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A TASTE OF HONEY (director/writer: Tony Richardson; screenwriter: from the play by Shelagh Delaney/Shelagh Delaney; cinematographer: Walter Lassally; editor: Antony Gibbs; music: John Addison; cast: Rita Tushingham (Jo), Dora Bryan (Helen), Robert Stephens (Peter), Murray Melvin (Geoffrey), Paul Danquah (Jimmy); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Tony Richardson; Continental Distributing; 1961-UK)
It might have been daring during its time, but is now outdated.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An intense offbeat “Kitchen Sink” school drama realistically depicting life for the British working class. Tony Richardson (“Tom Jones”/”The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner”/”The Entertainer”) adapts Shelagh Delaney’s acclaimed West End and Broadway debut play. The film introduces the 19-year-old Rita Tushingham as the 17-year-old schoolgirl heroine. Tushingham won the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival for her no makeup sensitive portrayal of Jo, an uneducated slum dweller from the northern industrial city of Manchester who becomes pregnant after an affair with a Negro. The film is better in its parts than as a whole, as an overall tedium sets in that leaves the dramatics wanting.

Bored schoolgirl Jo lives with her alcoholic footloose single mum, Helen (Dora Bryan), in the slums of a northern industrial city. While walking around the docks to kill time so mum will leave the flat with her latest boyfriend, Jo meets the ship’s black cook Jimmy (Paul Danquah) and becomes pregnant with the sailor in a one night stand. He’s on shore leave and leaves the next morning for sea duty. Her 40-year-old mother is about to remarry a man eight years younger that Jo doesn’t care for, Peter Smith (Robert Stephens). Jo reacts to the news by getting a job in a shoe store and to avoid a quarrelsome scene, she opts to move in with her new gay friend from the shoe store Geoff (Murray Melvin). The perky gal forms a good partnership with the sensitive gay man, who gladly is willing to become surrogate father to the child. He is even willing to marry her. But Jo refuses and becomes increasingly depressed. Mum’s new hubby soon abandons her, and Jo allows mum to move in with her and Geoff. This is a bad move, as soon the overbearing crude mum ruins the peaceful household and Geoff is forced to leave by the revolting mum.

It captures the grimy streets and empty life of the slutty working class types, but in the end has nothing much to say about their drab life except its lacking in direction and energy. The unfulfilled drama is more of a downer than it should be. It might have been daring during its time, but is now outdated.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”