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Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960)

Sat_sun“Don’t let the bastards grind you down…”

Kat Doniak takes another look at this kitchensink classic.

“Don’t let the bastards grind you down…” is the most well known and frequently quoted line from this early 60’s classic. It was this anti-establishment energy that earned the film its box office success.

As one of the first of the era’s ‘kitchen sink dramas', born from the British New Wave movement which attempted for the first time to depict the lives of ordinary men, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning caught audiences' attention with its portrayal of working class protagonist, Arthur Seaton, the archetypal ‘angry young man.’

The film follows Arthur (as played by Albert Finney), a brash and out spoken worker, whose weekdays are spent at the factory bench and Saturday nights are spent out in local pubs, usually waking up on the Sunday with Brenda (Rachel Roberts) the wife of a fellow worker. Like many of cinema’s examples of the young working class rebel Arthur Seaton’s life centre’s around heavy drinking, brawling, women and a strong desire to lead a very different life to that of his parents. In his own words the pursuit of a good time is his main concern “…all the rest is propaganda.” However, during the course of the film Seaton begins to learn that his actions have consequences and his relationship with Brenda is already on the path to destruction when he meets the submissive yet sharp Doreen (Shirley Anne Field).

Filmed in the streets and factories of Nottingham Saturday Night and Sunday Morning is as much a record of a way of living as it is a gritty drama. Industrial landscapes with shots of machine shops, back to back housing and working men’s clubs provide the backdrop to Arthur’s story. Brilliant performances are given through out by the film’s central actors with Albert Finney in particular displaying a commanding on screen presence in the lead role. The snappy dialogue based on Alan Sillitoe’s semi autobiographical novel has also ensured that film has retained a sense of freshness. This dialogue is complemented perfectly by a cool jazz score.

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, among other things, provides a modern audience with a snapshot of late 50’s/ early 60’s living at a time when post war Britain was on the cusp of change and as Arthur Seaton changes so does the films landscape with its closing shots being of newly developing suburbia. The film ends ambiguously, leaving the question of whether Arthur is doomed to a life of conformity or whether the rebel within never really dies being left to the individual interpretation of the audience.

Find out more about the movie at


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