Bitter Harvest (1963 film)

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Bitter Harvest
Bitter Harvest FilmPoster.jpeg
Directed by Peter Graham Scott
Written by Ted Willis
Based on 20,000 Streets Under the Sky by Patrick Hamilton
Produced by
Cinematography Ernest Steward
Edited by Russell Lloyd
Music by Laurie Johnson
Distributed by J. Arthur Rank Film Distributors
Continental Distributing
Release date
Running time
96 min
CountryUnited Kingdom

Bitter Harvest is a 1963 British kitchen sink drama film directed by Peter Graham Scott and starring Janet Munro and John Stride. The plot is about a young woman who rejects marriage to become a kept woman. The film is based on The Siege of Pleasure, the 1932 second volume in the trilogy 20,000 Streets Under the Sky by Patrick Hamilton. [1]



A beautiful but intoxicated woman, Jennie Jones (Janet Munro), returns to her London apartment late one night and begins to destroy its contents in a rage, throwing her purse, keys and many of her expensive gowns out into the street. Her story is then told in flashback.

As a young girl, Jennie lives in an economically depressed, former mining town in Wales, where she works in her father's shabby general store and dreams of a more glamorous life. The store is doing poorly, and Jennie is horrified to discover that her father wants her to move to Cardiff and live with her elderly aunts as a companion and caregiver.

While walking through Cardiff, Jennie and her friend Violet meet two well-off older men, Andy and Rex. The men take the girls to a fashionable bar and club for drinks and dancing, and Jennie gets drunk and passes out in Andy's car.

She wakes up naked in bed in the men's apartment in London, having lost her virginity while drunk, and estranged herself from her father by staying out all night. She goes to meet Andy at a London pub, but when he fails to show, she is befriended by the kindly barman, Bob Williams (John Stride), to the chagrin of the barmaid Ella who is attracted to Bob.

Not wanting to return to her home, Jennie says to Bob that she is pregnant and accepts his offer of help. Bob moves her into his flat and supports them both on his wages, planning to marry her soon.

However, Jennie quickly becomes bored, and accepts an invitation from Bob's actor neighbour to attend a party in honour of a well-known producer, Karl Denny (Alan Badel). Jennie tells Bob she is attending the party to get work as a model or actress, and convinces him to give her a large sum of money to buy a proper party dress.

Denny notices Jennie at the party and asks her to see him the following night, ostensibly about an acting role. After the party, a drunken Jennie creates a disturbance when she goes home to Bob's apartment. The next night, when Jennie fails to return from her appointment with Denny, Bob goes to Denny's apartment to find her and they argue, with Jennie revealing that she is not pregnant, does not love Bob and does not want to marry him. Heartbroken, Bob leaves and Jennie becomes Denny's mistress.

The flashback ends and the film returns to the scene shown at the start. The morning after Jennie's drunken rampage, she is found dead amidst the wreckage of her apartment (including a smashed framed photograph of Denny), having overdosed on pills. The police find her address book full of men's numbers, suggesting she had been promiscuous. The ambulance carrying Jennie's body almost collides with Bob and Ella, now a happy couple oblivious to Jennie's tragic fate.



The Guardian said the film "would appear to be a further attempt to Italianize the British film industry. The story certainly seems to owe a lot to Fellini" but praised the acting. [2]

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  1. BITTER HARVEST Monthly Film Bulletin; London Vol. 30, Iss. 348, (Jan 1, 1963): 157.
  2. A newcomer to films makes his mark The Guardian 4 Nov 1963: 4.