French Dressing…A fascinating version and censorship history of Ken Russell’s debut film, now set for its first UK DVD release on 13th April 2015

Posted: 21 February, 2015 in BBFC cuts, New Releases
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French Dressing DVD James Booth French Dressing is a 1964 UK comedy drama by Ken Russell (as Kenneth Russell).
Starring James Booth, Roy Kinnear and Marisa Mell. BBFC link IMDb UK: The full 86 minute cut was passed 12 uncut for moderate sex references, nudity for:

UK Version History

Late on in the editing process Warner-Pathe decided to shorten the film. The scenes removed have never been included in any official release and are now considered lost. From IMDb:

There is a missing scene between where Françoise agrees to join Jim and Henry at their place. This was Ken Russell’s favourite scene in the entire movie but it was dropped by the producers, hence the unexplained cut between France and the pier of Gormleigh.

Regarding the original 100 minutes, it is known that several scenes and tail ends including the one referenced on IMDb were removed from the cut as the film was considered too long by the original distributor Warner-Pathe that was part owned by Associated British at Elstree Studios who did not like the film. There are production stills, press shots and amateur photographs from residents of Herne Bay confirming scenes that were deleted.

The late French actress Germaine Delbat is credited in one version of the surviving prints yet is never seen in the film. It is believed that she played a kind concierge who took in Jim Stevens (James Booth) and Henry Ligget (Roy Kinnear) to her ruined Tudor hotel when they were hopelessly lost on foot in woodland on the road from Boulogne to Le Touquet.

The scene referenced on IMDb was after the two Englishmen found Françoise Fayol (Marisa Mell) in Le Touquet and brought her back to the hotel for a picnic (production stills exist of this) before returning to England with her the next day. These are the scenes that were most treasured by Ken Russell and the producer Kenneth Harper, but they to were cut possibly very late in the process hence why Germaine Delbat remains credited in one print as French woman .

The surviving print moves scene via a poorly executed cut from the Englishmen’s invitation in Le Touquet straight to their arrival back in England at the end of the pier.

Unfortunately of course all these scenes are believed to no longer exist in any format. Possibly Ken Russell might have owned a personal collection or the original 100 minute print but all of his possessions were destroyed in a catastrophic house fire in 2006. He confirmed that he had lost his copy in 2008 when he came to introduce an outdoor screening in Herne Bay.

UK: With the distributor’s cuts included, theBBFC passed the film A (PG) after furtherBBFC cuts required for an A rating for:

  • 1964 cinema release titled French Dressing (scope)

The BBFC cuts were:

  • The BBFC removed a scene with Françoise Fayol (Marisa Mell) dressed as a nun revealing her garter as part of a dream sequence. Ken Russell confirms this in an old Radio Times interview from 30 October 1971 which accompanied a BBC TV broadcast of the film that week. This scene was later returned in part or in whole to the surviving prints that exist today.

Apart from a number of worldwide television broadcasts of varying runtime, the film has been screened as a double bill (cut even shorter to 60 minutes) in Australia, Argentina, Canada, Germany, Japan and was given limited cinema circuit release in the UK in part thanks to the sudden popularity of James Booth via Zulu in 1964. There are surviving localised posters for all these releases.

The full 86 minute cut has been screened in local Herne Bay festivals and a BFI screening in 2011, otherwise it was largely buried and forgotten until now.

Network’s DVD is the first home video release of the film worldwide since Weintraub Entertainment released a cropped NTSC VHS in Japan circa 1989.

Promotional Material

Director Ken Russell’s first film is a comedy about the exploits of a deckchair attendant in the fictional English seaside resort town of Gormleigh. Aided by his reporter gilfriend Judy (Alita Naughton), deckchair attendant Jim (James Booth) dreams up a plan to revitalise the town by organising a film festival centred around French movie star pin-up Françoise Fayol (Marisa Mell). Travelling to France with entertainments manager Henry Liggott (Roy Kinnear) to enlist the star’s help, the pair finally convince her to return with them to headline the festival. But although Fayol receives a warm welcome in the town, a series of unplanned mishaps see the festival, which up to that point had been a roaring success, descend into farce.


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