Shed Those Dowdy Feathers

February 12, 2016 § Leave a comment

British writer Margaret Forster, who wrote the novel Georgy Girl and collaborated on the screenplay for the 1966 film with Peter Nichols, died on Monday at age 77.

Her New York Times obituary calls Georgy, played by Lynn Redgrave, “a precursor of Bridget Jones … big, plain and saddled with an annoyingly pretty roommate.”

I haven’t read the book, but the film struck me as having deeper moral questions than its swingy London setting and whistly theme song gave it credit for. There is the dark class commentary from the outset–Georgy is disappointed at her parents for settling to work as servants to a millionaire named Leamington, who then selects Georgy as his mistress, to the point of drawing up legal documents, as well as the shadow cast by roommate Meredith’s hedonistic lifestyle. After becoming pregnant, Meredith tells her lover, Jos, that she’s aborted two of his children previously and practically shrugs at the decision to keep the third. There is Georgy, in spite of her parents’ work, essentially volunteering herself as a servant to Jos and Meredith and nanny to their unwanted child, and ending up as the object of Jos’s seduction while Meredith is giving birth.

The behaviors are abominable, and there is no believable love in the story at all, except Georgy’s for the child in her care. And when she ultimately runs away with the newly-widowed millionaire Leamington with the infant that they’ve all but adopted, there’s a sense that the message of the movie is how conveniently people can get used as means to an end. The lyrics to the radio-friendly theme song turn deeply cynical for the end scene, and the Seekers come off as an Oompa-Loompaish Greek Chorus:

Who needs a perfect lover
When you’re a mother at heart?
Isn’t that all you wanted right from the start?
(Well didn’t you?)

Hey there, Georgy girl
Now that you’re no longer on the shelf
Better try to smile and tell yourself
That you got your way
(You’ve made it!)

Hey there, Georgy girl
Now you’ve got a future planned for you
Though it’s not a dream come true
At least he’s a millionaire
So don’t despair!
You’re rich, Georgy Girl!
You’re rich, Georgy Girl!
You’re rich, Georgy Girl!

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