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As a change of pace Russell did a lighter piece, The Boyfriend. This was a commercial failure. He then completed his most autobiographical film, Savage Messiah, funding it with his own money, another failure. With two flops he needed a commercial success, so returned to classical composers with Mahler.



The Boyfriend, 1971


Ken Russell The Boyfriend

Rather than film the musical The Boy Friend, Russell made the film about the making of the musical. When the star of a show breaks a leg, the newcomer, Twiggy, has to take her place. A major film director comes to look at the show as a possible new film.

Twiggy in Ken Russells The Boyfriend

The Boyfriend by Ken Russell   The Boyfriend by Ken Russell

Ken Russell The Boyfriend

The film was badly cut by the studio before release. Russell himself says (The Lion Roars) "but twelve reels are too long to tell such a slim tale, and Sandy Wilson's music, however tuneful, has diminishing returns, as one pastiche Twenties number follows another".  The imagery however is stunning.

Ken Russell The Boyfriend with Twiggy

It was filmed in Portsmouth in the Theatre Royal. Russell wanted to film in a theatre rather than a film studio. In a case of reality imitating art, as preparation Russell and Twiggy went to an amateur production of The Boyfriend in Essex and they caused the same reaction as in the film with the famous director visiting the amateur production.

Ken Russell The Boyfriend


Twiggy is a film newcomer putting in a good performance as the stage newcomer.  Glenda Jackson appears uncredited as the overshadowed ageing star. It was one day's work. Christopher Gable is the male star.

Twiggy in The Boyfriend  

Barbara Windsor in The Boyfriend

Barbara Windsor of the "Carry On" films appears. Russell wanted her to play differently from her usual image, but she didn't.  Peter Maxwell Davis again provides the music.  Photography is by David Watkin. Regulars are Michael Bradsell (editor) and Shirley Russell (costumes). Ken also did the screenplay.  The film cost $750,000.

best image

Ken Russell The Boyfriend

The dance sequences in Busby Berkley style are spectacular.

best scene Glenda Jackson telling the audience to be quiet as they clap the new star Twiggy.
themes Twiggy initially appears in a sailor's costume.

The innocent relationship of Twiggy and boyfriend.

films Other films released in the same year include A Clockwork Orange, The French Connection and two more Russell films- The Devils and The Music Lovers.



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