A Touch of Honey is based on a Shelagh Delaney play which she wrote when just eighteen.
It’s set in the industrial landscape of Salford and was the first and acclaimed role of Rita Tushingham as Jo.
She is the illegitimate daughter of Helen (Dora Bryan) a flighty woman first introduced as fleeing her landlord and the luckless victim of predatory and unreliable men typified by Peter (Robert Stephens) an alcoholic philanderer.
Jo gets pregnant by a black sailor Jimmy who leaves her for sea as kitchen boy in a liner but she finds some form of domesticity and escape from her mother in a platonic relationship with a gay student (Murray Melvin).
Tony Richardson directed the film.
After Oxford University, he went to the Royal Court where he put on Look Back in Anger and moved into films with another John Osborne play The Entertainer.
Despite his evident talent which made him and his film company Woodfall one of the stars of British New Wave he could not find film finance and moved to Los Angeles.
Shelagh Delaney was another young meteor who never really – as they say in the horse racing world – ‘trained on’.
Once again it was the actors and actresses that did: after A Taste of Honey, Rita Tushinhgam starred in The L-Shaped Room and Dr. Zhivago.
I last saw her as an elderly witch in an episode of Poirot. She is not a conventional beauty and definitely a fine actress.
A Taste of Honey engages issues far removed from the genteel humour of Noel Coward: interracial relationships, homosexuality, promiscuity, the predatory male, the unplanned child, the angry daughter in the milieu of not a hotel balcony or elegant drawing room but the grimness of Salford.
The Family Way also started life as a play by a northern writer Bill Naughton and is set in Bolton.
It stars John Mills and his daughter Hayley.
She had already a successful career as a starlet in Pollyanna. Here she plays a virgin bride Jenny whose husband Arthur is unable to consummate the marriage. He is played by Hywel Bennett.
The film is the first to feature nudity with back shot of the naked Jenny after luxuriating in a bath tub emerging from it.
The director was Roy Boulting whom she went to marry.
He was 33 years her senior and I have the feeling that the directorial decision of nudity was that of his and his brother John.
Hayley Mills is 75 today and after such a promising start she did not progress into a lengthy acting career. Rita Tushingham came from Liverpool and one assumes he knew the composer of the score of The Family Way Paul McCartney.