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RICHARD HARRIS IN LINDSAY ANDERSON'S 'THIS SPORTING LIFE'

Title: THIS SPORTING LIFE Year: 1963 Rating: ***1/2

In the British New Wave/Kitchen Sink Drama THE SPORTING LIFE, non-famous extra Glenda Jackson can be seen singing at a crowded party... funny since, years before her macho co-stars Oliver Reed and Alan Bates wrestled naked in WOMEN IN LOVE, so did coal mining rugby player Richard Harris and teammate Colin Blakely... 

Not for very long, and they're not fighting but celebrating a victory; yet the title sport's not seen enough given that everything centers on Harris, as Frank Machin, gifted with a prowess on the field that piques the interest of bigwig Alan Badel and his flirtatious wife Vanda Godsell, who can change the poor lug's life overnight...

Richard Harris in THIS SPORTING LIFE with Rachel Roberts

Godsell compares Harris to a wild cat, trapped, always moving... which is what director Lindsay Anderson reveals through a jigsaw flashback device perfected in Tony Richardson's LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE RUNNER...

But what's ultimately lacking is Richard Harris himself... While genuinely intense, poised upon landlady Rachel Roberts, a single mother/widow too reluctant and reclusive to be a worthwhile love-interest, he's doing what seems more an imitation than inspiration of a young Marlon Brando...

Richard Harris in THIS SPORTING LIFE

Yet he wields an intriguing presence with a lean/muscular edge all his own... a born loser zig-zagging from the rugby field into the factory smog-bleary streets and rip-roaring taverns... 

And while SPORTING helped ignite the British New Wave of B&W character-studies as well as both the director and lead actor's careers, there's simply too much Brandoesque bark without enough bite (what's ironic, however, is that Marlon himself seems to be imitating Harris in the following decade's THE NIGHTCOMERS).

Richard Harris in THIS SPORTING LIFE
Brando's very Harris-like in THE NIGHTCOMERS
Richard Harris and the signature hair
Marlon Brando in ON THE WATERFRONT
Richard Harris in THIS SPORTING LIFE
Richard Harris could've been a contender in THIS SPORTING LIFE

Richard Harris in THIS SPORTING LIFE with Colin Blakely
Local girl Kim Leslie (not an actress) croons in THIS SPORTING LIFE
Alan Badel in THIS SPORTING LIFE (Glenda Jackson singing to the middle-left)
Richard Harris in THIS SPORTING LIFE with Anne Cunningham
Richard Harris in THIS SPORTING LIFE
Rachel Roberts literally goes Kitchen Sink Drama in THIS SPORTING LIFE
Vanda Godsell in THIS SPORTING LIFE
Local girl Kim Leslie (not an actress) croons in THIS SPORTING LIFE

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