Saturday, 25 September 2010

The Yellow Teddybears

We haven’t done anything on Robert Hartford-Davis for a while so, in the spirit of dissecting every wrong move he made in his long and baffling career, let’s rewind to one of his earlier works, a sober meditation on teenage attitudes towards sex called ‘The Yellow Teddybears’.

Made in 1963, the film (known as ‘Gutter Girls’ in the US) tells the heart-warming story of a clique of schoolgirls who are experimenting with sex, pinning a small soft toy to their school blazer lapel to show that they are 'real women'.

The girls, all seemingly in their mid-twenties, are of the plummy, Alice banded "hello, Mummy - hello, Daddy" variety, and inhabit a comfortable middle class world of new housing estates, open plan modernist schools and parents who have ambitions in local politics.

In their secret lives, however, they're all at it - attending rock and roll hops where geeky groups play instrumental versions of the 'Blue Peter' theme; going to sex parties where dirty old men watch them strip to their complicated foundation garments; getting knocked up and not knowing what to do about it.

Naturally, all the fun ends in attempted abortion, social exclusion and prostitution and, bizarrely, a climactic PTA meeting in which the whole topic of teenage sex and modern morality is discussed at exhaustive length. At this point, eighty minutes having elapsed, the film abruptly ends, leaving the fates of the protagonists up in the air, and leaving the audience with more questions than answers.

Knowing Hartford-Davis as I do, I'm pretty sure he had something far sleazier in mind for this early work, but was thwarted by the censor and the prevailing moral climate of early sixties Britain. 'The Yellow Teddybears' is pretty feeble fare for a man of his evil genius and, in the end, it's a film that has absolutely no point and no target audience: it's not racy enough to satisfy the prurient, and it's not thought provoking enough to have a message so, ultimately, it feels like a waste of time, and I say that as someone who has seen all of the 'On The Buses' films.

Here's a short clip that will give you a flavour. To be fair, it's quite a frank exchange for 1963, almost certainly contributing to that coveted x-certificate.


-0- said...

Missing from this scene is the bit where someone reads from the school charter: "Every pupil has the constitutional right to wear badges on their uniforms". At least I imagine so, anyway.

As you describe it, the plot - stripped of the badges and posturing - reminds me of 'What Have You Done To Solange?'

dom said...

There's an anecdote about RHD in Dennis Waterman's autobiography. Apparently RHD said to him re the actresses in "Smashing Bird...", "I auditioned 100 girls for this film & f**ked half of them"...sounds like he was a charming man.