Mrs Henderson Presents
|Mrs Henderson Presents|
|Directed by||Stephen Frears|
|Produced by||Norma Heyman
|Written by||Martin Sherman|
|Music by||George Fenton|
|Editing by||Lucia Zucchetti|
The Weinstein Company
|Running time||103 minutes|
Mrs Henderson Presents is a 2005 British comedy film written by American playwright Martin Sherman and directed by Stephen Frears. It stars Judi Dench, Bob Hoskins, Kelly Reilly, and Pop Idol winner Will Young in his acting debut.
The film is based on the true story of the Windmill Theatre in London. Eccentric 70-year-old widow Mrs Laura Henderson purchases it as a post-widowhood hobby, and appoints autocratic manager Vivian Van Damm. In 1937 they start a continuous variety review called "Revudeville," but after other theatres in London copy this innovation, they begin to lose money. Mrs Henderson suggests they add female nudity similar to the Moulin Rouge in Paris. This is unprecedented in the United Kingdom. The Lord Chamberlain (Rowland Baring, 2nd Earl of Cromer) reluctantly allows this under the condition that the nude performers do not move so it can be considered art, the equivalent of nude statues in museums.
Because the theatre's auditorium is below street level it is relatively safe during the bombing of London, and performances continue. The performers bravely go on with the show even during frightening bombing raids, to the extent of the posed nude girls resuming their poses after ducking as the whole theatre is shaken and the scene flats all round them sway, following a bomb landing close by. Eventually, the authorities want the theatre to close because of the danger of crowds gathering in the street outside the theatre. However, Mrs Henderson successfully argues that for soldiers going to die in the war this is their last chance, and for many of the young soldiers their only chance, to see female nudity.
Maureen, one of the cast, becomes involved at Mrs Henderson's instigation with a young soldier, one of the audience regulars. Maureen becomes pregnant, is very upset about how it will affect her life, and hands in her notice. However, before the issue can be resolved, she is killed by a bomb while leaving the theatre.
Other scenes depict life in the theatre during the period. Mrs Henderson and Mr Van Damm frequently clash and squabble, but also show great appreciation of each other. The film's closing credits explain that on her death in 1944 Mrs Henderson bequeathed the theatre to Mr Van Damm.
- Judi Dench as Laura Henderson
- Bob Hoskins as Vivian Van Damm
- Will Young as Bertie
- Christopher Guest as Lord Cromer
- Kelly Reilly as Maureen
- Thelma Barlow as Lady Conway
- Anna Brewster as Doris
- Rosalind Halstead as Frances
- Sarah Solemani as Vera
- Natalia Tena as Peggy
- Sir Thomas Allen as Eric Woodburn
- Richard Syms as Ambrose
The film received mostly positive reviews. According to Rotten Tomatoes 65 percent of the critics gave the film a positive review out of 133 reviews. The Web site Future Movies regarded "very funny, sweet and charming." Roger Ebert reacted fairly positively to the film, saying "Mrs. Henderson Presents is not great cinema, and neither was the Windmill great theater, but they both put on a good show."
The film won four minor awards and was nominated for 26, among them four BAFTA Awards including Best Original Screenplay, two Oscars, three Golden Globe Awards and eight British Independent Film Awards.
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