Working-class accountant Joe Layton (Harvey) is that rare man with the looks, brains, and ruthless drive to knock down class barriers and ascend to the top ranks. But in the process, Joe loses all perspective in his life, discarding French lover Alice Aisgill (Signoret) — the one woman who understands and loves Joe for himself — to woo a snobby tycoon's daughter (Sears).
Based on John Braine's cynical novel, one of the first "angry young man" tales, Clayton's brilliant social drama is distinguished by sharp, biting dialogue and sexually explicit language unusual for its time. It's also a lacerating critique of the British class system that's lost none of its punch. Laurence Harvey's Joe makes a credible central character, but it's Signoret who holds your attention (and breaks your heart) as Alice. Deservedly, the gifted French actress won an Oscar for her sensitive portrayal.