernard (1908-1981)
Newman, Nanette (1934-)
O'Hara, Gerry (1924-)
Rawlings, Terry (1933-)
Slocombe, Douglas (1913-)
British New Wave