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Customer reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
A Taste Of Honey [DVD] [1961]
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on 31 January 2011
I have a problem with British Cinema from the 60's onwards, especially Tony Richardson, Richard Attenborough and Ken Russell. Sorry if that offends some people who cherish these directors and their films. I know that most of these films were based on some very good novels, but this is a criticism of the style and attitude of the films themselves and not the material they were based on.
Sorry but to my eyes A Taste of Honey seems very patronising. Almost like the kind of film a committee of wealthy Oxbridge graduates would make rather than something made with the conviction of an artist. It's like they had the view that actors can pretend to be poor by putting on the right clothes and an accent, and then by setting the film in the slums it will appear authentic, but it doesnt create a deep understanding of how the lower class think, feel or behave. It's almost felt like watching a class of amateurs at drama school, it has that overacting and overemphasis of the Eastenders/ Coronation Street kind, and the clichéd dialogue doesnt help. Consequentially i felt that the film had very little depth of character and i wasnt convinced that Tushingham's character was truly suffering. Then there's the music which is like something from a 'Carry On' movie, explicitly signifying changes of mood, it comes in to tell us when its a happy scene, just so we know!
Overall it comes across as a cross between a fashion film and an exploitation movie.
In comparison, American, French or Japanese cinema from the same period doesnt have the same problems with showing harsh material or lower class lives but in a much tougher way, without sentimentality, and with a greater understanding of character and film style. Amongst other things, Bresson's 'Mouchette' comes to mind.
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VINE VOICEon 18 March 2009
Certainly one of the greatest, well-acclaimed and most significant pictures to come out of the early 1960s.

'A Taste Of Honey' is about a young teenage girl (Rita Tushingham) who's just left school and looking to 'escape' the unhappy and unfulfilled life she's had with her neglecting and man-loving mother. (Dora Bryan)

This film made Rita Tushingham a star, who then went on to make several more well-acclaimed movies during the 60s which saw the peak of her career. This also stars Murray Melvin, who plays the 'gay friend' of Tushingham's character, and at a time when such a role was something new, and pretty daring! When I was to ask Murray to talk about his making of the film and his role some thirty years later, (he was still being asked about it) he replied by saying that if he was to respond to all those who still wished to know more of how he felt about the role, he would have little time for anything else - and one can see why!

Every star in this surpasses themselves and with a great script this just had to be one of Britains biggest successes winning at the Cannes Film Festival.

Great stuff!

TRIVIA: Supposedly features Hazel Blears the MP as an extra at aged just five - but I don't spot her...
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on 4 June 2004
This film defines the beginning of the sixties, with Britain emerging out of the long years of postwar austerity, and as such, is useful for students of postwar history as well as cultural studies. More than anything, it depicts, without romanticism, the working class ! The pub scenes and a crowded Blackpool depict a bygone age when youth culture was becoming available to all, technology hadn't wiped out people's jobs and much of the Victorian housing hadn't been cleared in favour of housing blocks.
For people now in their 20s and 30s, this film marks the start of "our time" - which could mean single parenthood, awkward adolescence and materialism - amongst other things... and I'm sure our heroine Jo would make a good mother, in her own way. Does she remind anyone of their own mother? Time has aged this film like a classic wine.
Whilst the film doesn't romanticise the people involved, it is certainly a film with a sweeping romantic current. Expression of this is through the powerful and consuming but often clumsy, doomed relationships depicted in the film. Arguably this is the first and last social(ist) realist love films.
Salford does look pretty grim in this film, littered with smokestacks and factories, but there is so much depth in the performances of Murray Melvin, Rita Tushingham and especially Dora Bryan, that an eventual view of the city emerges as a human, even compassionate place.
Of course if the director and writer had set out to make such an epoch-defining film it wouldn't have happened. But it appears they stumbled into making what I would argue is one of the finest British films ever made.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 11 July 2017
A groundbreaking film on many levels based in a gritty and grimey Salford, showing a Northern England until then rarely portrayed in cinema and pushing many taboos at the time. The subject matter is the dysfunctional relationship between an unpleasant and self-centred mother, played superbly against type by Dora Bryan in an acting tour de force and her school age daughter, played naturalistically by newcomer Rita Tushingham. Bryan regularly skips out of lodgings with months of rent owing, leading to a nomadic life spent in dreary, rún down boarding houses. She spices up her life by regularly changing boyfriends and taking them for whatever she can get, leaving Tushingham alone for long hours. Tushingham dreams of her imminent departure from school, which we find is just a few weeks away and establishes her age. After a move she is helped off the bus by a black sailor, who she soon strikes up a relationship with.

