Billy Liar – 1963 | 98 mins | Comedy, Drama | B&W
John Schlesinger‘s seminal screen adaptation of the Keith Waterhouse/Willis Hall stage play. Cinematographer Denys Coop’s excellent black and white Cinemascope gives a suitably Dickensian feel to Billy’s Northern surroundings and Schlesinger splendidly blends social realism and working-class satirical fantasy into the most outstanding bittersweet comedy of the British New Wave era.
Billy Fisher (Tom Courtenay), is an ambitious but ultimately lazy young Yorkshire slacker with a dreary occupation working as a clerk at Shadrach and Duxbury’s funeral directors. He spends most of his time daydreaming of Ambrosia, a fantasyland where he is a hero but a number of minor indiscretions cause Billy to lie in order to avoid the penalties. As these events start catching up with him, his lies snowball with highly comedic results to cover his tracks.
Finally, when his life is a total mess, and nobody believes a word he says, an opportunity to run away from everyone to London presents itself. Billy has a difficult decision to make. Billy’s lies land him in increasingly hot water as he find himself simultaneously engaged to free spirit Liz (Julie Christie), the homely Barbara (Helen Fraser) and raunchy Rita (Gwendolyn Watts).
John Schlesinger: Director
Denys N Coop: Cinematography
Roger Cherrill: Editing
Richard Rodney Bennett: Music
Joseph Janni: Producer
Ray Simm: Production Designer
Willis Hall: Script
Keith Waterhouse: Script