Among the many films to emerge from the “Swinging London” film phenomenon of the sixties, Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush (1967) followed in the wake of such popular titles as Georgy Girl (1966), Morgan! (1966) and Alfie (all 1966) but is not as well known to American audiences. Based on Hunter Davies’ first novel, the film is a giddy, high-spirited time capsule of its era with day-glo colors, groovy fashions, British slang and playful cinematic techniques influenced by Richard Lester’s Beatles films such as speeded up motion, still frames, and the breaking of the fourth wall; the protagonist, Jamie McGregor (Barry Evans), constantly addresses the viewer in the manner of a confessional. The entire movie is set in and around “Newtown” (Stevenage in Hertfordshire), an antiseptic, modern suburb of London, where Jamie lives, works (as a delivery boy and stock clerk at a grocery) and goes to school. There is only one thing on Jamie’s mind – SEX – and the entire storyline is devoted to his pursuit of losing his virginity.
Although Jamie’s go-getter attitude suggests he’s an Alfie in the making, he’s much less successful when it comes to actual conquests and the movie chronicles one sexual misadventure after another, each one played for laughs, with Jamie coming close to but never succeeding in his quest. In fact, the entire movie is one long, unconsummated tease that withholds Jamie’s pleasure until the final act. It’s a comic exercise in sexual frustration similar in tone to Michel Deville’s Benjamin (1968) in which the title character (Pierre Clementi) is continually interrupted in his attempts at lovemaking.
When Jamie finally hooks up with his dream girl, Mary (Judy Geeson), he is shocked to discover she is as sexually adventurous and independent as he aspires to be but the film, directed by Clive Donner, doesn’t treat this revelation with irony. Instead he imposes a moralistic ending on the movie that only reinforces Jamie’s chauvinistic attitudes (as well as those of the male-dominated film industry at the time): Good girls don’t have premarital sex and aren’t promiscuous.
Donner, whose earlier films The Caretaker , based on the Harold Pinter play, and Nothing But the Best , had been well received by the critics, is clearly aiming for a more commercial, youth-oriented film with Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush. The result, however, is a mixed message farce with a trendy, pop art veneer, the swinging London sounds of The Spencer Davis Group and Traffic, and a stuffy bourgeois sensibility underneath it all, which makes the occasional nude scenes appear all the more voyeuristic.
The film actually ran into censorship trouble in England and the au natural swimming sequence with Barry Evans and Judy Geeson was excised from the film during its original release.
Most critics at the time treated Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush as an unexceptional sex comedy for teenagers. Typical of the general reaction was Hollis Alpert in Saturday Review who wrote, “The film for all its lighthearted cheerfulness, does not amount to much.” Renata Adler of The New York Times was much harsher, noting, “Its awfulness is cumulative – and if you also don’t mind voices pitched to a shrill unpleasantness, there is still the plot. It is a kind of cross between Billy Liar  and Closely Watched Trains ….some of the scenes are dull while others have some of the tasteless excesses of What’s New, Pussycat?  but from a pictorial point of view – of what a new fantasy of mod love and courtship might look like.” But there were some positive reviews as well such as Variety which stated, “Clive Donner’s production has a nimble alertness to juvenile characteristics and a nice flair for comedy…it’s pleasantly salted with lines about young sexual ambitions and their difficult achievement…Barry Evans wins both sympathy and laughs as the boy.” And more recent reassessments include Bruce Eder’s entry in Hollywood Rock: A Guide to Rock’n’Roll in the Movies which asserted, “Of all the “with-it” youth films of the 1960s, Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush is the one that broke the most ground. Its take on teenage sex was relatively honest, and it didn’t pander. In some respects, Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush seems like a British analog to The Graduate .”
While it definitely is not in the same league with The Graduate, Mulberry Bush holds up much better today than many of its contemporaries and is always visually engaging with occasional moments of sharp satire (Jamie’s claustrophobic home life with his parents and brother) and appropriate off-color humor (Jamie’s mom inspecting his underwear in the presence of a girlfriend). Whether intentional or not, the film’s setting with its drab, uniform housing developments and lack of green space adds another layer of desperation to Jamie’s situation and despite the surface gaiety, the stark reality beneath is just as depressing as a Ken Loach film such as Family Life (1971).
Barry Evans, in his film debut, makes an animated, cheeky protagonist who may occasionally remind you of the young Albert Finney in Tom Jones (1963) in some of his facial expressions and mannerisms. It was a promising showcase for the young actor but it didn’t lead to a successful film career and Evans is mostly known today for his work in two popular British television shows, Doctor in the House [1969-1970] and Mind Your Language [1977-1979].
