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Callendar:  There's 200,000 consumers in this town, and they're all waiting for you... just you.        Albert:  Yeah, to con 'em into buying a whole load of stuff they don't need and can't afford.  Callendar:  There's a nasty little streak of honesty in you, Albert. You wanna watch that... it's bad  for business.

Britain at the beginning of the 1960s was still getting over rationing, which had lingered after the deprivations of World War Two into the mid-50s. Financially in hock to the USA as a result of the war, Britain was also under the spell of Hollywood and the modern American lifestyle. If Pop Art was one manifestation of (and/or comment on) this, the new arrival of "hire purchase" (an early form of buying on credit, with "easy weekly payments") also made everyday modern luxuries affordable for the ordinary British home... or so even Britain's less well-off families were led to believe.
Britain's class-ridden culture now had a new national myth of optimism, modernity and upward mobility to live up to, in the wake of 1951's Festival Of Britain. The new Welfare State and expanded educational opportunities "for all" were contributing too. The modern lifestyle as it should be lived could be seen on the Hollywood screen, and in a post-war flood of American and American-influenced magazines and paperback books. But the consumer durables which would furnish the lifestyle were beyond the reach of most until the coming of hire purchase. 
Now every household could have the washing machine, the latest TV set, the 3-piece suite... but the charming salesman who sold you the stuff would be back every week to pick up the payments. He was the "tally boy" and Jack Trevor Story brilliantly evoked the times by putting Albert Argyle, ace tally boy, at the centre of his tale. Ian Hendry brings Albert memorably to life on the screen; he's seen here with his son by the happily married Grace.
Albert is more than willing to meet the sexual needs of the housewives he visits on his rounds as well their desire for material goods. At the core of the story, though, is his stormy relationship with Treasure (June Ritchie) the single girl faced with bringing up their baby with little help from Albert. Albert's superficially happy-go-lucky attitude to life can't conceal his underlying anxieties, and in his repeated rows with Treasure he reveals his insecurity.
The film, like the book, is concerned with the downside of Britain's new gold dream, and of Albert's own self-delusions. Not entirely without conscience, the prince of the tally boys has his moments of doubt about his job, consciously felt, and perhaps about his personal ethics, though these worries he would find it harder to express. Likewise the story shows the unbearable strain on housewife Joyce Corby, in particular, as she struggles to meet her hire purchase payments and support the social aspirations of her husband, a rising local politician.
Albert sees the pressures he and his trade are exerting on their customers, and what happens to Joyce after the bailiffs are called in to repossess her furniture brings it home to him. But he can't escape his own nature - or his own debts - and he doesn't turn into a heroic figure. Neither does the film demand that we judge him as a villain; he's an ordinary bloke, better than some, a reflection of his times. The story is populated by well-observed characters, none more so than Albert himself.
Albert's adventures, and those of the rest of the cast, were to continue in print in the two sequels Something For Nothing (adventures in the trading stamps business) and The Urban District Lover which brought the local politics aspects of the story to the fore. Something For Nothing was originally planned as a film sequel, but the sudden death of producer Mario Zampi stopped it.
John Braine's Room At The Top, John Osborne's Look Back In Anger, Alan Sillitoe's Saturday Night And Sunday Morning, Keith Waterhouse's Billy Liar, Nell Dunn's Up The Junction and Kingsley Amis' Lucky Jim are probably more widely remembered as the literary and filmic documents of the times. Many of us know that Jack Trevor Story's Live Now, Pay Later deserves a place on that list. Whether it will survive as even a footnote, only time will tell.
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