A private function

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Director: Malcolm Mowbray

Cast: Michael Palin, Maggie Smith, Denholm Elliott, Bill Paterson, Liz Smith

Other: Screenwriter: Alan Bennett; Music: John Du Prez; Cinematographer: Tony Pierce-Roberts

Country, Year and Running Time: UK, 1984, 94 minutes

Winner of 3 BAFTAs, for Maggie Smith, Denholm Elliott and Liz Smith, this story of small town Yorkshire life in 1947, when there is still post-war rationing, is another of Alan Bennett’s masterpieces, although actually his first big-screen film. He is a master of social observation, here in his own home county, where his father was a butcher. He has said that after the war the social divisions between the haves and have-nots, which were supposed to have been ironed out, worked in different ways. The scene in the hotel is based on his youth when his parents took him to a posh cafe but couldn’t afford to eat anything, so divided one cake between themselves.

The local doctor (Elliott), accountant (Richard Griffiths) and solicitor (John Normington) are planning a banquet to celebrate the wedding of Princess Elizabeth to Prince Philip. The main course is Betty the pig, being fattened up by a local black market farmer. Michael Palin is the local pig-breeding chiropodist whose conversation about feet at the dinner table rankles with his snobbish wife Joyce (Maggie Smith), a couple reminiscent of Keeping Up Appearances.

This comedy is a throwback to the best Ealing comedies, a classic film working as it does on so many levels, with a star-studded cast, too numerous to mention by name here.

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