The Boy Friend (1971)


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Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

The Boy Friend began life as Sandy Wilson's small-scale pastiche of British musical comedies of the 1920s. When the play was brought to America in 1954, its star was the teenage Julie Andrews. Because The Boy Friend requires a minimum of sets, props, and costumes, it has become a favorite of amateur theater groups throughout the world. But director Ken Russell, notorious for his onscreen excesses, abandoned the film's simplicity. He fashioned a humongous parody of the Busby Berkeley film … More

Rating: G
Genre: Romance, Musical & Performing Arts, Comedy
Directed By:
Written By: Ken Russell
In Theaters:
On DVD: Jul 8, 2011


as Polly Browne

as Tony Brockhurst

as Percy Parkhill

as Alphonse

as Rita Monroe

as Madame Dubonnet

as Lady Brockhurst

as Hortense

as De Thrill

as Tommy de Thtill

as Mrs. Peter
Show More Cast

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Critic Reviews for The Boy Friend

All Critics (11) | Top Critics (4)

Full Review… | October 23, 2004
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Full Review… | March 26, 2009
Top Critic

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Full Review… | May 9, 2005
New York Times
Top Critic

More a lesson in style (Ken Russell) than anything memorable, even with Twiggy.

February 21, 2008

Ken Russell's film version of the popular stage musical is, as expected, extravagant and campy in style, but it has charm and fashion model Twiggy shows interesting screen presence.

Full Review… | June 19, 2005

Audience Reviews for The Boy Friend

a treat for musical fans, the restored version of flamboyant director ken russell's '71 homage to busby berkeley films, starring twiggy! the film is a bit long, including even an intermission, but it's marvelous flights of fantasy entertained me more than anything i've seen in awhile. russell uses the device of a play within the film, a cheap production mounted by a down and out theater troupe, with the time worn gimmick of the understudy going on for the injured star, a la ruby keeler. 60s supermodel twiggy had admirable screen presence and was a great dancer. an absolute delight. thx tcm!

Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer


Over the top but delightful, "The Boy Friend" is director Ken Russell's arch take on a traditional musical.

Sandy Wilson's "The Boy Friend" debuted onstage in 1953, but its nostalgic music is rooted in the earlier 23-skidoo era. The story is just an old-fashioned romp of blushing courtship, but Russell knows better than to leave it as is. Instead, he adds an extra narrative layer: His film is about a chintzy staging of the musical, as a mix of naive and nasty actors grumbles through a poorly attended performance. The extra wrinkle is that a famous Hollywood director (name: "Cecil B. DeThrill") has unexpectedly popped into the opera box to scout for new talent. So, the cast is constantly going off-script and grandstanding to win his attention.

Sad-eyed Twiggy, the ingenue of all ingenues, stars as the shy stage manager who is forced into the lead role when the usual star (Glenda Jackson, in an unbilled cameo) breaks her leg. She's secretly in love with the male lead (Christopher Gable), so her onstage romantic scenes with him work on two levels. Such backstage issues resonate through the whole cast as philandering, love and bickering bleed into the chaotic show.

But hold on -- the film has one more layer, because Russell chooses to present some songs as character fantasies. Thus he avoids the limits of the stage production's intentionally tacky sets, and can indulge the excesses of visual imagination which are his trademark. Such blasts of pure cinema don't match the extravagant props and production design of later spectacles like "Tommy" and "Lisztomania," but they're still bound to make Russell's many naysayers squirm. A bit with elves and giant mushrooms is notably embarrassing, but some other sequences are wonderful. A brilliantly shot passage with dancers on a spinning record turntable (just one of multiple nods to Busby Berkeley's kaleidoscopic choreography) is especially memorable.

Twiggy shows surprising talent as both a singer and dancer, bless her waifish heart, and Broadway legend Tommy Tune also shines as a virtuosic tap dancer. Everyone overacts with bulging eyes, exaggerated grins and fourth-wall nods to the camera, but it suits the story. What in the world prevents a film this fun and accessible from being released on DVD?

Note: I am reviewing a 138-minute cut. There is another version which is only 109 minutes.

Eric Broome
Eric Broome

Super Reviewer

The greatest musical of all time!!!
Russell packs a ton of visual delights and keeps the charactors right up there with them. a colossal achievement!

Lars Micha

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