The Greengage Summer
|The Greengage Summer|
|Directed by||Lewis Gilbert|
|Produced by||Edward Small (executive)
|Music by||Richard Addinsell|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|5 April 1961 World Premiere, London (UK)
1 May 1961 UK General Release
The Greengage Summer (called The Loss of Innocence in the USA) is a 1961 British drama film directed by Lewis Gilbert and starring Kenneth More and Susannah York (in her first leading role). It was based on the novel Greengage Summer by Rumer Godden. Set in Épernay, in the Champagne region of France, it is the story of the transition of a teenage girl into womanhood.
More later named it as his favourite film, stating, "She [Susannah York] was just twenty-one and an adorable creature...it was one of the happiest films on which I have ever worked."
Joss Grey (Susannah York), a 16-year-old English girl, finds herself responsible for the care of her three younger siblings on a summer vacation in France when their mother is suddenly taken ill and rushed to the hospital. When they go to the Hotel Oeillets, proprietress Mademoiselle Zisi (Danielle Darrieux) does not want the responsibility of unchaperoned children, but her enigmatic English lover Eliot (Kenneth More) persuades her to accept them. As the days pass, she wishes she had stuck to her original answer; she is increasingly jealous of the attention Eliot pays to the children—especially to Joss.
Meanwhile, hotel employee Paul (David Saire), becomes suspicious of Eliot, snoops in his room, and finds a pistol. Eliot catches Paul and gets Zisi to fire him, but Joss's 13-year-old sister Hester (Jane Asher) has taken a liking to Paul and begs Joss to get Eliot to reconsider, which he does. But later he becomes angry when shutterbug Hester takes his picture. Then he rushes out of a tour of caves where champagne is stored to avoid famous guest Monsieur Renard (Raymond Gérôme), the best policeman in France. He also insists on turning away potential guests.
Tensions come to a boiling point when Zisi throws a glass of champagne in her rival's face. Eliot chases after her, saying—within Joss's hearing—that she is only a child. Gleaning from a newspaper article that Eliot is a notorious jewel thief, the outraged Joss mails Hester's photo of him to the police.
Eliot has already decided to leave. He sneaks out late at night and, hearing a drunken Paul attack Joss, rushes up to her room. He punches Paul, who tries to climb down a drainpipe but falls to his death. A remorseful Joss tells Eliot what she did to endanger him. At her request he gives her a grownup kiss. Then he disposes of Paul's body and absconds.
While Renard is questioning the uncooperative children the next morning, their solicitor uncle, Mr. Bullock (Maurice Denham), arrives. He has been summoned by an unsigned telegram to extricate them. Examining the message, Renard realizes that Eliot is trying to escape on a river barge.
- Kenneth More as Eliot
- Danielle Darrieux as Mademoiselle Zisi
- Susannah York as Joss Grey
- Claude Nollier as Madame Corbet, the hotel manager
- Jane Asher as Hester Grey
- Elizabeth Dear as Vicky Grey, the youngest sister
- Richard Williams as Wilmouse Grey, the young brother
- David Saire as Paul
- Raymond Gérôme as Police Inspector Renard
- Maurice Denham as Mr. Bullock
- André Maranne as M. Dutour
- Harold Kasket as M. Prideaux
- Jacques B. Brunius as M. Joubert
- Joy Shelton as Mrs. Grey
The film was a coproduction between Victor Saville and Edward Small for United Artists. It was meant to be one of several the two made together, a never-filmed adaptation of The Mousetrap intending to be another, with the third being Legacy of a Spy. Cary Grant was the original choice for the male lead. However the film was eventually set up at Columbia.
Lewis Gilbert thought Kenneth More was miscast. "He was somehow too normal, it didn't quite work; that's a role Dirk [Bogarde] should have played because you could well imagine a girl of fifteen or sixteen falling in love with Dirk."
- Kenneth More, More or Less, Hodder & Stoughton, 1978. ISBN 0-340-22603-X
- ' BEN-HUR' TO RACE FOR 213 MINUTES: Film Will Be Third Longest Shown -- Small and Saville Planning 'Dear Spy' By RICHARD NASON. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 07 Oct 1959: 47.
- Saville to Resume Producing Career: Godden Novel First of Three; Harold Kennedy Plans Comedy Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 03 Nov 1958: C13.
- 20th's 'Sanctuary' Awaits Green Light: Richardson Will Direct Film Version of Faulkner Drama Scott, John L. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 01 June 1960: A11.
- An Engrossing and Different Experience Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 20 Aug 1961: M3.
- Brian MacFarlane, An Autobiography of British Cinema, Methuen 1997 p 222