Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960)

Director: Karel Reisz

Screenplay: Alan Sillitoe

Starring: Albert Finney, Rachel Roberts, Shirley Anne Field, Hylda Baker, Norman Rossington and Bryan Pringle

One of the key films of the so-called “kitchen sink” movement in post-war British cinema, ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’ saw in a new decade of film-making in unforgettable style. Albert Finney’s portrayal of Arthur Seaton made him a star: a full-blooded performance that captures every bit of the character’s energy, belligerence and anti-authoritarianism. Filmed on the Nottingham streets that Alan Sillitoe wrote about, Reisz’s low-key direction gives ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’ a moody realism, while John Dankworth’s score rates as one of his best.

 

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner (1962)

Director: Tony Richardson

Screenplay: Alan Sillitoe

Starring: Tom Courtenay, Michael Redgrave, Avis Bunnage, Alec McCowen and James Bolam

As ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’ made a star of Albert Finney, so ‘The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner’ for Tom Courtenay: within three years, he followed up his brilliant portrayal of the rebellious Colin Smith with starring roles in ‘Billy Liar’, ‘King & Country’ and ‘Dr Zhivago’. Tony Richardson, having produced ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’, directs with just as much assurance, capturing the fire and spirit of Alan Sillitoe’s masterful novella.

 

Counterpoint (1967)

Director: Ralph Nelson

Screenplay: James Lee, Joel Oliansky

Starring: Charlton Heston, Maximillian Schell, Kathryn Hays, Leslie Nielsen and Anton Diffring

The odd-man-out of the Alan Sillitoe adaptations, this star-studded war drama relocates the deliberately non-specific setting of ‘The General’ to World War II as an imprisoned conductor (Heston) locks horns with the Nazi general (Schell) who has plans for his orchestra. Very little of the philosophical imperative of the novel remains, but the film is never less than entertaining and the use of Wagner’s prelude to “Tannhauser” at a critical point is highly effective.

 

The Ragman’s Daughter (1974)

Director: Harold Becker

Screenplay: Alan Sillitoe

Starring: Simon Rouse, Victoria Tennant, Patrick O’Connell, Jane Wood and Leslie Sands

Although it never gained the critical appreciation of ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’ or ‘The Loneliness of the Long-Distance’ runner, this solid adaptation of Alan Sillitoe’s wryly cynical short story benefits from a similarly realistic directorial style, while the image of a Victoria Tennant riding her horse along cobbled and terraced streets is strikingly iconic. As overlooked as ‘Counterpoint’ – and equally devoid of a DVD release – but well worth seeking out.

 

Pit Strike (1977)

Director: Roger Bamford

Screenplay: Alan Sillitoe

Starring: Johnny Allan, James Delap, Miles Delap, Bernard Hill and Jennie Linden

BBC2’s high quality series of stand-alone dramas ‘Premiere’ debuted in 1977 with an adaptation of Alan Sillitoe’s impassioned play ‘Pit Strike’. It was the directorial debut of Roger Bamford, who went on to establish himself as a stalwart of British TV, helming episodes of ‘Blott on the Landscape’, ‘Auf Wiedersehen, Pet’, ‘Rumpole of the Bailey’ and ‘Minder’.

 

Neil Fulwood