This Sporting Life – 1963
Dir: David Storey | Starring: Richard Harris, Rachel Roberts, Alan Badel, William Hartnell
Frank Machin (played by Richard Harris) is a hard-shelled English factory worker who decides he’s good enough to play for the company owned League Rugby team. When the factory/team owner decides to give him a shot Machin proves his skills and immediately becomes a star player. With his newfound wealth and stardom he hopes to win over his woefully depressed landlord whom he had been failing to make progress with. Both she and he are tortured and complicated people with a mountain of baggage to try and overcome before they can ever hope to become a happy pair.
This is a really interesting look at ego and early 60’s sports stardom with a unique lead character; but has a love story that takes center stage and begins to beat a dead horse and you find yourself hoping the film wraps up sooner than later. Richard Harris is fairly good in this, but the character is wildly boorish and mopey in such a strange way, he delivers on being a real weirdo who you aren’t sure what he is capable of. The problem with such a character is that when paired with a dower old maid of a love interest the interactions become tiresome and I found myself loudly groaning at their slog of a “love affair”. Many of their scenes could have been paired down to shorten the film length and also so that it wouldn’t drown out a lot of the Rugby/Celebrity aspects, which were very interesting and handled quite well. There is a really great movie in here if it were just edited down a fair amount.
These old trailers really liked to make a movie seem like it will forever change your very being after having witnessed it: