Recently watching Georgy Girl for the first time since I was a wee lad in the late 1960s, it occurred to me that the time has come for a remake of this Swingin' London drama, on the heels of Alfie and The Italian Job getting made over for the big screen in recent years.
Okay, I'm going to stick out my neck here and nominate former EastEnders actress Natalie Cassidy (EE's Sonia Jackson) for the title role, for which Lynn Redgrave earned an Oscar nomination in the 1966 original. Separated at birth, both publicly struggled with their weight: Redgrave was a spokeswoman for Weight Watchers, while Cassidy starred in a workout video, only to have the tabloids report on every-pound she has gained since then.
True, Redgrave, who died in 2010, was born into an aristocratic acting dynasty, while Cassidy overcame her working-class trappings as a child actor plucked out of obscurity by EastEnders talent scouts at Anna Scher's influential drama school in North Islington for the less advantaged at the mere age of 10.
In 1966 Georgy Girl was among the biggest-grossing British import films in the U.S., no doubt helped along by a No. 1 pop hit single in the title song by The Seekers during the opening credits.Hell, I can already hear Adele's inevitable cover version for the soundtrack.
In Georgy Girl, Redgrave plays a recent college graduate daughter of a working-class butler; she makes ends meet by teaching music to underprivileged children. In one of Sonia's earliest EastEnders scenes that made an impression she was seen tooting on a trumpet, busking outside the Walford East Tube stop.
A second epiphany of 'Cassidy as Redgrave' hit me this past week while watching an EastEnders episode on US public TV - 7-1/2 years behind the U.K. - when the former's alter ego, Sonia Jackson, became engaged to Martin Fowler. What a ride they've had! He knocked her up when she was still a teenager; Sonia didn't even know she was preggers, reluctantly giving up Chloe for adoption.
A few years later, the ugly ducking (not unlike Georgy) finally finds love with a cute boy seemingly way out of her league, Jamie Mitchell, only for her fiancé to meet the carwheels of the reckless DWI Martin. A few years later, Sonia and Martin are drawn together. It sort of made sense considering the roller coaster they had shared.
Cassidy's final scenes as Sonia as a regular EastEnders character were screened in February 2007, although she's made two appearances since then, the latest being about a year ago to attend Ricky and Bianca's second wedding.
If Alfie (1967) told Swingin' London from Michael Caine's male perspective, Georgy Girl tells it from a female, borne out by Redgrave's pathos as a lonely 20-something looking for true love.
Redgrave went onto a solid acting career, albeit overshadowed by her more controversial sister Vanessa. Lynn followed Georgy Girl, which won her an Oscar nomination, with Smashing Time (1967), which presented fun Swingin' London, in contrast to Georgy Girl's relatively dark themes of unwanted pregnancy and adultery.
Jos, played by young and handsome Alan Bates, is chauvinistic and aimless but knows how to have a good time with or without protection. Tired of waiting for Georgy's glamorous roommate Meredith (played by then-'It Girl' Charlotte Rampling) back at the flat, her boyfriend Jos finds he has more in common with Georgy than Meredith. What emerges is an uneasy threesome, sans any further sex.
Meanwhile, nearly 30 years her elder, James Mason plays married lawyer James Leamington, who makes Georgy an indecent proposal, in a legal contract, for her to become his mistress. Georgy's father is unfazed way that his employer is looking to soil his only daughter, who from his perspective, looks ahead to spinsterhood.
Obviously my 10-year-old self missed all the heady subtext when I caught the movie on television after school one afternoon in 1968 on Channel 9's Million Dollar Movie.
Mason's lech recalls his role in Lolita. Georgy reluctantly marries Leamington after his wife unexpectedly dies, and she falls in love not with him but with Meredith's baby, in a plot development that could have easily ended up on EastEnders with Sonia as the protagonist.
About 10 years ago Cassidy and I briefly met at EastEnders' Elstree studio, and we discussed among other things our mutual love of Frank Sinatra's music. The Walford Gazette's Tim Wilson interviewed her the previous year.
Come on, Pinewood, Hollywood, anyone? Save this fine actress from another round of Celebrity Big Brother!
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