Watch Staircase

"A sad gay story"
  • R
  • 1969
  • 1 hr 36 min
  • 5.3  (956)

Staircase is a 1969 movie based on the stage play by Charles Dyer. It follows the story of Charlie (Richard Burton), a middle-aged gay man who lives with his partner Harry (Rex Harrison) above their failing hairdressing business in London. The film explores their complicated relationship, their struggles with aging, and the societal discrimination they face as a homosexual couple in the 1960s.

Charlie and Harry have been together for over 20 years, but their relationship has become strained. They bicker and argue constantly, and Charlie is increasingly frustrated with Harry's habit of disappearing for days at a time. When Harry is hospitalized after a fall down the stairs, Charlie begins to confront his own mortality and the fragility of their relationship.

Throughout the film, we see Harry and Charlie interact with various characters, including clients at their salon, a social worker who visits them, and a group of aggressive young men who harass them on the street. These encounters highlight the discrimination and intolerance that was rampant in 1960s London, and the difficult choices that gay people were forced to make in order to survive.

One of the more poignant scenes in the film involves a visit from a social worker who is investigating Charlie and Harry's living situation. The social worker is friendly and well-meaning, but she is clearly uncomfortable around the couple and unsure of how to interact with them. When she asks about their love life, Charlie is initially dismissive, but he ultimately reveals the depth of his feelings for Harry, saying "We've lived on each other so long, we don't know how to live any other way."

Staircase is notable not only for its groundbreaking depiction of a gay couple, but also for the strong performances by Richard Burton and Rex Harrison. The two actors had a famously contentious relationship both on and off screen, which adds an extra layer of tension to their scenes together. Burton, in particular, gives a nuanced and powerful performance as a man struggling to come to terms with his own mortality.

The film was not a commercial success, and its frank portrayal of homosexuality led to it being banned in several countries. However, it has been praised by contemporary critics for its honest and empathetic treatment of its protagonists. As Time Out noted in a retrospective review, "Staircase is more than a worthy vehicle for a couple of prestigious stars. It's a serious attempt to understand and express an aspect of human experience still 'underground' in the 1960s."

In conclusion, Staircase is a powerful, thought-provoking film that tackles important themes of aging, love, and discrimination. It is anchored by strong performances from its two leads, and its frank portrayal of a gay couple living in 1960s London was groundbreaking for its time. While it may not be well-known today, it remains a compelling and important piece of cinema history.

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  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 36 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    5.3  (956)