Saturday, April 04, 2009

This Sporting Life

I saw this 1960s British film on TCM last night starring Richard Harris who most of us have seen in either the Harry Potter films or Unforgiven (with Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, and Gene Hackman).

Basically This Sporting Life is the story of a working-class man in Yorkshire, England. He eventually becomes a professional rugby football player and at the beginning of this film we see the football action that was cut very nicely and was made to feel very fast paced. Then Harris' character, Frank, gets essentially clotheslined by an opposing player. Then couple that with a trip to the dentist afterward to pull the damaged teeth.

He may do well as a very good athlete, his love life is in shambles. He lives with a widowed mother of two children (Margaret) and while they do have sex during this movie she doesn't seem very interested in him. Wikipedia says that she's more into her grief than into loving the man whom she has sex with. Even if he was making money as a rugby player. Also the wife of the owner of the rugby club makes a pass at him, but her and the owner treats him coldly at a party later.

Near the end of the film he pushes Margaret too hard. Whenever he gets coldly rebuffed by her, his response is often violent. Not that he hits her or anything, but he definitely throws objects around. Let me take that back he may have hit her at least a couple of times in the film.

You know in the film that aired before this one, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, it featured a scene where the husband slapped his wife. While I don't advocate for one minute that any man slap his wife or girlfriend, be advised that this woman was cheating with a much younger man. This younger man leaves her at a carnival because he's caught by two soldiers, one of whom is related to the husband of this woman, this young man was severely beaten by the soldiers.

The point I'm making about the scenes where the men slap their women is that I wonder how common it was if this was done back in the 1960s. You'll see scenes like this in James Bond films from the 60s. Today one couldn't even imagine that, indeed we would imagine that the women who feel like they've been hit would be very likely to fight back themselves!

Anyway Margaret was pushed too hard by Frank's eagerness to have a loving relationship with her and in the end she dies of a hemorrhage. He loses that one thing in his life he thought he had. He coldly walks by her two children even though while their mother was still alive he played with them. He drove one of the children around in his expensive automobile.

I'll have to say that I can relate to Frank's attempt at a relationship with Margaret. How many of us have had feelings for someone who just wouldn't reciprocate? I would actually talk to the film and I would say I feel sorry for you Frank you should really just leave her alone. Perhaps he really thought he could turn her around only to realize that it isn't going to work. Although to be sure what kept them apart was her grief, she wasn't able to let that go and Frank would have been better served by either letting Margaret alone or just letting her get out of her grief.

Well I'm only speculating, but I want to see this film again. It has less to do with an exotic sport such as rugby football but the personal life of a man who's played the sport. I should add that the first Doctor Who, William Hartnell was also in this film as well.


1 comment:

pathickey said...


Richard Harris, whom I met in New Orleans several years ago, played Gaelic Football for the Limerick Garryowens before going to Britain and becoming a one of the great actors of our age.

He was a simple good guy and this was his favorite movies.

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