When it premiered in the U.S. 55 years ago last night, a rather eloquent and quietly understated movie bore an evocative tagline in its opening ads: “Sex is nota dirty word!” Yet that same ad was adorned with additional copy: “Britain’s Academy Award Winner – Best Actress.” Thus, the confluence of the “adult” and the “respectable” conveyed the daring distinction of Leslie Caron’s revelatory work as a pregnant unwed woman navigating her uncertain, solitary way in a depressed London neighborhood in writer/director Bryan Forbes’ emotionally layered adaptation of Lynne Reid Banks’ novel The L-Shaped Room (1962). As Inside Oscar®scribes Mason Wiley and Damien Bona reported: “The New York Post’s Archer Winsten toasted Caron’s change of pace: ‘British neorealism digs its grimy teeth into a luscious morsel in The L-Shaped Room, which presents a different Leslie Caron to the public that adored her as Lili, Gigi and Fanny.'”
It was an image-enlarging stretch Caron ferociously sought; in a break from the original native English heroine in Banks’ original, Caron reportedly cinched the deal with filmmaker Forbes by asserting: “Everyone thinks French girls are easier to get into bed anyway.” The compelling result of her work had three weeks prior to the film’s stateside opening earned her the British Academy trophy. In the view of The New York Times’ Bosley Crowther, “The actress pours into this role so much powerful feeling, so much heart and understanding, that she imbues a basically threadbare little story with tremendous compassion and charm.” In addition to the film’s elongated-L title logo, the ads included the luminous face of a reclining Caron looking upward at the lean, chiseled face of her boarding-house lover, an eternally striving yet eternally frustrated writer broodingly played by Tom Bell, quite newer to films than his leading lady but later to appear in standout roles in TV’s Prime Suspect and two superb Twilight Time movie titles, Royal Flash (1975, exclusively available here: http://screenarchives.com/title_detail.cfm/ID/26423/ROYAL-FLASH-1975/) and Resurrected (1989, offered here: https://www4.screenarchives.com/title_detail.cfm/ID/27154/RESURRECTED-1989/). Crowther affirmed that he proved an able and appealing partner: “It is a most reasonable relation that Mr. Forbes has exquisitely wrought out of the tangle of tortured feelings – the young woman knowing only love, the young man knowing disillusion, resentment and jealousy. And he has drawn from his two leading actors scenes that throb with the passion and tension of two desperately interlocked beings.” There were more quality performances on view among the other inhabitants of the seedy boarding house, including American Brock Peters (fresh off his iconic To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) portrayal of the victimized defendant Tom Robinson) and revered British character players Avis Bunnage, Cicely Courtneidge and Patricia Phoenix, plus Bernard Lee as a disreputable visitor, and, as a Harley Street medico whose attitude helps solidify the Caron character’s decision to give birth, the indelible Emlyn Williams. Yet Caron endures as the film’s centrifugal force, and her turn world go on to capture both a Golden Globe® Award and an Oscar® nomination. See how respectably adult stories in which sex is not a dirty word enthrall by exploring The L-Shaped Roomin its lovely TT hi-def Blu-ray presentation.