For 1961 the sight of a mixed race couple kissing would have been highly unusual and potentially shocking - how times have moved on for the better. Bryan's latest boyfriend, soon to be her husband offers to take Bryan to Blackpool for the weekend, but is also reluctantly persuaded to take Tushingham. Bad feeling between the pair leads him to issue an ultimatum and Tushingham is sent back home early on the bus. Waiting for her is the sailor, and though the issue is handled off screen it soon becomes apparent that Tushingham has fallen pregnant at her first experience.

What happens next I won't reveal, except to say Tushingham takes up with an obviously homosexual young man. This again would be a brave portrayal at a time when homosexuality was still illegal.

This film exudes a bitterness at times, and deadpan comedy at others through sharply drawn and well portrayed characters. All the major actors here play their roles above and beyond, with Bryan in particular portraying the sluttish mother to perfection. The grainy black and white evokes the era and impoverished surroundings with no little atmosphere, it would not have worked anywhere near as well in Technicolor. A major film of the early 1960's, there is no cinematic gloss on display here. This is a film that will stay with you.
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on 24 October 2011
Rita Tushingham (Jo) lets Paul Danquah (Jimmy) shag her. She gets pregnant and moves away from her mother Dora Bryan (Helen) who, in turn has shacked up with her latest conquest Robert Stephens (Peter). Tushingham gets a job and an apartment which she shares with homosexual Murray Melvin (Geoff). Life goes on for all these characters and the story is set in Lancashire.

This is a drama that keeps you watching to find out what happens in the end. Personally, I was disappointed in the outcome but that's life! Rita Tushingham looks like Johnny Ball and Murray Melvin looks very gay. And that's because he is - it's as much a tale of how he copes with his shameful secret as it is of Tushingham's shame of becoming a single mother with a black baby.

The cast are good, my favourites being Dora Bryan and Murray Melvin. Robert Stephens also has some funny moments. The dialogue is good and I now realize that Morrissey must have been a fan of this film. One of his lyrics in the Smiths song "Reel Around The Fountain" is 'I dreamt about you last night, and I fell out of bed twice'. Well he lifted that from this film. It's what Danquah says to Tushingham as he tries to get his way with her.

Overall, the message seems to be that the lot of the homosexual is worse than that of a black person, a single mum or a slag mother. This made me sad but the film is still somehow satisfying. It's amusing in parts and basically unglamourously realistic. If you are watching to see some honey then you will be disappointed. I couldn't see any.
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on 26 May 2013
A Taste of Honey (Tony Richardson, 1961, 100')

An exemplar of a gritty genre of British film that has come to be called kitchen sink realism.
Writing credits: Shelagh Delaney (after her play) and Tony Richardson
Cast: Dora Bryan as Helen, Robert Stephens as Peter Smith. Rita Tushingham as Josephine ("Jo"),
Murray Melvin as Geoffrey Ingham, Paul Danquah as Jimmy.
Music by by John Addison, Cinematography by Walter Lassally, Editing by Antony Gibbs
Studio: Woodfall Film Productions.

