Only Two Can Play

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

Only Two Can Play
US cinema poster
Directed bySidney Gilliat
Produced byLeslie Gilliat
Screenplay byBryan Forbes
Based onThat Uncertain Feeling
by Kingsley Amis
StarringPeter Sellers
Mai Zetterling
Virginia Maskell
Music byRichard Rodney Bennett
CinematographyJohn Wilcox
Edited byThelma Connell
Distributed byBritish Lion Films (UK)
Kingsley-International Pictures (US)
Release date
11 January 1962
Running time
106 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

The film is set in the fictional South Wales town of Aberdarcy, and largely filmed in and around Swansea, Kingsley Amis's stated real-life city that Aberdarcy represents.[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 the couple never consummate their attraction.

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 film was the third most successful film at the British box office in 1962.[4]

It was nominated for Best Film in the 1963 BAFTA awards.[5]

In The New York Times, 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."[6]


  1. "Only Two Can Play (1962)".
  2. "Only Two Can Play (1962) - Sidney Gilliat - Cast and Crew - AllMovie". AllMovie.
  3. "Only Two Can Play (1962) - Notes -". Turner Classic Movies.
  4. "Money-Making Films Of 1962." Times [London, England] 4 Jan. 1963: 4. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 11 July 2012.
  5. "1963 Film Film And British Film - BAFTA Awards".
  6. "Movie Review -- Screen: 'Two Can Play':Peter Sellers and Mai Zetterling Star -".
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