This Sporting Life is a 1963 British film based on a novel of the same name by David Storey which won the 1960 Macmillan Fiction Award. It tells the story of a rugby league player, Frank Machin, in Wakefield, a mining area of Yorkshire whose romantic life is not as successful as his sporting life. Storey, the author, a former professional rugby league footballer, also adapted the script.
The film stars Richard Harris, Rachel Roberts and Alan Badel. It was adapted by David Storey from his novel and directed by Lindsay Anderson, and is considered to be one of the last major films of the British New Wave or "Free Cinema" movement.
The film was Richard Harris's first starring role, and won him a Best Actor Award at the 1963 Cannes Film Festival. He was also nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role. Rachel Roberts won another BAFTA award (her first was for Saturday Night and Sunday Morning) and an Oscar nomination for best actress. Harris was nominated for the BAFTA that year but was pipped by Dirk Bogarde for his role in the Joseph Losey production The Servant.
Filmed in Wakefield, the film is about a bitter young Yorkshire coal miner, Frank Machin (Harris). Following a nightclub altercation in which he takes on the captain of the local rugby club and is beaten up by the entire team, he is recruited by the team's manager, who sees profit in his aggressive streak.
Although somewhat initially uncoordinated at rugby, he impresses the team's owner, Gerald Weaver (Badel), with his spirit and brutality of his playing style during the trial. He is signed up to the top team as a loose forward and impresses all with his aggressive forward play. He often punches or elbows the opposition players throughout the game.
Off the field, Frank is less successful. His recently widowed landlady, Margaret Hammond (Roberts), uses him for sex but in her grief she cannot give him love, and he leaves after a row. Weaver and his predatory wife treat him as a commodity, to be used and discarded. When he finds that Margaret is in hospital, he goes and tries to give her solace, but she dies. In the end he is seen as "just a great ape on a football field", vulnerable to the ravages of time and injury.