Mrs Henderson Presents
Based on fact, the film begins at the funeral of Mrs Henderson’s late husband. Although holding it together for sake of appearances, she is clearly distraught and soon seeks refuge in her own company. Shortly afterwards, we see her discussing with a friend what it is that widows actually do with their time. Mrs Henderson is notified that widowed women are permitted to have hobbies, since they no longer have husbands to look after.
After disastrous attempts at charity work and other ‘ladylike’ things, it soon becomes apparent that Mrs Henderson is no ordinary lady. Mischievious and incorrigible, she has been shaped by her past and is determined to something worthwhile with her time. And it is on a drive through town that she first lays eyes on the Windmill Theatre. Soon, it is hers, and she sets to hiring someone to manage the theatre. It is then she meets Vivian Van Damm (played by Bob Hoskins), and despite the pair of them continually rubbing each other up the wrong way, Mrs Henderson decides he is the perfect man for the job. And so the Windmill Theatre is re-opened and is shortly hailed as a success. However, other theatres begin to steal their ideas, and soon the Windmill is losing money hand over fist and needs to come up with something new to boost audience numbers once more.
This is when Mrs Henderson decides something more risque is needed to tempt audiences – naked women. This was unheard of in 1930’s Britain, which makes Mrs Henderson all the more determined to go through with it. She manages to get official permission to stage her idea – providing the women do not move whilst on stage – their breasts may be visible – but nether regions are strictly prohibited. They are displayed like works of art, and are a huge hit with the theatregoers.
The success of the Windmill Theatre rises still further as World War II begins and London is subjected to brutal bombings by the German Luftwaffe. Being underground, the theatre is one of the safest places to be, and many of the actors and actresses move in whilst the war is raging outside. Young men from Army, Navy and Air Forces attend the performances, determined to enjoy themselves while they still can – as they know many of them will be killed when they go to the front lines. Mrs Henderson approves, and is determined to give the boys nights they will never forget – given her own son was killed during the first World War, having never seen a naked woman and experienced the joy of making love.
Keeping the theatre open is a rollercoaster ride, as many people disapprove of the practises going on under its roof – but thick-skinned as ever, Mrs Henderson doesn’t care what anyone thinks and is determined to keep entertaining the people as long as they want to attend. Full of song and dance, this is a nice happy film, despite the more serious backdrop of World War II and its casualties.
Mrs Henderson Presents is a really fun film, with the theatre performances causing you to tap your feet, and the various character relationships and developments causing chaos. Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins were a complete riot in this film, bickering like an old married couple, and Will Young was a ray of sunshine as the male lead on stage. A really watchable film that leaves you with both a smile on your face and tears in your eyes. Excellent.