Preview by: Jack Foley
DAME Judi Dench takes the lead role of an eccentric widow in
Mrs Henderson Presents, the new film from British director, Stephen
Frears, which is among the films featuring at this year's Toronto
Set in London on the eve of World War II, the film finds Dench
as a woman who buys a theatre and turns it into The Windmill,
which became renowned for its all-nude revues.
The film co-stars Bob Hoskins and could well place Dame Judi
in the running for another Oscar, given its timely release among
It is also notable for featuring the film debut of 2001 Pop Idol
winner, Will Young, who plays Bertie, the Windmill's star performer.
The film will also include 12 musical numbers, according to
some online reports, one of which is called The Babies of
the Blitz, which is performed around a pile of rubble topped
by gorgeous nudes while Nazi bombs strip the streets of London
Needless to say, the film won't hold back on the nudity and is
rumoured to feature full-frontal shots of both male and female
members of the cast.
Yet behind all the raunch lies an
interesting story that Frears just couldn't resist exploring.
At the age of 70, Laura Henderson (Dench) converted an abandoned
Soho cinema into the historic Windmill Theatre and hired the formidable
Vivian van Damm (Hoskins) to run it.
The pair were known for their quarrelsome relationship but soon
opened Revudeville, which provided a mix of musical revues and
vaudeville acts. It became known as the London equivalent of the
Such was the tempestuous nature of their relationship, however,
that Ms Henderson frequently had to crash rehearsals by donning
disguises, including that of a polar bear, a black man and a Chinese
princess, having been banned for being too nosy by van Damm.
But real success eluded them until they started putting nude
models into the musical numbers, dodging the city's Draconian
censors by ensuring that the showgirls didn't move a muscle on
The Windmill subsequently became a magnet for American GI's during
World War II and was the only theatre to remain open during the
bombing of London in 1940.
With Frears at the helm, Mrs Henderson Presents promises to offer
an intriguing insight into a little-known piece of London's World
War Two-era history.