ON DVD & BLU-RAY
Georgy Girl (1966) starring Lynn Redgrave Blu Ray (Indicator)
The film that made Lynn Redgrave into a star
This adaptation of Margaret Forster’s novel also features a hit title song of the same name (performed by The Seekers). It stars Lynn Redgrave as Georgina Parkin, a child-loving, musically-talented young woman living in London with her glamorously attractive but selfish flatmate Meredith (played by Charlotte Rampling). Georgina herself is the complete opposite of Meredith; she has a large, lively personality but is only average looking and isn’t overly preoccupied with tarting herself up - as seen in the opening title sequence where she gets a then-fashionable haircut, only to decide to promptly wash it away in the sink of a public lavatory.
While she has never had a boyfriend, she has her admirers. One of them is James Leamington (James Mason), an ageing businessman who is the close friend and boss of her father Ted (Bill Owen). He attempts to get her to sign a contract for her to agree to be his mistress. However, since she is evidently not attracted to him, she keeps making excuses to brush him off. Feelings are also beginning to blossom between her and Meredith’s charming boyfriend Jos Jones (Alan Bates).
Matters come to a head when Meredith discovers that she’s pregnant, resulting in Jos stepping up and asking for her hand in marriage - which she accepts. However, while Jos and Georgina are both looking forward to her bringing a new life into the world, Meredith is considerably less so.
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Dated attitudes don’t spoil this spontaneous New Wave gem
This 1960s British film is sometimes lumped in with the country’s 1960s cycle of social realist dramas. However, it also bears an unmistakeable stamp of influence from the French New Wave, such as the early films of François Truffaut. Whereas the likes of Ken Loach always imbued a distinctive undercurrent of dispiriting grimness in their work, Georgy Girl positively bounces with joie de vivre right from its opening sequence featuring our central protagonist walking down a bustling London street, overlaid by an upbeat pop song commenting on the action. It’s a fast-paced and spontaneous film, featuring the characters interacting with each other in a playful manner, and each scene seemingly in a hurry to get itself out of the way within a split second of making its mark. There are plenty of laughs and even a riotous musical number. Kenneth Higgins’s cinematography is quite beautiful, especially during the romantic and atmospheric scenes of nighttime London.
While Lynn Redgrave is only billed third in the cast list, she’s the undoubted star and the film feels very much like a showcase for her talents. She won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Academy Award, and deservedly so. Her eccentrically endearing performance manages to overcome her somewhat ordinary (though not exactly repulsive) appearance and makes it easy to understand why men could, in time, easily fall for her. She also possesses a bouncy chemistry with her co-stars, especially Alan Bates as the boisterously cocksure young man who is increasingly drawn to her. Charlotte Rampling (who, as with Redgrave, was another fledgling young British actress at this point) is saddled with a somewhat less likeable character but has fun with her snotty demeanour. The top-billed James Mason is given something of a de facto supporting role as someone who could conceivably be described as a rather controlling “dirty old man”. However, he does manage to evoke some pathos during a restrained, sad moment near the end. Mason’s performance is as dignified as ever, albeit swapping his usual marble-mouthed onscreen voice for his own native Northern English accent.
At the same time, one could argue that Georgy Girl is rather dated in its attitudes. This being the Swinging Sixties, the idea of people going with multiple partners is treated in a considerably more casual and offhand manner than it would be nowadays. For instance, when Georgina and Jos are seen practically snogging right before Meredith’s eyes, she does little more than appear mildly annoyed - not that she has much to complain about, considering that she is seen going out and dating other men at certain points. Moreover, it is insinuated that rearing a child is the only positive life path for a woman to take once they reach adulthood, a viewpoint which seems rather sexist today. How times have changed.
However, despite the fact that some of the film’s aspects haven’t aged well, its breezy sense of fun and beautifully drawn characters remain timeless pleasures.