The other leading players in Mulberry Bush – the various “birds” who are pursued by Jamie – includes Judy Geeson, who is a complete knockout and the most fleshed-out character; the rest – Angela Scoular, Sheila White, Adrienne Posta, Vanessa Howard and Diane Keen – function as eye candy and obstacles to Jamie’s sexual education. But the real scene stealer in the film is Denholm Elliott as a decadent aristocrat with a wine fetish who finds a captive audience in Jamie during his weekend visit to see his daughter.
Even though Mulberry Bush was often lumped in with other “Swinging London” based features, it was actually shot on location in Stevenage in Hertfordshire. The reason it wasn’t actually filmed in London was because the daily crew fee would have been much higher and unaffordable.
Scottish author Hunter Davies, who also penned the screenplay, was disappointed that the film wasn’t set in his native Carlisle. He also had to tone down the British cultural references and local slang because the distributor didn’t want to jeopardize their box office potential in the American market. As someone who has read Davies’ book, I can attest that the novel is a much more grubby, deglamorized coming-of-age confessional with a gay encounter that was not included in the film.
Davies is probably best known for his 1968 biography The Beatles which was approved by Brian Epstein, the group’s manager at the time. Davies is also the author of The Glory Game (1972), which is generally regarded as one of the best books ever written about football. Today Davies continues to write about football and other sports in his weekly column for the New Statesman. Of particular interest to rock music fans is the soundtrack for Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush. At the time of filming singer/songwriter and multi-talented musician Steve Winwood was performing with both The Spencer Davis Group and Traffic, both of whom are featured on the film’s soundtrack which was released in November of 1967. The Spencer Davis Group had just released the single “I’m a Man,” which became a huge pop hit. In December Traffic released its first album “Mr. Fantasy” and in March Winwood officially left The Spencer Davis Group for Traffic. The church rave scene with The Spencer Davis Group in the movie takes place at Bowes Lyon, an actual music club in Stevenage where The Who once played in 1965. Here is some additional information about the cast and crew of Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush.
Director Clive Donner began his film career as an editor on the 1944 film On Approval and then moved into directing, first in television in 1951 on the Hallmark Hall of Fame, and then in motion pictures with the 1962 feature, Some People featuring David Hemmings in a story about three bikers who form a rock ‘n’ roll band.
Donner made Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush after he completed the Peter Sellers-Peter O’Toole comedy, What’s New, Pussycat? (1965). Most film critics feel that his best work has been The Caretaker (1963), an adaptation of the Harold Pinter play which won the special prize at the Berlin International Film Festival, Nothing But the Best (1964) starring Alan Bates, and Rogue Male (1976), a made-for-TV feature with Peter O’Toole that won a BAFTA award (British Academy of Film & Television Arts) and was a remake of Fritz Lang’s 1941 thriller Man Hunt.
Donner co-produced Mulberry Bush with writer Larry Kramer who also provided some additional dialogue. Kramer is best known as the author of the play The Normal Heart and founded the AIDS advocacy group, ACT UP, in 1987. Kramer also wrote the screenplays for Ken Russell’s Women in Love (1969) and the 1973 megabomb musical remake of Lost Horizon.
Cinematographer Alex Thomson had only shot one film prior to Mulberry Bush – the Israeli comedy Ervinka (1967) – but this was an excellent showcase for his craft and led to a highly successful film career. In addition to receiving an Oscar® nomination for his work on Excalibur  and British Film award nominations for Eureka , Legend  and Hamlet , he has also lensed Labyrinth , The Krays  and Black Beauty  to list a few.
Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush was a promising and highly appealing screen debut for actor Barry Evans who plays Jamie, the skirt-chasing grocery clerk. Unfortunately, his film career never progressed beyond a few roles such as Ingild in Clive Donner’s period epic Alfred the Great (1969) and Eli Frome in Pete Walker’s 1971 thriller, Die Screaming, Marianne.
Instead, Evans became a television star during the seventies, first appearing in the popular Doctor in the House series as Michael Upton and then repeating that same character in the Doctor at Large series that followed. His last major success was in the TV series Mind Your Language (1977-1979).
After Evans appeared in the TV series Emery Presents: Legacy of Murder (1982), he didn’t receive any more job offers and to support himself he became a minicab driver in Leicestershire. He did return to the screen one more time in 1993 with a supporting role in the remake of Charles Dickens’ The Mystery of Edwin Drood.
