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Darling (1965)


Main image of Darling (1965)
DirectorJohn Schlesinger
Production CompanyVic Films (London)
 Appia Films
ProducerJoseph Janni
ScreenplayFrederic Raphael
Based on an idea byFrederic Raphael
 John Schlesinger
 Joseph Janni
Director of PhotographyKen Higgins

Cast: Dirk Bogarde (Robert Gold); Laurence Harvey (Miles Brand); Julie Christie (Diana Scott); José Luis De Vilallonga (Prince Cesare Della Romita); Roland Curram (Malcolm); Basil Henson (Alec Prosser-Jones); Helen Lindsay (Felicity Prosser-Jones)

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A beautiful, amoral girl sacrifices everything and everybody to the satisfaction of her whims, but eventually finds herself trapped in a loveless marriage.

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Julie Christie strides into Darling (d. John Schlesinger, 1965) with a carefree confidence that recalls her performance in Billy Liar (d. Schlesinger,1963), though the film itself is very different. Its portrayal of a fashionable London 'jet-set' through Diana, Robert and their on/off relationship, covers subjects such as sex, homosexuality, age difference, fidelity, betrayal, jealousy, pregnancy and abortion, though even by the standards of the time Darling is not especially daring or realistic.

Darling's problem is that it portrays the shallowness of its rich, fashionable class all too well, although Diana's wistful narration suggests that we are expected to take it seriously. The only believable character is the amoral executive Miles (Laurence Harvey). Although Christie won an Oscar, her performance is surprisingly wooden, and while Dirk Bogarde's heavy eyes capture Robert's dissatisfaction with life, he ultimately seems just as bored by the film.

Shortly after they meet, Diana accompanies Robert to a television interview with Walter Southgate, whom Robert regards as the last great British novelist, not least because he is not from London. Robert is worried that literature, culture and television are becoming completely London-centric and will be intellectually doomed as a result - but the subject of London and television influencing other regions and the new society were dealt with more skilfully in Billy Liar.

From the opening credits, where large posters of Diana and Robert are pasted over images of African famine victims, Darling seeks to expose the hypocrisy of Diana's rich, white Establishment class, especially in the charity draw, where African boys are dressed as 18th-century pages. But the black people in these scenes have minuscule parts that are little more than caricatures themselves, undermining the film's good intentions.

Unlike contemporary films such as Blow-Up (d. Michelangelo Antonioni, 1966) and Georgy Girl (d. Silvio Narizzano, 1966), Darling lacks tongue-in-cheek humour and seems barely aware of popular music: odd for a film purporting to be modern and fashionable. Instead, it seems dated; its stifling dinner parties and mannered style of speech are more reminiscent of the previous decade. But the film offers an interesting counterpoint to the bleak working-class worlds of Room at the Top (d. Jack Clayton, 1958) or Billy Liar.

Ewan Davidson

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Video Clips
1. Opening sequence (3:39)
2. Jacqueline (3:00)
3. 'Truth game' (5:03)
Original Posters
Original sketch
Production stills
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Billy Liar (1963)
Room at the Top (1958)
Afternoon of a Nymph (1962)
Bogarde, Dirk (1921-1999)
Christie, Julie (1941-)
Clark, Jim (1931-)
Harris, Julie (1921-)
Harvey, Laurence (1927-1973)
Janni, Joseph (1916-1994)
Raphael, Frederic (1931-)
Schlesinger, John (1926-2003)
Female Protagonists