I first became aware of Billy Liar in the 1970s, when there was a TV series of that name on ITV. The main thing I remember about it was that George A. Cooper played Billy's father, and he was always using the word 'Bloody', which was mildly daring for the time. When I later traced back the history, I became aware that 'Billy Liar' was first a book, then a play, and then a film (and later on a muscial and lastly a TV series). Although it can now be seen that Billy Liar doesn't fit in with the idea of the 'kitchen sink' dramas of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning and This Sporting Life, one thing it certainly does have in common with them and others is that it was filmed in location in a Northern location, and these pictures beautifully set the shots against the modern locations, and I am very grateful to Dave Rattigan, who has placed these photos on the website www.britmove.co.uk; they must have really taken some work.
The book is set in the fictional town of Stradhoughton in Yorkshire. This is likely to be somewhere near to the north of Leeds (the train timetables at the end of the book help place where Stradhoughton is supposed to be) but it is not meant to be Bradford, as is often supposed. Waterhouse himself was born in Hunslet in Leeds.
The BBC's 'Hollywood UK: British Cinema in the Sixties', presented by Dick Lester, originally shown in 1993, was shown again on BBC Four in 2006 (but I missed it - damn!). In a similar fashion, they have placed original footage of the film alongside the two authors, Waterhouse and Hall, walking the same streets, in a very effective manner. Their comments are also very illuminating.
One of the many elements in the film that I have always really liked is the way the Julie Christie character, Liz, is portrayed as 'crazy' because she just does wild things, going off for weeks and maybe even months at a time - and which exotic location has she just been to when Billy sees her in the film?
Quite touching in its way!
My thanks to Dave Rattigan on the britmove.co.uk website, Tony Reeves' book, and to Renzo, Gareth Nolan and others on the reelstreets.com for some of the information on this page.