Evans died on February 10, 1997 at his bungalow in Claybrooke Magna, Leicestershire. He was only 53 years old and the cause of his death has never been confirmed. According to the information at wiki.answers.com “His death…was attributed by the British Authorities…to alcohol consumption, but there were mysterious circumstances, which they failed to mention to the public. He was fully laid out on the sofa, when police found his body. They had come to inform him that they had found his stolen J-Reg Montego car, and he (Barry Evans) had previously reported that there had been a burglary at his home, and quite a few items were missing. Barry Evans had also made a call to a friend at 5 am in the morning, and had been very upset. The autopsy revealed that he had died of a blow to his head besides the high alcohol content in his blood – perhaps a Homicide.”
Except for the obscure 1963 drama Wings of Mystery, Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush was Judy Geeson’s first major film role. She had appeared in various British television programs prior to that but the Clive Donner film gave her wide exposure that led to her casting opposite Sidney Poitier in To Sir, with Love and the Joan Crawford horror thriller, Berserk! (both 1967).
For a brief period of time, Geeson looked as if she might be the next “Julie Christie.” She received critical acclaim for several of her performances in such dramatic fare as Peter Hall’s Three Into Two Won’t Go  with Rod Steiger and Claire Bloom, Ted Kotcheff’s Two Gentlemen Sharing , One of Those Things , an offbeat melodrama filmed in Denmark with a British cast, and Richard Fleisher’s disturbing account of serial killer John Christie, 10 Rillington Place (1971), which co-starred Richard Attenborough and John Hurt. Unfortunately, due to either limited opportunities or unlucky career decisions, the actress ended up accepting roles in B-movie genre films and sex comedies such as Percy’s Progress , Adventures of a Taxi Driver , and Inseminoid . Beginning in the late seventies and continuing to the present, she began to concentrate more on television work and less on motion pictures.
Geeson was briefly married to Kristoffer Tabori, the son of director Don Siegel and actress Viveca Lindfors. She currently lives in Los Angeles where she owned an antique store called Blanche until 2009. In recent years she appeared at a revival screening of Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush when it was shown at the Egyptian Theatre as part of the Hollywood Cinematique’s regular programming.
Angela Scoular, who plays Caroline in Mulberry Bush, divided her time between television work and moviemaking for most of her career though none of her film roles resulted in a breakout hit. She did appear in a number of major films but only in minor supporting roles such as A Countess from Hong Kong , directed by Charlie Chaplin, Casino Royale , On Her Majesty’s Secret Service  and The Adventurers , based on the Harold Robbins bestseller. She committed suicide in April 2011 by drinking a corrosive cleaning fluid.
Adrienne Posta, cast in the role of Linda in Mulberry Bush, appeared in several popular British films of the late sixties and early seventies – To Sir, with Love, Up the Junction , Some Girls Do  and Spring and Port Wine  – before concentrating on television work in later years.
It was in the role of Audrey in Mulberry Bush that Vanessa Howard made her film debut. Her brief movie career included such cult horror favorites as The Blood Beast Terror , Corruption , the black comedy Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny and Girly  and What Became of Jack and Jill? . She retired from movies after marrying Hollywood producer Robert Chartoff (Point Blank , Rocky , New York, New York ). They divorced in 1983 and Howard died in 2010 at the age of 62.
While Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush was mostly a showcase for young, up-and-coming actors, Maxine Audley and Denholm Elliott as Caroline’s decadent aristocratic parents practically stole the movie in their brief scenes. Audley had a long and distinguished career, appearing in such movies as The Prince and the Showgirl  with Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe, The Vikings , Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom  and The Agony and the Ecstasy . Elliott was one of England’s most distinguished character actors, scoring an Oscar® nomination for Best Supporting Actor in A Room with a View , and winning a younger audience with his appearances in Raiders of the Lost Ark  and Trading Places .
In minor supporting roles in Mulberry Bush, you’ll spot such familiar British supporting players as Nicky Henson (Witchfinder General , There’s a Girl in My Soup , Psychomania ), Roy Holder (The Taming of the Shrew , Loot , The Land That Time Forgot ) and Donald Pleasence’s daughter, Angela, who has appeared in such horror films as From Beyond the Grave (1973), Symptoms (1974) and The Godsend (1980).
Until recent years Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush has remained one of the more difficult films to see on any format until 2010 when BFI released a dual DVD/Blu-Ray of it. But unless you have an all-region player, it is still unavailable as a domestic release in the U.S.
- This is a revised and updated version of an article that originally appeared on the Turner Classic Movies website.
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