Runtime: 99 mins
Dir: Silvio Narizzano
Script: Margaret Forster, Peter Nichols, based on a novel by Margaret Forster
Starring: James Mason, Alan Bates, Lynn Redgrave, Charlotte Rampling, Bill Owen, Clare Kelly, Rachel Kempson
Blu Ray Audio-Visual
For the most part, the black-and-white images look very good with a beautiful level of contrast. At one point, however, I noticed a thin line running down the picture. Sound wise, it’s even more impressive. The ambient sounds in the background of certain scenes were so wonderfully subtle and clear that I was almost convinced that they were coming from outside my building. The classic title song itself sounds incredibly bright and sunny here. A job well done.
Audio Commentary with Kat Ellinger
The Diabolique Magazine editor provides this interesting commentary. While the film might seem a little dated in certain areas nowadays, she points out that it was quite progressive and innovative for the time as it tackled subjects such as pregnancy, abortion and sex outside of wedlock in a more detailed manner than before. The notion that women could have some choice and influence (albeit within very limited roles by today’s standards) was also seen as being quite feminist. In an era when thin, glamorous women were popular, the casting of Lynn Redgrave was a bold step and clearly very satisfying for her. She was somewhat insecure about her own body shape (she had an eating disorder), and was even told by Sir Lawrence Olivier that she would never be a leading lady because she was too much of a “flopsy bunny”.
Kat Ellinger also looks at the film’s place within the British New Wave, where working-class characters no longer pandered to peripheral stereotypes such as chirpy cockneys and devoted servants. In addition, she touches upon the differences between Margaret Forster’s novel and this screen adaptation. For instance, the book developed the characters via internal monologues rather than outward caricatures. This was a particularly significant change for the character of Meredith, who was considerably more sympathetic on the page than she comes across in the film.
The Guardian Interview with Charlotte Rampling
An audio recording of Christopher Cook interviewing the actress at the National Film Theatre in London during 2001, following a screening of François Ozon’s Under the Sand. She talks about her experiences of working on various key films throughout her career up until that point. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a big fan of these lengthy, often variable quality audio recordings which Indicator includes on many of their discs. Still, Charlotte Rampling devotees will enjoy it nonetheless.
The Tempo of Time
Screenwriter Peter Nichols talks about his input into the film. He was brought on board after a number of people connected with the film (including original director Tony Richardson and actress Vanessa Redgrave, who was the original choice before the starring role went to her sister Lynn) expressed unhappiness with Margaret Forster’s original adaptation of her own novel. However, he felt that there was nothing wrong with it and only contributed a few tweaks. He also attributes the film’s speedy, on-the-run feel to a cinematic attitude from the time, inspired by the likes of Richard Lester’s two vehicles for The Beatles: A Hard Day’s Night and Help!
A Wonderful Sense of Freedom
Editor John Bloom discusses his role in making Georgy Girl in this delightful and fascinating featurette. He replaced his friend Fred Burnley in the editing suite after the latter decided to move on to pursue a career in directing. Silvio Narizzano gave him a lot of creative freedom to do what he felt was right.
He discusses several key scenes in the film as well as his own preferences when editing. This includes one particularly noticeable continuity gaffe when Lynn Redgrave’s glasses are knocked off her face but are back on in the next shot. He maintains that it is better to capture the essence of a great performance and maintain the overall structure of a scene than it is to worry about continuity issues.
A very brief three-minute featurette with art director Tony Woollard.
Going for a Song
A short history of the theme song, narrated by editor John Bloom and lyricist Jim Dale. Originally, the opening credits were going to be set to the song Funny Girl. However, since the licence holders wanted more money than the entire entire £400,000 budget, they had to go back to the drawing board. Songwriter Dale was approached and had to write three different versions: one for the opening credits, one for the closing credits and a third for commercial release - the last of which became a major hit.
The extras are rounded out by a radio spot, theatrical trailer, image gallery and collector’s booklet.
Georgy Girl is a highly enjoyable 1960s time capsule with a title song which you will struggle to get out of your head for days. The print looks and sounds great.