Ken Russell had two false starts
in the cinema. French Dressing is sublime but was a
commercial failure so he retreated back to television.
Later he directed a Michael Caine thriller. This was a
commercial and artistic disaster and Ken was again out of
French Dressing, 1963
||Ken Russell's first cinema film
is dismissed by everyone including Ken, but it is a minor
classic. It is an innocent British story about a
deck-chair attendant who arranges for a famous French
film star to open the local film festival.
But actually the plot is an excuse for a
series of sketches centred around the hero and heroine,
with a rite of passage for both before they realise their
love is more powerful than their ambitions.
|She is played by newcomer Alita
Naughton who is seriously cute, wearing a sailors
costume and looking like a female Tadzio from
Death in Venice- "the carnival is fancy
dress- come as a girl". The sailors costume
frequently appears in Russell films.
The film is black and white and has all of Ken
Russell's eye for imagery. The editing and pace, and the
good non-professional acting, are similar to Dick
Lester's Beatles work. The film was scripted as a light
comedy, and the set jokes don't work, but this gives the
film a charm, as two innocents share the events that
unfurl around them.
James Booth (right) and Roy
Kinnear, television actors, star. Alita Naughton is the
newcomer. Later she appears in Ken Russell's Isadora
Duncan television film. Ken met Alita when filming the
documentary Watch the Birdie about
photographer David Hurn, as she was then Hurn┤s
girlfriend. Bryan Pringle, playing the mayor, also appears in The
Boyfriend, and Sandor ElÚs would later appear in Isadora.
Russell is costume designer. Cinematography Kenneth
Higgins (Elgar), Editor Jack Slade. The screenplay was by Peter
Brett who Russell chose because he knew him as an actor
from Elgar. Ronald Cass and Peter Myers also worked on the
screenplay, as well as on the similar Summer Holiday. Russell is credited as Kenneth Russell.
The deckchairs floating
face down in the water.
Closely followed by Alita on
the beach using her typewriter, framed into the entire
screen. Closely followed by the
rowing boat sailing under the pier. All highly visual
||The opening sequence on
the pier. The courage of a newcomer to hold the shot as
the bicycle rides into the distance (David Lean edited
down his famous long shot in Lawrence of Arabia because
he thought the audience wouldn't take it).
The elements water, fire, earth and
air (including lightning) play a central role in the plot.
The French film star seems to escape disguised as a nun. She sits at the
railway station smoking a cigarette.
There is a film within the film.
Wheelchairs and Holocaust (inflatable dolls)
Other films released in the same year include My Fair Lady
(Oscar), Dr. Strangelove, A Hard Days Night and Mary Poppins.