Boy Friend, The (1971)

“Now go out there and be so great you’ll make me hate you!”

Synopsis:
Meek stagehand Polly Browne (Twiggy) takes over the leading role in Sandy Wilson’s musical The Boy Friend when its star (Glenda Jackson) breaks her leg.

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Response to Peary’s Review:
This creative play-within-a-play adaptation of Sandy Wilson’s musical showcases Ken Russell’s ability to add a unique spin to any project he’s involved with. It’s dizzying, colorful, and fun to watch: Tommy Tune’s tap-dancing is a wonder to behold, and it’s hard not to hope that everything works out between Polly and her secret crush, Tony (Christopher Gable). As Peary points out, this film — which has “endless doses of wit, spirit, and charm” — is “much underrated”; other reviews are inexplicably scathing.

Redeeming Qualities:

  • Fun, Busby Berkeley-inspired musical numbers
  • Twiggy as Polly Browne
  • Tommy Tune as himself

Must See?
Yes, as one among many unique entries in Ken Russell’s ouevre.

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2 Responses to “Boy Friend, The (1971)”

  1. I’ll have to go to bat for this one and call it a must, esp. if there’s a chance to see it in a theater (or at least in a lbx version) in its entirety (humorously referred to as ‘Ken Russell’s Uncut Boy Friend’). Russell certainly has exhibited (and he is an exhibitionist) talent as a filmmaker, even if much of his major film work is unwieldy. Of his ‘musts’, I’d have to include ‘The Boy Friend’ with ‘Women in Love’, ‘The Devils’ (again, uncut), and ‘Crimes of Passion’. (I can’t quite include ‘The Music Lovers’, ‘Mahler’, ‘Tommy’ and ‘Savage Messiah’ but they hold together better than others.) I’ve seen ‘The Boy Friend’ a few times with stage theater audiences and they adore it–as insiders, they ‘get’ the precise depiction of theater life. That niche appeal aside, however, the film also aims directly at film fanatics since it is a love letter to old movie musicals–those fantasy sequences are wildly inventive and a lot of fun! (If I had to choose a fave, it would be the delirious ‘Safety in Numbers’.) ‘The Boy Friend’ also (no small thanks to Sandy Wilson’s delightful tunes) has the distinction of being Russell’s only ‘sweet’ film.

  2. So glad to hear from someone else who enjoyed this film–as I mentioned in my review, I can’t understand why it’s been panned by most critics. [In Ebert’s review, he actually refers to the “fundamental visual poverty” (!) of Russell’s vision, which doesn’t make sense to me at all!] I can see how it must be a favorite with theater audiences, and would actually love to see the musical itself live. Great songs.

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