She Wears Red Feathers and a Hula Hula Skirt*

  • Scandal-1989 film-Joanne Whalley-Profumo Affair-Murrays-Christine Keeler
    Well, where to start writing about Scandal, the 1989 film about the Christine Keeler/Profumo affair…

    I’m somewhat wary about such things – lives were changed, ruined, lost as a result of the goings on during, after and around it. I’m drawn to the intermingled intrigue, the stories and the heady glamour of parts of the story but I’m wary of being, well, a rubbernecker or overly voyeuristic.

    So, with that said. Scandal.

    Scandal-1989 film-Joanne Whalley-Profumo Affair-Murrays-Christine Keeler-2This is a film I’ve lived with for a long time, probably since the late 1980s/very early 1990s when I first saw it but when I re-watch it, which is only relatively occasionally, it often leaves me reeling and well, genuinely moved.

    Referring back to what I mentioned at the start of this post, initially it begins as what seem like high japes, all late 1950s/early 1960s glamour, style, indiscretions and hearts of London nightlife.

    Something which is undoubtedly helped by, well, Ms Joanne Whalley (then a once Batman’s beau Mrs Joanne Whalley-Kilmer) looking rather lovely indeed, all slink and period eyeliner and captures the playfulness, beauty, sadness and later hunted fear of Ms Keeler rather well.

    (As an aside, at that point she has taken a journey from brief popstar-ness, the north of England, prime-time 1960s-esque kitchen sink drama (A Kind Of Loving) to Mr George Lucas’ stories and Hollywood (Willow) back through the time-tunnel to the Profumo Affair via Peter Greenaway, very fine contemporary English conspiracy-noir (Edge Of Darkness), Alan Bleasdale (No Surrender), tragic tales of loves (Dance With A Stranger), Peter Greenaway and the like and then all the way back through the time tunnels to the Profumo Affair.)

    Scandal-1989 film-Joanne Whalley-Profumo Affair-Murrays-Christine Keeler-John Hurt-Mandy Rice Davies
    …but then, well, the reality and “If you live like this, this may well happen” kicks in and by the end what is striking and as I said, what leaves me reeling is the story of Stephen Ward, his hounding when the fun comes to an end and his untimely, sad death.

    It’s the scene when he (played finely by John Hurt) is in court, in a framed, scapegoated, somebody has to take the fall for all this way, Christine Keeler is giving evidence, her evidence is being turned against him and his fate is being stitched up by the prosecution and he just stands up and shouts “This is not fair” and then repeats it again quietly, heartbreakingly that really gets me.

    That and the human, day-to-day mention about his car needing oil in the note he leaves to his friend as he decides to “not let them get me”. Phew. It’s hard to even write about.

    I just looked up the definition of tragic and one of them is “Very bad or inadequate”. That seems to sum up the behaviour and activities of the hounders at that time rather well.


    *And the title of this post? Well, that’s one of the songs from the film’s nightclub scenes/its soundtrack.

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