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More northern kitchen sink: Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960) & Spring and Port Wine (1969)

The northern new wave did not just launch actors like Albert Finney, Tom Courtenay and Alan Bates but directors and producers like Tony Richardson and Carel Reisz.

The latter two, assisted by producer Harry Salzman, were the staple force behind Saturday Night and Sunday Morning based on the novel by Alan Sillitoe.

It stars Albert Finney in his first major role as Arthur Seaton, a rascal who refuses to be beaten down by the factory and hum drum life.

He is having an affaire with Mrs Hammond (Rachel Roberts), wife of his colleague in the factory, whom he gets pregnant but is courting Doreen (Shirley Anne Field).

It’s a graphic depiction of Northern life with  edge, crisp dialogue and humour and – for all his flaws as an amoral neo-delinquent- you root for Arthur. He is in perpetual feud with the street gossip who he shoots in the bum with his air pistol. You want him to get away with it and he does.

Spring and Port Wine is a Bill Naughton play (the author and creator of Alfie).

I can recall as a young lad my parents taking me to Bernard Miles’ Mermaid Theatre to see the play and each theatre goer being give a miniature port bottle with a spring attached though – then and now – I don’t understand the title’s significance.

The film is traditional north kitchen sink: the opening shot of the factory, the working class household ruled by Rafe (James Mason) clinging to his values of religion, the family, truthfulness in the face of three children who are moving with the times especially the youngest Hilda (Susan George).

It’s a rather tender film and James Mason portrays Rafe with great humanity when faced with Hilda’a pregnancy.

As with Saturday Night and Sunday Morning anger gives  way to domesticity.

Although I still have a few of this genre to see their legacy is clear in my mind.

Most of the authors moved south and found success; in the case of Keith Waterhouse as a highly paid columnist on the Daily Mail and Bill Naughton became a tax exile on the Isle of Man, but the northern writers are now forgotten.

The actors had more enduring careers, as did the film directors and producers.

As to the films themselves they are social history as a portrayal of northern working class life in the late 1950s with its sparsity, rigidity and drabness at a time when there was no cheap foreign travel, recreation was the pub, dance hall, fishing and the local football team and – in every film reviewed – sex out of marriage ends in pregnancy and dinner (called tea) is taken at 6.00 pm.

The French New Wave produced Jean Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut, Belmondo, Moreau and Jean Seberg.

Two comic geniuses were discovered: Peter Sellers and Jaques Tati.

It could be argued that French New Wave cinema fared better.

About Neil Rosen

Neil went to the City of London School and Manchester University graduating with a 1st in economics. After a brief stint in accountancy, Neil emigrated to a kibbutz In Israel. His articles on the burgeoning Israeli film industry earned comparisons to Truffaut and Godard in Cahiers du Cinema. Now one of the world's leading film critics and moderators at film Festivals Neil has written definitively in his book Kosher Nostra on Jewish post war actors. Neil lives with his family in North London. More Posts