Man Who Loved Redheads, The (1954 with Moira Shearer and Roland Culver)

UK / 1954

Director: Harold French
Writer: Terence Rattigan, from his play Who Is Sylvia?

Cast: Moira Shearer, John Justin, Roland Culver, Gladys Cooper, Denholm Elliott, Harry Andrews, Patricia Cutts, Moyra Fraser, John Hart

Terence Rattigan made a witty screen adaptation of his stage success Who Is Sylvia? which Harold French and a prime British cast turned into what Variety rightly called “a light and wholly enjoyable British comedy”.

Moira Shearer was splendidly showcased in the quadruple role of Sylvia, Daphne, Olga and Colette, the eponymous redheads loved by the title character, Lord Binfield, played at the age of 14 by Jeremy Spenser, who meets and vows eternal love to a young redhead. Later, in 1917, now played by John Justin, the hero is a young peer, a junior member of the Foreign Office and respectably married. However, he meets a young woman who is his physical ideal. When his friend Oscar (Roland Culver) returns on leave to his home, Binfield arranges to buy the house and lead a double life there. Several ladies later, now in 1929, Binfield meets a redheaded ballerina.

When his son Dennis, played by Denholm Elliot, turns up at a party for her, he agrees to say nothing about his father’s secret but she discovers Binfield’s marriage and ends their affair. Years pass and Binfield, now British Ambassador to France, and Oscar, now a general, meet two models, Colette and Chloe (Joan Benham). Colette exerts her fatal attraction on Binfield who invites the girls to the Old Vic where Elliott, now a star, is performing. There, to his horror, he encounters his wife, Caroline (Gladys Cooper), but she waves his hesitant explanations away by informing him she has always known about his double life.

The Man Who Loved Redheads marked Shearer’s most delightful performance(s) since her notable debut in 1949 in The Red Shoes and, under the sympathetic direction of Harold French, she was enchanting. Rattigan not only provided her with splendidly differentiated comic-dramatic roles but also gave her a chance to capitalise on her talents as a ballerina in one of her incarnations in an excerpt from Sleeping Beauty , vividly choreographed by Alan Carter.

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