Plot: Jo is a 17-year old schoolgirl, with a domineering, forty year-old alcoholic mother, Helen. After sustaining a fall after school, Jo meets a black sailor called Jimmy who invites her on to his ship to attend to her grazed knee. They soon start a brief relation-ship, after which Jimmy returns to his ship and departs. Relations between Jo and her mother become strained when her mother meets and marries a new man, Peter Smith. Feeling rejected by her mother, Jo starts a job in a shoe shop and rents a flat on her own. She meets a gay textile design student, Geoffrey Ingham, and invites him to move in with her. When Jo discovers she is pregnant by Jimmy, Geoff is supportive of her, even offering to marry her, saying at one point, "You need somebody to love you while you're looking for somebody to love." Helen re-appears on the scene after the failure of her relationship with Peter, who turns out to have been a selfish lout. She moves in with Jo, which causes tensions between Helen and Geoff. Geoff decides he can no longer stay at the flat and moves out, leaving Helen to care for Jo and her impending baby. Symbolic of Helen's disdain of Geoffrey is her return, near the end of the film, of the bassinet he gave to Jo. wikipedia

Awards and honours: The film won four BAFTA awards: Richardson won Best British Screenplay (with Delaney) and Best British Film, Bryan won Best Actress and Tushingham was named Most Promising Newcomer. Tushingham and Melvin were Best Actress and Actor at the 1962 Cannes Film Festival. In America the film won Tushingham a 1963 Golden Globe for Most Promising Female Newcomer and got Richardson a 1963 Directors Guild of America award nomination. Delaney and Richardson also won a Writers' Guild of Great Britain award.

Tony Richardson and cameraman Walter Lassally made this film what it is: A simple, subtle and poetic story. That's why it collected as many awards as it did, rightly. Acting is extraordinary, the homogeneity of a story translated to film shows Shelagh Delaney's skill - she used her original play.Rita Tushingham, of whom one should soon see more - A Place to Go (1963), The Leather Boys (1964), Girl with Green Eyes (1964) and The Knack ...and How to Get It (1965) - has an amazing presence.
The film has not lost anything over the years so, if you haven't already, see it!

