American Friends

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American Friends
American Friends (cover).jpg
Directed byTristram Powell
Produced bySteve Abbott
Patrick Cassavetti
Written byMichael Palin
Tristram Powell
Music byGeorges Delerue
CinematographyPhilip Bonham-Carter
Edited byGeorge Akers
Prominent Features
British Screen Productions
Distributed byPalace Pictures (UK)
Castle Hill Productions (US)
Release date
  • 22 March 1991 (1991-03-22) (UK)
  • 21 November 1991 (1991-11-21) (Australia)
  • April 1993 (1993-04) (US)
Running time
95 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office$23,034[1]

American Friends is a 1991 British film starring Michael Palin. It was written by Palin and its director, Tristram Powell.


Palin plays Francis Ashby, a senior Oxford professor on holiday in the Swiss Alps in 1861. There he meets the American Caroline Hartley (Connie Booth) and her 18-year-old ward Elinor (Trini Alvarado). Ashby is drawn to them both, particularly Elinor, but is rather surprised when they arrive in Oxford and rent a house. Women are not allowed in the College, nor are Fellows allowed to marry, which puts him in an embarrassing situation. Ashby's rival for the post of College President, Oliver Syme (Alfred Molina), takes full advantage of this to try to discredit Ashby.


The plot was based on a real-life incident involving Palin's great-grandfather, Edward Palin.



The film won the Writers' Guild of Great Britain Award for Best film/screenplay.


The CD soundtrack composed by Georges Delerue is available on Music Box Records label (website).

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