OscarĀ(r) nominee* Richard Burton delivers a passionate performance, and Mary Ure, ClaireBloom, Gary Raymond and Edith Evans give exciting stand-out portrayals (Los Angeles Times)in this powerful and engrossing motion... more » picture (Cue) that bristles with brilliant dialogue (The Hollywood Reporter) and raw human emotion. Rage! His eyes blaze with it and his bodyseethes with it. Jimmy Porter is a man consumed by anger, and every moment he spends in the rank, suffocating squalor of the English factory town that entraps him, propels him closer and closer towards self-annihilation. But Jimmy's savage cruelty is not limited to himself. He also hurts the ones he lovesagain and again. And this time, he's about to commit an act so brutal, so destructive, that his wife Alison, her best friend Helena, and even Jimmy himself may not be able to survive! *Actor: The Robe (1953), Becket (1964), The Spy Who Came In From The Cold (1965), Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf (1966), Anne Of The Thousand Days (1969), Equus (1977); Supporting Actor: My Cousin Rachel (1952)« less
"First, one of the other reviews for this film seems to be stating that Burton played Jimmy Porter on stage. This is not true. Osborne's autobiography describes Burton as needing a serious career boost after his previous toga films had gotten him nowhere (though, still, Osborne then says it was Burton's name that got the film financed). Burton took on the film for very little money (and, yes, he is too old for the part.) Mary Ure is the only actor from the stage production. (And at this late date it seems a great loss Alan Bates didn't reprise Cliff in the film.) My thanks to the reviewer who mentioned Pauline Kael's review. It certainly makes me reconsider how much power the film had in its time. But still everyone seems to be missing the point of the story. It isn't a conventional triangle. The play greatly upset the establishment in its day because it is an violent assault on class and cultural issues of the time. Jimmy is not a working-class hero. Kenneth Tynan described him as part of the "non-U intelligensia" but this is wrong. The film mentions, though perhaps doesn't make clear, that Jimmy has been to college, a very mediocre college. His working a sweets barrel is part of his rejection of the social order. But it is his marriage that is the central class conflict, as his wife, Alison, is from a very good family, father an old soldier returned from India, brother at Sandhurst, surely some day an MP. Her family instantly rejected Jimmy, and Jimmy resents Alison's inability to decisively choose sides, hates her for even writing letters to her mother. Alison believes Jimmy decided to marry her only after her parents rejected him. In the scheme of the play it is Cliff who is working class, Alison who is ruling class, and Jimmy in-between raging at the world. His rage, his need for a dust-up, is his response to a collapsing England, an England determined to be static, dead. The movie begins in a jazz club, which was wrongheaded, since the central image of a stiffling Sunday morning reading the papers (with no church attendance) is so important to the play. Jimmy wants to eat more and shout more and love more than the world around him affords him. A previous reviewer states Osborne gives us some pop psychology to explain Jimmy ? Jimmy, when a boy, watches his father die ? but one thing Osborne should never be accused of is being faddish. The point is that Jimmy's father died upon returning from fighting in Spain, dying for a cause, while his mother didn't care. It explains Jimmy's sense that there is no cause to fight for. Also it has left Jimmy a deep belief in honoring the dead, and this, in turn, causes him to feel Alison betrays him when she fails to appear at the funeral for Ma Tanner, his surrogate mother, the woman who bought him the sweets stall. (Spoiler warning). This take on death is what makes the ending meaningful when Alison miscarriages. It is why Jimmy cannot just be a bastard who dismisses his wife.Or maybe it's all just Osborne's attack on his first wife in a very autobiographical play (his attacks on second wife Mary Ure in his autobiography can be equally savage). On whole I find the film a disappointment. Burton's unconvincing performance cannot be saved by good work by Mary Ure and Claire Bloom. Worse, the film eliminates many of the most biting and relevant rages from Jimmy in the play, perhaps the best parts of the play. Nigel Kneale, who wrote some great science fiction, should never have been allowed to rewrite Osborne. The whole teddy bear/toy squirrel metaphor from the play makes no sense whatsoever in the film. I do like the scenes with Edith Evans, which Osborne at least in part wrote especially for the film, the character not ever actually appearing on stage in the play (Evans, priding herself on being Cockney, bought her own wardrobe for the role in second-hand shops). In some ways I prefer the filmed version of the play done years later by Lindsay Anderson with Malcom McDowell (though he too was too old for Jimmy). Oh, and reviewers please note, you won't find the phrase "angry young man" in the play. It was never a phrase Osborne liked. It was invented by the promotions man at the Royal Court Theater."
