THE FAMILY WAY (1966 Britain)

the-family-way-1966-hayley-mills-16x9-widescreen-54d8dArthur (Hwyel Bennett) and Jenny (Hayley Mills) are like any other newlyweds who probably just like to have some privacy. To get their freak off I suppose, but they can’t seem to get the deed done, as they are constantly under the eye of family, friends, especially Arthur’s father, Ezra (John Mills). Not the sort of aphrodisiac a young chap was hoping for…

This is a most different John Mills than what we saw in Great Expectations, Tunes of Glory or Scott of the Antarctic. He’s a working class guy from Lancashire, very coarse and rough in his ways, but underneath his exterior beats a kind heart. The game plan is for Arthur and Jenny to get married, spend the wedding night at the groom’s place and then take off for a honeymoon trip. What Ezra decides, in a really brilliant move, is to keep the party from the wedding reception going over at his place. And then Arthur’s jack-the-lad boss, Barry Foster, sneaks into the newlyweds room and loosens the screws holding up the bridal bed.

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All in the spirit of good clean fun, but it does spoil the moment and Arthur has a performance problem. Hayley Mills character is not all that different from those she played at Disney. She’s a sweet young thing who’s showing a bit of understandable sexual frustration. Especially after the newlyweds discover the travel agent absconded with their money along with many others. They’re now forced to spend two weeks in the house with Arthur’s parents. Doubly frustrating because Arthur’s younger brother only wants to help big brother and Jenny overcome their delicate problem. Where is Viagra when you need it?

The young bride can’t help but surmise that little brother might be more virile than hubby. The flat’s thin walls prove another headache; Arthur becomes impotent and the couple is unable to consummate the marriage. Their affairs, or lack thereof, become the topic of conversation among interfering family members and the gossip of the neighborhood. This does not prove an asset to Arthur’s situation. The unusual (for that era) and touching theme is sensitively portrayed. The best performance in the film is that of Marjorie Rhodes as Arthur’s very wise mother.

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She suspects a problem, but has a great deal of difficulty just persuading her husband to let nature take its course. In fact during the course of the story she confesses an ancient indiscretion herself, showing she does understand far more than anyone realizes. Her exchanges with husband, John Mills, are priceless. Worried that the increasing Chinese population might cause a global food shortage, he says: “Someone should tell them to stop it!” to which she replies: “Why don’t you? They might take notice!”

Best moment in the film is Liz Fraser delivering a truly terrific put-down to Barry Foster, her husband, after he and Arthur duke it out and Arthur is fired. Has to be seen to be appreciated. This is one of the best British productions of the Sixties. Paul McCartney wrote a lush musical score, it was shot on location in Lancashire, giving it a real feel for the British working class. I am overjoyed to report there is no filming of the Fittons ( for that is the couple’s surname) bumping uglies or doing any other nasty deed. If they did anything like that off camera, it won’t show up on your dvd version. So its alright for grandma to watch after all.

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