This Sporting Life (1963)

This Sporting Life (1963)

“She’s the one thing that makes me feel wanted; I can’t lose her.”

A miner-turned-rugby player (Richard Harris) aggressively woos a young widowed mother (Rachel Roberts) whose house he’s boarding in.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Domestic Abuse
  • Flashback Films
  • Lindsay Anderson Films
  • Richard Harris Films
  • Sports
  • Widows and Widowers

Lindsay Anderson’s feature-length directorial debut was this adaptation by David Storey (a one-time professional rugby player) of his own novel, starring Richard Harris in his breakthrough role as a pugnacious player struggling to manage his newfound fame. The first half of the film is structured as a series of flashbacks, with Harris sitting in a dentist’s chair reflecting on the beginning of his new career (he’s recruited after participating in a nightclub fight).

He quickly shows his tenacious merit on the field:

… and is soon aggressively pursued by the predatory wife (Vanda Godsell) of the team’s owner (Alan Badel).

He remains obsessed, however, with winning over his landlady (Roberts) — a depressed and seemingly unflappable widow who he eventually rapes. It’s challenging to feel much sympathy for Harris after this scene, given that he clearly feels the world is his to take, and his violent nature shows no sign of abating. Indeed, Harris’s character is most certainly an “angry young man” of his cinematic era; interestingly, this film marked the end of the “kitchen sink” drama, perhaps because it was simply too challenging to relate to these authentic but decidedly unlikeable protagonists.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Richard Harris as Frank Machin
  • Rachel Roberts as Mrs. Hammond
  • Denys Coop’s cinematography

Must See?
No, though it’s recommended for one-time viewing for Harris’s performance if you can stomach it. Listed as a film with Historical Importance and a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.


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