The Reluctant Debutante (film)

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The Reluctant Debutante
theatrical release poster
Directed by Vincente Minnelli
Produced by Pandro S. Berman
Written by Julius J. Epstein
Based on The Reluctant Debutante (play) 1955
by William Douglas-Home
Starring Rex Harrison
Kay Kendall
Sandra Dee
Angela Lansbury
John Saxon
Music by Eddie Warner
Cinematography Joseph Ruttenberg
Edited by Adrienne Fazan
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • August 14, 1958 (1958-08-14)
Running time
95 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2,250,000[1]
Box office $2,980,000[1]

The Reluctant Debutante is a 1958 Metrocolor comedy film in CinemaScope directed by Vincente Minnelli and produced by Pandro S. Berman from a screenplay by Julius J. Epstein and William Douglas-Home based on Douglas-Home's play of the same name. The music score is by Eddie Warner and the cinematography by Joseph Ruttenberg.

The film stars Rex Harrison and Kay Kendall — whom he had married in 1957 after they worked together on The Constant Husband (1955) — with featured performances by John Saxon, Sandra Dee, and Angela Lansbury. The setting is London's debutante season amidst the last presentation at Court in 1958. However, because of Harrison's tax problems, the film had to be made in Paris. Kendall had been diagnosed with leukemia, but was not told, prior to filming and only completed one more film, Once More With Feeling, before her death the following year.

In 2003 the film was remade as What a Girl Wants, starring Colin Firth & Amanda Bynes.


When 17-year-old Jane Broadbent (Sandra Dee) comes to London to live with her wealthy father Jimmy Broadbent (Rex Harrison), her stepmother Sheila (Kay Kendall) feels compelled by her social aspirations to introduce her to society. Jane is bored by the debutante balls she attends and the young men she is introduced to, but becomes interested in a drummer named David Parkson (John Saxon), who has a reputation for leading young women astray. To complicate matters, David Fenner (Peter Myers) relentlessly pursues Jane, even though she openly detests him.

As it turns out, Parkson's reputation is undeserved, but Sheila is convinced otherwise, and she tries to keep him away from Jane. Sheila's garrulous friend Mabel (Angela Lansbury) interferes with Sheila's attempts to separate the two in order to secure David Fenner for her own daughter, Clarissa (Diane Clare).

Fortunately for Jane and David, Sheila's plans fail miserably. The two young people fall in love with each other, and David Parkson proposes to Jane. He also inherits an Italian title of nobility, satisfying Sheila's concerns for Jane's social status.



The Reluctant Debutante was the 12th most popular film at the British box office in 1959.[2] According to MGM records it earned $1,555,000 in the US and Canada and $1,425,000 elsewhere resulting in a loss of $355,000.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study .
  2. ^ "Year Of Profitable British Films." Times [London, England] 1 Jan. 1960: 13. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 11 July 2012.

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