Only Two Can Play

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Only Two Can Play
Only Two Can Play poster.jpg
US cinema poster
Directed by Sidney Gilliat
Screenplay by Bryan Forbes
Based on That Uncertain Feeling
by Kingsley Amis
Produced by Leslie Gilliat
Starring Peter Sellers
Mai Zetterling
Virginia Maskell
Richard Attenborough
Cinematography John Wilcox
Edited by Thelma Connell
Music by Richard Rodney Bennett
Distributed by British Lion Films (UK)
Kingsley-International Pictures (US)
Release date
11 January 1962
Running time
106 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

Only Two Can Play is a 1962 British comedy film starring Peter Sellers, based on the 1955 novel That Uncertain Feeling by Kingsley Amis. [1] Sidney Gilliat directed the film from a screenplay by Bryan Forbes. [2]


The film is set in the fictional South Wales town of Aberdarcy, and largely filmed in and around Swansea, Amis's stated model for Aberdarcy. [3]


John Lewis (Sellers) is a poorly paid and professionally frustrated librarian and occasional drama critic, whose affections fluctuate between glamorous Liz (Mai Zetterling), and his long-suffering wife Jean (Virginia Maskell).

When a better paid job becomes vacant, Lewis is reluctant to apply, but is persuaded to do so by Jean. Then, he meets the obviously attractive Elizabeth Gruffydd-Williams (Liz), a designer with the local amdram company and wife of a local councillor.

Liz offers to intercede with her husband to help in getting Lewis the job, and makes it clear that she is attracted to him. Lewis is easily seduced into an affair, although it remains unconsummated.

Having been persuaded by Liz to leave the theatre's new production early one evening for an assignation, Lewis submits a bogus review to the local newspaper, but learns the next morning that the theatre burned down shortly after the play commenced. Jean thus learns of the affair and retaliates by encouraging her old flame Probert (Richard Attenborough), a self-important literary character and dramatist (who wrote the ill-fated play). Lewis also loses the friendship of his colleague and best friend, Ieuan Jenkins (Kenneth Griffith), who had a role in the play.

When Lewis is offered the better paid job, he realises that Liz will now use and control him if he lets her. Finally realising the price he has paid, he breaks off the affair and takes a job as a mobile librarian, in the hope that this will keep him away from predatory women. Jean is not so sure that he can resist them, and tags along to keep an eye on him.



The Times reported the film was the third most successful film at the British box office in 1962. [4] Films and Filming said it was the fourth most popular for Britain for the year ended 31 October 1962 after The Guns of Navarone , Dr. No and The Young Ones . [5]

It was nominated for Best Film in the 1963 BAFTA awards. [6]

New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther wrote: "ANYBODY who could do to organized labor what Peter Sellers did with his thumping performance of a union leader in the British comedy, "I'm All Right, Jack," is clearly the fellow to do the same thing to sex. And we are pleased to be able to proclaim he does it in his latest side-splitter, Only Two Can Play. With a script by Bryan Forbes that pops perpetually with some of the brightest British quips of modern times, with Sidney Gilliat directing and with a spanking new Mai Zetterling deftly applying the itching-powders as a grandly seductive Eve, Mr. Sellers performs an old Adam that puts all recent seventh-year scratchers in the shade." [7]

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  3. "Only Two Can Play (1962) - Notes -". Turner Classic Movies.
  4. "Money-Making Films Of 1962." The Times [London, England] 4 January 1963: 4. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 11 July 2012.
  5. British films are tops at box office Author: Douglas Marlborough Date: Monday, Dec. 10, 1962 Publication: Daily Mail p 3
  6. "1963 Film Film And British Film - BAFTA Awards".
  7. "Movie Review -- Screen: 'Two Can Play':Peter Sellers and Mai Zetterling Star -".