Room at the Top, A (1959): Critical Reaction–Status

At the time of its initial release, in March 1959, the British-made feature, Room at the Top, was considered groundbreaking in part because of its adult language and mature themes.

Room at the Top
Room at the Top poster 2.jpg

Original British 1959 Poster

The Los Angeles Times noted that the film was “laced with earthy dialogue and a very frank approach to sex.”

It received an X rating on its initial release in England. Outstanding reviews complemented the sexual explicitness to make the movie one of the first major arthouse hits in America.

Pauline Kael wrote, “The movie helped bring American adults back into the theatres… mostly because of the superb love scenes between Harvey and Simone Signoret. She’s magnificent.”

The New Republic’s Stanley Kauffmann concurred: “Miss Signoret is so heartbreakingly effective in the role that it is now inconceivable without her,” and he concluded his review by writing, “as a drama of human drives and torments told with maturity and penetration, it is a rare event among English-language films.”

Made on a modest budget of less than 0.5 million, Room at the Top was a hug commercial success, playing in theaters for months, and earning in the U.S. alone more than $2 million at the box-office.


Directed by Jack Clayton

Produced by John Woolf and James Woolf

Screenplay by Neil Paterson, Mordecai Richler (uncredited), based on “Room at the Top” by John Braine

Music by Mario Nascimbene

Cinematography: Freddie Francis

Edited by Ralph Kemplen
Production company: Romulus Films
Distributed by British Lion Films (UK)
Continental Distributing (US)
Release date: January 22, 1959 (UK), March 30, 1959 (US)
Running time: 115 minutes