The Boy Friend

Movie Information

The Hendersonville Film Society will show The Boy Friend at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 26, in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.
Genre: Musical
Director: Ken Russell
Starring: Twiggy, Christopher Gable, Max Adrian, Georgina Hale, Antonia Ellis, Vladek Sheybal
Rated: G

In 1971, no one expected Ken Russell to follow his X-rated The Devils (released earlier that year) with a G-rated musical starring Twiggy, but that was exactly what happened. At the same time, the film he came up with could hardly be called conventional, but then it wasn’t the film Russell started out to make. Rather, it was the film that evolved the further he got into the material. His original plan was to make a fairly straightforward film version of Sandy Wilson’s 1954 stage show, but as he delved into it, it seemed too slight to survive the transition. The answer of how to approach it came to him when he attended an amateur production of the The Boy Friend where word got out that he was in the audience and the hopeful cast played directly to him. The result was that he reworked the material so that it becomes the story of a tatty theatrical troupe putting Wilson’s show on in a rundown theater that happens to be visited by Hollywood film director De Thrill (Vladek Sheybal). It’s partly the show (as performed by an energetic cast hoping to impress De Thrill), partly a backstage drama (derived from 42nd Street), and partly De Thrill’s (or Russell’s) vision of how the songs might be done on the big screen. Russell’s simple little film became a glorious extravaganza—and a salute to the early Hollywood musical.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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13 thoughts on “The Boy Friend

  1. Film Fan

    Have you ever heard that Julie Andrews, who was the star of the original stage version of “The Boy Friend,” was considered for the role taken by Glenda Jackson in the film? Your friend Ken Russell might be able to confirm – or deny – this.

  2. Ken Hanke

    I’ve never heard that, and budget-wise it seems improbable, but I can ask.

  3. Film Fan

    I knew you had a connection to him, so would be interested, for the historical record, to hear his answer.

  4. Your pal might chuckle about me not freaking out watching THE DEVILS, but I sure did watching THE BOY FRIEND.

  5. Ken Hanke

    me not freaking out watching THE DEVILS, but I sure did watching THE BOY FRIEND.

    I think KR might be able to relate — at least as concerns making the film and then seeing it after James Aubrey (The Metro-Goldwyn-Mangler) recut it for its US release.

  6. Ken Hanke

    I didn’t know the Weinsteins owned MGM back then!

    Aubrey made them look like amateurs. I’m not the one who slapped that name on him.

  7. Ken Hanke

    I am hoping that Chip drops in here post-screening and reports on the turnout and response.

  8. Chip Kaufmann

    We had 40+ people there which is a pretty good turnout for us. However 11 people walked out mostly within the first 30 minutes and all before the intermission. Those who stayed thoroughly enjoyed it especially the second half with the more elaborate musical numbers. Tommy Tune was a big hit.

  9. Ken Hanke

    I’m thinking of using it as our AFS Xmas movie. We’ll see if Asheville is keener on it.

  10. Chip Kaufmann

    Most of the people who walked out were new to me and younger than you’d expect. They either had difficulty following it or it wasn’t what they expected. HFS normally runs English subtitles whenever they’re available and that really helps with our audience but this edition doesn’t have them.

    We have a hardcore group of 25 who never miss a show and they sit through everything even if they don’t particularly like it and then we talk about it afterwards. They liked THE BOY FRIEND. Only two had heard of the show and no one had seen the movie before. If you do show it, don’t forget about the intermission.

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