The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

Teenager Colin Smith (Tom Courtenay) is taken to a detention center for juvenile delinquents where the man in charge, the Governor (Michael Redgrave), discovers his talent for long-distance running. With his documentary background, director Tony Richardson became the right person to make one of the key films of the ”angry young man” movement of the 1950s and ’60s. We follow Colin’s experiences at the detention center, but flashbacks also show us how he ended up there. Realistic and engaging, with effective use of symbolism; Redgrave plays a man of the elite who only cares when his boys have a talent that his institution might find useful. Very strong breakthrough performance by Courtenay.

1962-Britain. 103 min. B/W. Produced and directed by Tony Richardson. Screenplay, Short Story: Alan Sillitoe. Cast: Michael Redgrave (The Governor), Tom Courtenay (Colin Smith), Avis Bunnage (Mrs. Smith), Peter Madden, Alec McCowen, James Fox… John Thaw.

Last word: “There was all this talk about me being the next Albert Finney. It was heady stuff. I hadn’t been out of drama school more than a couple of months when Tony Richardson asked if I’d heard of a book called ‘The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner’ and I hadn’t. He said ‘We’re going to do a film of it and you’ll be marvellous in it. You’re just what we want.’ There was no question of turning it down – too exciting. It was my background, or something like it anyway, not exactly like it. There was no hesitation at all. It was only a question of whether it would happen because it was sometime after that that the film was made. And he held to his word.” (Courtenay, interview with Tony Earnshaw)

 

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