Sunday, July 27, 2014

Before the James Garner tribute

Coming up overnight tonight, or early tomorrow morning at 4:30 AM, just before the 24 hours of James Garner movies begin, is the excellent British film Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.

Albert Finney stars as Arthur Seaton. By day, he works in one of those grimy factories that were a staple of northern England in the first couple of decades after World War II, going home to a cramped house where he lives with his parents. Arthur lives for the weekends, when he can rebel against the world by going out to one of the local pubs and drinking up a storm and carousing with his mates and the women. On the face of it, it's not much of a life, but Arthur sees it as a way of keeping his independence by not being too attached to anybody

Despite this, he's got a girlfriend, in the form of Brenda (Rachel Roberts). There's only one catch: she's already married, and it's to one of Arthur's coworkers at the factory (Bryan Pringle)! Surely Arthur would be better off with Doreen (Shirley Anne Field), a more girl-next-door type whom Arthur meets at the pub. She's a bit naïve, but she liks Arthur, and thinks she can tame him. Arthur starts to have a relationship with her, too, because after all having relationships with two women at the same time is a good way to rebel against a world where doing such a thing would be considered terribly bad form.

Problems develop, of course, and the big one comes when Brenda announces to Arthur that she's pregnant by him, and not by her husband. Oh dear, that's a big problem. Arthur isn't ready to be a father, and there's also the little matter of Brenda already having a husband anyway. So the two of them decide that they're going to abort the baby, except that abortion was highly illegal at the time in Britain, so they have to go to an unreliable woman who tries a folk remedy that, it goes without saying, is unsuccessful. How is Arthur going to get himself out of this problem?

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning is a film that was a shock to British moviegoers when it was released in 1960, as it showed a section of British society in a way that hadn't been done before. Saturday Night and Sunday Morning looks decidedly different from all the stuio-bound movies Hollywood had been making, as it's more realistic in showing what wasn't a very rich life, leaving us to wonder why these people should have had any optimism or been happy with their station in life. Albert Finney gives an excellent performance as Arthur Seaton, the man who thinks he's getting his something better by pissing away all his money on booze and women. The rest of the cast is good although subordinate to Finney, and the locations are also a big plus to the movie.

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning did get a DVD release at one time, but I think it's out of print. The TCM Shop lists a DVD, but you'll note that they say it's "On Order". Likewise, Amazon lists a couple of releases, but all of them with only a limited number of copies available.

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