Lunch Hour

Lunch Hour is a 1962 short film based on a one-act play by John Mortimer. It is about a man and a woman who attempt to have an affair during their lunch hour, but are continually interrupted. Shirley Anne Field described it as perhaps "the most enjoyable film I'd ever done" because the cast and crew all worked so closely together.[2]

Lunch Hour
Lunch Hour (1962 film).jpg
Opening title picture
Directed byJames Hill
Produced byJohn Mortimer & Harold Orton
Written byJohn Mortimer
Based onThe play by John Mortimer
StarringShirley Anne Field
Robert Stephens
Eyeline Productions
Distributed byBryanston Films (UK)
Release date
Running time
64 min.


A recently graduated art school designer joins a wallpaper manufacturing company and catches the eye of a married middle manager. They begin a workplace affair during their lunchtime breaks, but their attempts to find privacy are continually thwarted.

The man eventually locates a small hotel where he books a room for just one hour, but then feels the need to invent a hugely complicated tale to tell the hotel manager about a troubled marriage and a wife travelling down from Scarborough for a heart-to-heart.

The still-suspicious hotel manageress continually interrupts the couple and, as the man slowly tells the story to his would-be lover, she starts to believe the whole fantasy. She sees herself as the stay-at-home wife, ironing the man's shirts, and starts to have sympathy with the wife. The couple argue over the woman's imagined life, and as their hour in the hotel is up, the affair between the couple ends and they return separately to their work roles. There, the man appears sullen and unhappy, while the woman smiles quietly to herself as she works.


Stage playEdit

The play debuted on stage in 1961 as part of a triple bill, alongside A Slight Ace by Harold Pinter and The Form by N.F. Simpson.[3][4] The cast consisted of Emlyn Williams and Wendy Craig with whom Mortimer had an affair and conceived a son.[5] "It was the Sixties and we were all a lot more excitable then," said Mortimer.[6] It is thought Mortimer's affair with Craig during the production of his pay The Wrong Side of the Park may have inspired the writing of Lunch Hour.[7] The play was well received.[8]

The play was later adapted for TV in 1972 with Joss Ackland and Paulie Collins.[9]


Maggie Smith was considered for the female lead but the role ended up going to Shirley Ann Field who was given 7% of the profits.[10]

Field said "we did it, as you can guess, on a shoestring... and we all worked on a percentage of what the picture will make. The point is, we all felt that it had something important to say about the rootlessness and confusion that face young people in England today since they literally have no place to go and be along except on lunch hour. We think its bigger than it sounds in this kind of explanation."[11]

The film was shot at Marylebone Studios in London, a church near Baker St.[12]

DVD releaseEdit

The movie was issued on DVD in 2011 via the BFI Flipside release scheme.[13]

Sight and Sound called it "Cosy rather than cutting but with a strong whiff of cultural change... its zesty exploration of empowering female frustration makes it a thoughtprovoking addition to the lad-centric catalogue of early 1 960s British cinema."[14]


  • Grove, Valerie (2008). A voyage round John Mortimer. Viking.


  1. ^ Petrie, Duncan James (2017). "Bryanston Films : An Experiment in Cooperative Independent Production and Distribution" (PDF). Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television: 7. ISSN 1465-3451.
  2. ^ Interview with Shirley Ann Field about the movie on BBC Radio 4 15 April 2011 accessed 19 March 2013
  3. ^ Things to Come The Observer 1 Jan 1961: 18.
  4. ^ Slight Ache, A New Statesman; London Vol. 61, (Jan 6, 1961): 152.
  5. ^ Tim Walker and Richard Eden,"Mortimer's joy at son with Wendy Craig", Daily Telegraph, 12 September 2004 accessed 19 March 2013
  6. ^ More than forty years on, Sir John Mortimer discovers he has a son to actress Wendy Craig: [First Edition] Bunting, Chris. The Independent; London (UK) [London (UK)]13 Sep 2004: 14.
  7. ^ Grove 148
  8. ^ Grove p 153
  9. ^ Kings cross Lunch Hour at IMDb
  10. ^ Grove p 170
  11. ^ VIEW FROM A LOCAL VANTAGE POINT By A.H. WEILER. New York Times 4 Nov 1962: X9.
  12. ^ Grove p 177-178
  13. ^ Cinema Retro 5 July 2011 accessed 19 March 2013
  14. ^ Lunch Hour Stables, Kate. Sight and Sound; London Vol. 21, Iss. 6, (Jun 2011): 89.

External linksEdit