Friday, August 12, 2011

#371. Georgy Girl (1966)

Directed By: Silvio Narizzano

Starring: James Mason, Alan Bates, Lynn Redgrave

Tag line: "The Wildest Thing to Hit the World Since the Mini-Skirt!"

Trivia:  Lynn Redgrave picked up the lead role after her sister, Vanessa Redgrave, backed out just before filming was to begin.

For years, Georgy Girl was nothing more to me than a song. My mother had a 45 single of this Oscar-nominated tune (performed by The Seekers), and many was the day its lyrics rattled around in my head:

“Hey there, Georgy Girl, 
swingin' down the street 
so fancy free”

Sure enough, those memories came flooding back the moment Georgy Girl began, with that damn song playing over the opening credits as we're introduced to the title character, Georgy (Lynn Redgrave), a plump, somewhat plain girl walking down a busy London street. Obviously self-conscious about her appearance, Georgy impulsively buys a wig to improve her looks, then almost immediately regrets the purchase. But as we'll soon learn, what Georgy lacks in physical beauty, she more than makes up for in personality. 

Georgy works as a dance instructor for children, and has her own studio in the upstairs room of a London flat owned by her parents' long-time employer, James Leamington (James Mason). Though more than twice her age, Leamington adores Georgy, and longs to make her his mistress (he himself is trapped in a loveless marriage to a hypochondriac, played by Rachel Kempson). But Georgy is secretly in love with Jos (Alan Bates), the sometimes-boyfriend of her beautiful roommate, Meredith (Charlotte Rampling). When Meredith announces she's pregnant, she and Jos tie the knot, but after a few weeks of living in the apartment with Meredith and Georgy, Jos begins to realize how shallow his new bride is, causing him to instead fall in love with the much kinder Georgy. 

As played by Redgrave, Georgy is a free spirit trapped inside a shy, withdrawn girl. One night, when Meredith goes out on a date with one of her many suitors, Georgy is left to entertain Jos, and it's clear the two have a good rapport with one another. When Georgy answers the door wearing a long coat, Jos jokingly asks if she's naked underneath it. “Stark”, Georgy replies, to which Jos responds “Let's have a look, then”. Georgy, somewhat embarrassed, sheepishly tries to keep the joke going by setting a price of threepence for such a show. This scene, and others in which Redgrave and Bates banter back and forth, have a terrific energy to them. So much energy, in fact, that we aren't at all surprised when Jos eventually chooses Georgy over Meredith, even if Georgy herself doesn't quite understand it. 

But the highlight of Georgy Girl is undoubtedly the performance of Lynn Redgrave, who infuses the title character with enough wit and charm to make up for all of her physical shortcomings, And while she may never be the most attractive woman in the room, we come to believe Georgy will always be the most intriguing.

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