Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Afternoon of a Nymph (1962)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Aspiring young actress Elaine wakes in her suburban home and prepares herself to meet her agent for lunch. Dressing, she rehearses lines from Romeo and Juliet, and remembers the night before, in which the man who drove her home from a showbiz party rebuked her for spurning his advances. Meanwhile, her mother worries at the state of her career, and tells Elaine off for neglecting her accountant boyfriend.

At the restaurant, Elaine's agent, Rogers, explains his plans to introduce her to high-profile director Francis C. Green at a party that evening. Another showbiz promoter, Tony, tries to persuade her to attend his own party afterwards. Elaine declines but Rogers accepts on her behalf.

Elaine arrives late for an acting job, and is rushed through make-up and on to the set, where she meets the director, David Simpson, and her co-star. They immediately begin the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet. After a single run through, the cameras roll. But this is not Shakespeare, it is a chocolate advertisement.

During the break, publicist Ronnie, persuades Elaine to wear a dress for her meeting with Green; all she need do is to drop the name of the designer to anyone who asks. She is visited in her dressing room by David, who lectures her about acting, chastising her for wasting herself on pointless work, and lamenting the travesty he is forced to make of a play he spent five years studying. Together, they rehearse the balcony scene, immersing themselves in their roles and, at the end, kissing passionately. David, impressed, advises her to ditch her boyfriend, commit herself completely to acting and brush aside the phoneys.

At Green's party, Elaine meets Ronnie, who introduces her to a journalist and photographer. Asked about her background, she invents a tragic story. David, who has been talking nearby to Linda, a dim-witted starlet, mocks her for her lying and they row. She rushes to the ladies' room, where she meets Ginger, another, more cynical starlet. Ginger offers her a lecture on the realities of the showbiz world, where aspiring young actresses are little more than trophies for the party crowd. She advises Elaine to learn to enjoy it or get out, then makes a pass at her.

Bewildered, Elaine runs into David and Rogers, who tell her Green has arrived. Rogers, Ronnie, and assorted other hangers-on swarm around Green, preventing Elaine from answering his question. Finally, she manages to speak, and Green responds by telling her to ring his assistant in the morning. Realising this is a brush-off, Elaine phones her mother, warning her she might be late. She runs into David again, who apologises for his earlier behaviour, but becomes angry when she mentions her boyfriend again. He accuses her of being shallow and artificial. He leaves with Linda, advising her to believe in herself. Realising she has no other options, Elaine leaves for Tony's party with Rogers and Ginger, as the journalist and the photographer talk dismissively of 'dumb starlets'.