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The Boy Friend (1971 film)

The Boy Friend
Directed by Ken Russell
Produced by Ken Russell
Harry Benn
Written by Ken Russell
Based on the musical by Sandy Wilson
Starring Twiggy
Christopher Gable
Max Adrian
Tommy Tune
Brian Murphy (actor)
Barbara Windsor
Vladek Sheybal
Music by Peter Maxwell Davies
Cinematography David Watkin
Edited by Michael Bradsell
Distributed by MGM-EMI (UK)
Release dates December 16, 1971
Running time 137 minutes (original)
109 mins (US)
Language English
Budget $3 million[1]

The Boy Friend is a 1971 British-American musical comedy film directed by Ken Russell and starring Twiggy, Christopher Gable, Tommy Tune, and Max Adrian with an uncredited appearance by Glenda Jackson.[2] It is an adaptation of the musical The Boy Friend by Sandy Wilson. It was released on DVD on April 12, 2011.


The plot exists on three levels.

First there is the frame story where in the south of England in the 1920s a struggling theatrical troupe is performing a musical about romantic intrigues at a finishing school or young women in the south of France. To ongoing backstage dramas and audiences smaller in number than the cast, two extra ingredients arrive::a famous Hollywood film producer turns up to see the show, and Polly, the mousy assistant stage manager, is forced to go on when the leading lady breaks a leg. As Polly struggles to keep her cool while acting opposite the male lead she secretly loves, the rest of the company backstab each other trying to impress the impresario.

Next there is the musical itself. Four of the girls at the school are very forward and acquire boy friends but Polly is shy and has nobody to take her to the carnival masked ball that night. Tony, a messenger boy from a dress shop brings her a costume and the two young people are struck with each other. They meet again in the afternoon and reach an understanding, she pretending she is only a secretary so as not to seem above him. He comes to the ball and, when unmasked, is recognised as a peer's son. So Tony and Polly are both rich and can marry openly.

Thirdly, there are extensive fantasy sequences during which the characters' dreams are enacted in music and dance without words.



Dan Ireland thought Russell was motivated to make the film in response to the controversy of The Devils (1971).[1]


Head of MGM James Aubrey ordered 25 minutes be removed from the movie for its US release.[1]

Critical reception

  • Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote, "Even when he’s not deliberately doing Berkeley takeoffs, (Ken Russell's) camera is so joyless that it undermines every scene."[3]
  • The New York Times' Roger Greenspun wrote, "I am surprised to find that it is rather greatly to my taste; partly because it is often as witty as it is elaborate, partly because it works its variations on the fully recognizable and still quite wonderful Sandy Wilson words and music, and partly because it is supported by a charming and energetic cast."[4]


The National Board of Review voted Ken Russell best director, and Twiggy won two Golden Globe awards as best newcomer and best actress (musical/comedy).


  1. ^ a b c The BoyfriendDan Ireland on at Trailers From Hell accessed 2 August 2012
  2. ^ "BFI | Film & TV Database | The BOY FRIEND (1971)". 2009-04-16. Retrieved 2014-03-08. 
  3. ^ Jordan, Scott (1972-02-08). "The Boy Friend Movie Review & Film Summary (1972)". Roger Ebert. Retrieved 2014-03-08. 
  4. ^ Greenspun, Roger (1971-12-17). "Movie Review - The Boy Friend - Film: 'The Boy Friend':Twiggy Plays Polly in Russell Screenplay". Retrieved 2014-03-08. 

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