242 - A Taste of Honey (Tony Richardson, 1961, 100') -Simple, subtle, poetic - 26/5/2013
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on 7 September 2010
Absolute belter this film dora bryan is just excellent. This film looks at single parenthood in the 60s(not a million miles away from the present era) A Young girl leaves school at the first chance she can desperate not to end up like her mother but ends up pregnant to a merchant seaman.Lots more happens but if i start there will be no need for you to get the film will there. If your a smiths fan watch out for the immortal lyrics from "reel around the fountain"
"i dreamt about you last night and i fell out of bed twice"
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on 15 May 2010
The most lyrical of the 'kitchen-sink' dramas that altered the landscape of British cinema on the cusp of the Sixties began life on the stage as a riposte to the Rattigan school, a seemingly-calculated compendium of elements that would have given his fabled "Aunt Edna" the vapours - a dysfunctional bed-hopping mother, a neglected teenage daughter who gets pregnant by a black seaman, and a disconnected but caring gay student with whom she sets up house to await the birth. Tony Richardson transforms this controversial theatrical hothouse into a rich and fascinating movie experience, fully embracing the atmospheric poetry of sombre Mancunian locations and quirky haphazard lives, showcasing in the process the captivating debut of Rita Tushingham. The duckling-faced elf with the beautiful eyes and thrusting talent is marvellously alive to Jo's fluctuating highs and lows, her knowing bravado and stroppy humour but fear of "the darkness inside". Her youthful longing for independence and freedom is compromised by the need for security. She lives a tragi-comic double-act with her feckless mother Helen,in which they bond occasionally but always pull away. Her innocent-dangerous relationship with Jimmy the black sailor nets her a toy car, a ring from Woolworth's and finally - after a family row - "a bit of love, a bit of lust and there you are." He sails off down the canal the next morning and Helen leaves to start a new marriage. Jo gets her first job in a shoe-shop and invites one of her customers to share her abode after a visit to the fair. Geoff, the homeless gay, settles in following a cautious start and becomes, as she puts it, her "big sister". When she finds she's pregnant she needs his support all the more but refuses his offer to marry her. She seems to have found the perfect arrangement - until Helen comes back into her life, her marriage having failed. Geoff is rapidly bounced without Jo's knowledge (one icy stare from Helen says it all) and the old order is resumed with a crucial difference for the future - the demands of motherhood on both women. Not exactly a happy ending but a relieving one.
The theme of fleeting childhood is a constant throughout the film, Jo's brief independence is like a dream through which she wafts until brought down to earth with a bump - literally. John Addison's music score is sprung on a children's jingle which takes on different moods and colourings as things progress and the local kids are always around to accompany Jo and Geoff on their outings. Jo has an artistic streak (though as things turn out she will probably never develop it) and while still at school earlier on exhibits more delight in making soap-bubbles in the ablutions than playing netball. This is echoed in the final scene on Guy Fawkes night when a little boy lights her a glowing sparkler which she stares at fixedly. It may be impermanent but it's dazzling and pretty, it relieves the darkness and in that there may be possibilities even if they're only dreams. Like a taste of honey indeed. Or even like movies themselves..
The skein of plot is tenuous and a little contrived and Helen's husband is pretty much of a device to take her away and then send her back again. The stage-origins are sometimes evident in dialogue-passages and interior moments but performance triumphs. Dora Bryan is brilliant as the mother and Murray Melvin never puts a foot wrong as Geoff. As for Tush, she may play to the camera now and again and her accent slides around but you can't take your eyes off her. I was highly gratified to secure the BFI disc, long deleted on the High Street, with its treasurable comments from the stars and the cameraman Walter Lassally. (Thanks Molly).
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on 7 December 2002
Shot mainly on location in the cities of Salford and Manchester, this gritty 1961 film by Tony Richardson, based on the play by Shelagh Delaney, deals with what were the sensitive subjects of the time namely, mixed race relationships, homosexuality and teenage pregnancy. Jo, who is first seen as an awkward schoolgirl,lives with her somewhat wayward and sluttish mother, Helen, who has an eye for the men and seems always to be one step ahead of the rent man. Jo meets and falls for a young black sailor, Jimmy, whilst mother Helen agrees to marry local business shark Peter, who has an eye for the ladies. Following an aborted trip to Blackpool from which Jo returns alone early, she meets up with her new boyfriend and spends the night with him.
Helen returning the following day packs her bag and leaves to get married and move to bungalow with her new found husband. Jo, on her own not for the first time, finds her own place to live and a job in a local shoeshop. She subsequently meets Geoff, a kind and gentle gay student who has been evicted from his lodgings because of his sexuality. Geoff is invited to move in with Jo and in essence becomes a substitute mother to her especially when she reveals she is pregnant to a "black prince". Although Geoff has feelings for Jo she rejects his advances and his offer of marriage "for the babys sake". Despite their apparant happiness together the peace is shattered by the return of Helen to look after her daughter in her hour of need, resulting in Geoffs timely and prudent departure.
This film portrays all the prejudices of the time but whilst pointed is also poignant. The characters of Jo, Geoff and Jimmy seem almost childlike and naive in their approach to life and their circumstances but Helen and Jo add humour to their mother and daughter relationship with some brilliant "catty" dialogue.
Strong performances by both Rita Tushingham as Jo,in her first film and by the irrepressible Dora Bryan as Helen. Murray Melvin sensitively plays Geoff and Robert Stephens plays Helens learing husband Peter.
A film for the classic film buff or for anyone who remembers Salford and Manchester in the 1960s
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VINE VOICETOP 100 REVIEWERon 16 December 2009
Possibly one of the best movies ever made. Dora Bryan is horrible, just vile, in the role of the mother from hell and she thumps her way through the script. Rita Tushingham, an acquired taste as an actress, is every bit as good as Bryan in her portrayal of the neglected, abused daughter. Together they give an acting masterclass. A Taste of Honey examines the consequences a mother's neglect has on the life of her daughter and how that daughter has to learn to survive against the odds. There are a lot of emotional scenes in this movie. One of the most poignant is when the girl's made homeless, thrown out on the street, because her mother's boyfriend hates her. Mummy throws her out like a bag of trash, so sad. Although tame by modern standards A Taste of Honey was considered outrageous, revolutionary, on it's release due to themes of homosexuality, sex before marriage, teenage pregnancy and mixed race relationships. No longer shocking, or unacceptable, but new concepts for movies in the early 1960s as the public moved away from post-war Britain and into a whole new way of life. Magical, dark, moving. Any fan of British film will want A Taste of Honey in their collection.
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