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KenRussell
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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 cinema.

 

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.

Ken Russell French Dressing French Dressing by Ken Russell French Dressing by Ken Russell

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.

Alita Naughton Ken Russell French Dressing

Alita Naughton Ken Russell French Dressing

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. Death in Venice

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.

people

French Dressing by Ken Russell

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.

Ken Russell French Dressing

Shirley 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.

best image

Ken Russell French Dressing

The deckchairs floating face down in the water.

Alita Naughton Ken Russell French Dressing

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 scenes.

French Dressing by Ken Russell

 

best scene 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).

French Dressing by Ken Russell French Dressing by Ken Russell French Dressing by Ken Russell

themes

The elements water, fire, earth and air (including lightning) play a central role in the plot.

Ken Russell French Dressing

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.

French Dressing by Ken Russell

Wheelchairs and Holocaust (inflatable dolls)

French Dressing
films Other films released in the same year include My Fair Lady (Oscar), Dr. Strangelove, A Hard Days Night and Mary Poppins.

 

 

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