David Baldwin | Philadelphia,PA USA | 12/30/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"On the surface "Look Back in Anger" is a very bleak picture which I wouldn't think I would admire. I was not a big fan of "The Entertainer", another adaptation of a downbeat play by John Osborne. Osborne and director Tony Richardson should be thankful for the calibre of the performances of the principle actors here that have made this a worthwhile enterprise. For starters, Richard Burton as Jimmy Porter, angry open-market candy salesmen, is a revelation. It's not just in the sililoquies that he rails against his station in life that are akin to Shakespeare. Burton's eyes show all the rage and self-hatred. Mary Ure as Porter's long-suffering wife, Allison, quietly demonstrates the pain of loving someone who is incapable of love. Claire Bloom is excellent as Allison's no-nonsense friend Helena who despite her better judgement falls prey to the indescribable spell that Jimmy casts on women who should know better. Gary Raymond as Cliff, Jimmy's best friend, does commendable work here as well. Also noteworthy is Donald Pleasance as Hurst, the overbearing market inspector. This film could very well be a relic of the angry young man period of British film but holds up because of the quality of the acting."
A Great (sorry, Mr. Burton) Classic
Anna | Germany | 08/29/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Richard Burton - who started a legendary career (first on stage, later on screen) with playing Jimmy Porter - would probably have hated the description "classic". But it can't be helped: This movie adaptation of a theatre hit of the London Westend IS a classic by now. And that is mainly due to his wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime performance as Jimmy.
When John Osborne tried to put into words - and he indeed succeeded! as the great theatre critic Kenneth Tynan so rightly pointed out - the deep frustration, sadness and sometimes furious rebellion of the young generation of the 50s (not so far away from the frustration and rebellion of the young generation of today, mind you!), he was incredibly lucky to find a hitherto unknown, rebelliously minded young Welsh actor to play the lead! Burton's tremendously energetic performance became a legend in no time, - and it was and is great to see that he managed to transfer most of that energy into the film version.
It is also great that the wonderfully subtle performance of Mary Ure lost nothing of its riveting intensity in the film, and how convincingly she succeeded in playing up to her partner! Miss Ure (who in my eyes until today is only being matched by Meryl Streep, Jessica Lange and Kate Blanchett) was an actress of great beauty and tremendous talent. Above all, she radiated humaneness and vulnerability, but also great inner strength, in her parts.
Claire Bloom does not quite match the leading performances, but is also very good as the intervening guest who at first hates, and later is fascinated by the husband of her best friend.
It seems unlikely that this superb film version of a great play - after all, it does not seem accidental that Osborne's "angry young man" (Jimmy Porter) has long since become a figure of speech - will impress 'cool' young people as Peter Shelley from Australia who talks about "dull Ure" and finds it appropriate to refer to a wonderful supporting performance of the great Dame Edith Evans as "mention is made of Edith Evans in a nice turn". However, there is hope that a timelessly brilliant production as this will always and everywhere find its admirers - be they 19 or 90!"
He who will be angry for anything will be angry for nothing
Bomojaz | South Central PA, USA | 03/10/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
John Osborne's play, upon which this movie is based, ushered in a whole slew of "angry young men" plays - all about young Bristishers who spit vitriol at post-War England and all it stood for. Richard Burton has the role of the angry Jimmy Porter, a university-educated man who would rather sell candy in an open market, play jazz trumpet at night, and, most of all, abuse his wife. His performance is stunning (it got him noticed here in the States), but he is just so full of anger at seemingly everything that it's hard to focus sympathy on him. With Britain losing its powerful place in the world after all the sacrifices made during two world wars, such frustrated indignation might appear justifiable, but so much of it seems like raging against the wind: it doesn't seem connected to the humanness of the emotion - it's too detached. The movie, like the play, has some great dialogue, however, and it's very well photographed."
Beginnings of a Genre that was All the Rage.
Sur-reel Life, All About My Movies | New York, NY | 11/16/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The best thing about "Look Back in Anger" is Richard Burton, whose volcanic performance as Jimmy Porter set the bar for angry young men in Great Britain.
Like Malcolm McDowell in Lindsay Anderson's "If..." (among other films in the "angry young man" genre released during the following decade), Jimmy isn't thuggish as much as he is disaffected. His answer to the question of what he wants in life-"Everything... nothing..."-indicates a profound confusion about his own place in the universe. Though college educated, he lives in relative squalor. Though bestowed with artistic gifts, these traits haven't helped him achieve much in the wider world. Perhaps Jimmy is just too lazy to apply himself, and prefers hurling invectives from the sidelines at others. At any rate, Jimmy's life is his soapbox, from which he rails against the upper-class, popular culture, and everything in between.
