Life At The Top 22Apr2013
Peter Charlesworth talks about working with Kenneth Haigh and his experiences producing the Man at the Top film.
Room at the Top, the first film featuring John Braine’s anti-hero Joe Lampton, pushed back censorship barriers in 1959, and in 1973 Man at the Top also moved boldly with the times. It’s a spin-off from a TV series, which also starred Kenneth Haigh as Joe. But the film is much more explicit. Within the first 30 minutes Joe has bedded his employer Lord Ackerman’s gorgeous wife Alex, played by Nanette Newman. She and all the other presentable females in the cast are required to strip naked (although Newman had a body double).
The film, the only feature made by TV director Mike Vardy, also reflects the changing times with its multi-racial cast. The father of a hitch-hiker Joe picks up on his way to Lord Ackerman’s country pile is played by Charlie Williams, one of only a handful of black comics in the popular 1970s TV show The Comedians. Lord Ackerman (Harry Andrews) is gay and one of the objects of his affection is a young boxer, here played by middleweight champ John Conteh in his acting debut. Another is Joe himself. “Stop treating my arm like a chorus boy’s arse”, Joe tells His Lordship. Comedy writer John Junkin gets an additional material credit and the script is full of cracks like this.