UK 1965, 122 mins
Director: John Schlesinger

Released in the very middle of the 1960s, this John Schlesinger film also feels like the very epicentre of the scene. Julie Christie’s Diana Scott seems like the girl who has it all, but being the life of the party isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Just as the sixties were about to hit full swing, this sharp satire reveals the paper-thin reality of cover-story perfection.
Edgar Wright

Jaunty, heartless and stylistically nimble right from its knowing primary-school-to-poster-girl opening montage, John Schlesinger’s Swinging London picaresque has a shrugging confidence and stinging cynicism that have weathered well. The irony-filled gap between careerist model Diana Scott’s heartfelt narration and her ruthless bed-by-bed social ascent still packs a punch, even as the film’s cruder satirical attempts (a tantrums-and-tiaras charity auction, a cod-Fellini decadent parlour game) have lost theirs.

If Darling lacks the warmth of Billy Liar (1963) or the emotional heft of Midnight Cowboy (1969), its strong suit is its gimlet eye, ever alert to the hypocrisies of the bedroom and Laurence Harvey’s career-making boardroom. Frederic Raphael’s spiky script dissects Diana’s modus operandi mercilessly: ‘Your idea of fidelity is not having more than one man in bed at the same time.’ Yet there’s a curious dissonance between Julie Christie’s restless Diana, the quintessence of 60s New Womanhood, and the film’s class-bound 50s view of London life. Where Georgy Girl and Alfie are exuberant about the new British youth culture, Darling sidesteps it. But Christie’s thin-skinned Oscar-winning performance brings pathos to the film’s misogynistic morality tale, which extended even to the original knicker-pink poster: ‘Shame, shame, everybody knows your name!’
Kate Stables, Sight & Sound, May 2015

A contemporary review
One day, someone is going to make a film about a model (or film star, or beauty queen) with a witty, daring and unconventional theme. The heroine will make a great deal of money; she will live playfully and extravagantly; she will marry even more money. The daring and unconventional aspect will be that she isn’t noticeably corrupted by all this. But not yet. To suggest that it could be anything but terrible at the top is apparently more than flesh and blood can stand; and the thing that surprises me about a film like Darling is that people as thoroughly sophisticated as John Schlesinger and Frederic Raphael should accept the constrictions of so many flatly fashionable attitudes. Darling is sometimes clever, often ugly, always self-conscious. But its view of the world belongs to the corridors of Wardour Street. Its disillusionment looks like that of a gossip columnist who has left the party with a monumental hangover, but will still be back next day to see how all the awful people are contriving to amuse themselves.

Apart from star-struck adolescents, who aren’t presumably the audience Darling has in mind for itself, I believe people in general take a cooler and more sceptical view of show business and advertising than it suits those involved in these trades to imagine. The great glamour image is an advertising man’s four-colour illusion. To knock the props from under it, by showing the squalid, shabby, unhappy ‘reality’ (or, again, half-truth) below the surface, is, in 1965, an act of daring mainly to those within the charmed circle. And to be disenchanted, in any case, one must first have surrendered to an enchantment.

It goes without saying that a good deal of Darling is clever, funny and spitefully accurate. The camera circles and jabs, and the shutter clicks on a freezing moment of self-disclosure. Surprisingly often, however, the filmmakers leave one in doubt about just what value they intend to attach to a scene. Perhaps some modern Savonarola might just pull it off, on his own terms. But that is not the Schlesinger-Raphael method: they are far too knowing, with their snatches of effete dialogue juxtaposed with images of greed and self-satisfaction.
Penelope Houston, Sight and Sound, Autumn 1965

Directed by: John Schlesinger
©: Appia Films
Production Company: Vic Films
Produced by: Joseph Janni
Associate Producer: Victor Lyndon
Unit Manager: Ed Harper
Location Manager: Mara Blasetti
Assistant Director: Kip Gowans
Continuity: Ann Skinner
Casting Director: Miriam Brickman
Screenplay by: Frederic Raphael
Based on an idea by: Frederic Raphael, John Schlesinger, Joseph Janni
Director of Photography: Ken Higgins
Camera Operator: John Harris
Assistant Cameraman: Bernard Ford
Graphic Design: Ted Southcott
Film Editor: James Clark
Art Director: Ray Simm
Set Decorator: David Ffolkes
Wardrobe Designer: Julie Harris
Wardrobe Mistress: Jackie Breed
Make-up Artist: Bob Lawrence
Hair Stylist: Joyce James
Processed at: Humphries Laboratories
Music Composed and Conducted by: John Dankworth
Sound Recordists: Peter Handford, John Aldred
Sound Editor: Malcolm Cooke
Sound System: Westrex Recording System
Made at: Shepperton Studios

2nd Assistant Director: Stuart A. Black
Script Collaborator: Troy Kennedy Martin

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)
Carlo Palmucci (Curzio)
Dante Posani (Gino)
Umberto Raho (Paolucci)
Marika Rivera (Paris party woman)
Alex Scott (Sean Martin)
Ernst Walder (Kurt)
Brian Wilde (Basil Willett)
Pauline Yates (Estelle Gold)
Peter Bayliss (Lord Alex Grant)
Richard Bidlake (Rupert Crabtree)
Trevor Bowen (Tony Bridges, first husband)
Annette Carbell (Billie Castiglione)
Jean Claudio (Raoul Maxim)
Georgina Cookson (Carlotta Hale)
James Cossins (Basildon charity M.C.)
Jane Downes (Julie)

Hugo Dyson (Walter Southgate)
David Harrison (Charles Glass)
Irene Richmond (Mrs Glass)
Ann Firbank (Sybil Martin)
Tyler Butterworth (William Prosser-Jones)
Angus MacKay (Ivor Dawlish)
Margaret Gordon (Helen Dawlish)
John Schlesinger (theatre director)
Vernon Dobtcheff, Christopher Greatorex (art critics)
Brian Moorehead (Leslie Page)
Helen Stirling (governess to Cesare family)
John Woodvine (customs officer)
Jane Pearl (Jane)
Ray Lovelock
Silvia Dionisio

UK 1965©
122 mins

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Programme notes and credits compiled by the BFI Documentation Unit
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