For the most part, Jimmy's audience consists of his wife, Alison (Mary Ure), and close pal Cliff (Gary Raymond). Cliff occupies the spare room in the couples' flat, and works at Jimmy's candy stand. A close friend, he often acts as peacekeeper when tensions between the Porters flare up. Usually, it's Jimmy who goes too far, making one too many snide remarks about Alison's family, or Alison herself.
On the morning of a particularly ugly incident, Jimmy is seething because his wife has written a letter to her parents. They happen to be old money-types who never approved of the marriage, and it incenses Jimmy that she maintains communications, when he has abandoned all civility. Jimmy makes relentless fun of them while Alison goes about her ironing, pretending to ignore him. This only makes him try even harder to get a rise out of his wife. Cliff tries to persuade his pal to back off. But that leads to rough horseplay, which causes Alison to burn her arm.
After Jimmy retreats to the nearby pub, following harsh looks from his wife, Cliff tries to comfort Alison. He mentions that he is thinking of abandoning their crazy household. In a moment of intimacy between friends (although it is implied that Cliff thinks of Alison more strongly than that), he asks why she doesn't just give up on the abusive marriage, and leave Jimmy.
"I'm afraid," Alison replies. After all, she isn't sure her parents, whom she is estranged from, will take her back. Later, however, we find out more. Alison is pregnant, has been pregnant several months, and has yet to tell Jimmy. She has vacillated on the decision of letting him know, and now feels uncertain she wants to have the baby at all, since it would cement her bond to this angry young man. In desperation, Alison seeks the counsel of Helena Charles (Claire Bloom), a childhood friend who happens to have landed a role in the local play.
Helena-a prim, raven-haired beauty-presents a fine constrast to Alison, who possesses straw-blond hair and more earthly charms. Helena also appears to be the more stronger-willed of the two women. She refuses to be brought down by Jimmy's snide remarks, although an attempt on his part for "a little fun," crashing one of her rehearsals, nearly pushes her over the edge of good behavior.
Having witnessed the way Jimmy treats her, Helena desperately tries to convince Alison to leave him. Her main problem, however, is that she still finds herself attracted to the fire that burns incessently inside her husband. She relates the story of how they met-Jimmy walking into the dance at her old town, covered in motor oil, seemingly burning even then. While that reminiscence doesn't change Helena's opinion about how bad a husband Jimmy is, she admits that such an angry man must make life exciting. At this point, a strange look comes over Helena, which implies a possible weakness to the very trap she is trying to extricate her friend from.
Will Alison run away from Jimmy? Will Jimmy change his ways after finding out that he is going to be a father? Will Cliff really jump ship, leaving his two closest pals to their domestic strife? And ultimately, is Helena to play a larger role than enabler to all this?
Director Tony Richardson and screenwriter Nigel Kneale-with John Osborne providing additional dialogue for his adapted stage work-resolve everything in a relatively unsurprising fashion. More compelling are the insights into Jimmy, what motivates his contempt for religion, culture, even education. He was once the beneficiary of university training, but now, the way he uses erudite words in his rants seems like a deliberate attempt to bring them down, to make them vulgar.
So why is Jimmy full of rage? The answer, it turns out, falls into what Orson Welles cited as "pop psychology:" Like Charles Foster Kane, Jimmy Porter suffered a childhood trauma. He lost someone dear to him. Now he resists the love of those who would willingly give it, pushing them away with insults, sometimes unconsciously. But at the same time, nothing seems to make Jimmy sadder than the thought of one more friend going away. "The child is father to the man," sayeth the poet Gerald Manley Hopkins. In his heart, Jimmy wants everything to be the way it was back when he was a little boy, back when he was happy.
But alas, the nature of life dictates that people must move on, must leave us, must change. The realization on Jimmy's part-that people never stay, that nothing remains the same-fuels his rage at life itself. At a relatively young age, he already learned the inevitability of death. So now, at twenty-five, he firmly says to hell with earthly ambition, and to hell with love, money, art, and other earthly trifles (Basically, he adopts the whole "angry young man" thing).
Jimmy has stared into the abyss, and having not fallen in, turned away scarred. Only the appearance of a soul mate, worn down as much as him by despair and bitterness, can bring out his long-dormant sense of empathy. That is the only way Jimmy can ever change, and while such a fate has tragic implications, it also provides a strange sense of comfort when it finally comes along, and saves him."