Scandal (1989 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byMichael Caton-Jones
Written byMichael Thomas
Produced byStephen Woolley
CinematographyMike Molloy
Edited byAngus Newton
Music byCarl Davis
British Screen Productions
Distributed byPalace Pictures
Release date
3 March 1989
Running time
115 min (UK)
106 min (US)
111 min (Canada)
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget$7 million[1]
Box office£3,705,065 (UK)[2]
$8,800,000 (US)[3]

Scandal is a 1989 British drama film, a fictionalised account of the Profumo affair that rocked the government of British prime minister Harold Macmillan. It stars Joanne Whalley as Christine Keeler and John Hurt as Stephen Ward, personalities at the heart of the affair.

The film was screened in competition at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival.[4] The theme song "Nothing Has Been Proved" was written and produced by Pet Shop Boys and sung by Dusty Springfield.


An English bon-vivant osteopath is enchanted with a young exotic dancer and invites her to live with him. He serves as friend and mentor, and through his wide range of contacts and his parties she and her friend meet and date members of the Conservative Party. A scandal develops when her affair with the Minister of War comes to public attention.


In the credits at the end of the film Valerie Hobson is identified only as Mrs. Profumo.



Australian screenwriter Michael Thomas and prospective producer Joe Boyd approached the BBC with the idea of a three-part mini-series on the Profumo affair. The BBC agreed to finance scripts for two of the 90-minute episodes, but support dried up when internal memos were found that forbade their production. Channel 4 turned them down on grounds of taste.[5]

Boyd and Thomas joined forces with Palace Pictures who invested nearly £200,000 by 1985; a further £184,319 of development funding was raised from Robert Maxwell. As the prospects for a television mini-series began to fade, Palace Pictures became increasingly interested in making a feature film and estimated the budget requirements at £3.2 million.[5] Co-founders Stephen Woolley and Nik Powell signed up first time director Michael Caton-Jones on a pay-or-play contract and began a marketing campaign to raise the finance.[6][5] The controversial nature of the story, as well as its sexual content, appealed to Bob and Harvey Weinstein's independent film company, Miramax.[6] The Weinsteins agreed to pay $2.35 million for the North American distribution rights.[5]

The original screenplay was written as a historically detailed mini-series running four to five hours. When it was pared down to film length, it became more of a docudrama, with a chronology that is sometimes unclear.[7] Producer Woolley arranged discreet meetings between Mandy Rice-Davies and Bridget Fonda to help the American actress with her portrayal.[8]


Filming began in June 1988.[6] Part of Scandal was filmed at Bathurst Mews in Bayswater, London, although Ward's house was actually at Wimpole Mews in Marylebone.[9] The exterior of 29 Francis Street, Victoria, SW1 was used as the Police Station.


Christine Keeler took part in a publicity shoot with photographer Lewis Morley for a 1963 film about the Profumo Affair, The Keeler Affair. Under pressure to pose nude, Keeler agreed to sit straddling the chair with just the back of the chair as a screen. The film was never released in the United Kingdom, but the image became "one of the most famous and most imitated photographs ever published". Joanne Whalley-Kilmer recreated the pose for the theatrical release poster.[10][11]

US classification[edit]

The Weinsteins had been impressed by the amount of free publicity generated for Alan Parker's Angel Heart in 1987 when it was initially given an "X" rating in the United States.[6] Beginning with Scandal, Harvey Weinstein would routinely help publicise Miramax's films by attacking the integrity of the Classification and Rating Administration (CARA) and X ratings.[12] They encouraged Woolley and Powell to deliver an X rated movie, and in particular to include nude shots of Whalley-Kilmer.[6][a] The film was awarded an X rating for its orgy scene, but after two appeals and three seconds of edits, it was released with an "R" rating.[12]


The soundtrack, and soundtrack album, included a specially written song by the Pet Shop Boys "Nothing Has Been Proved" for Dusty Springfield.[13]


The film received positive reviews. At the movie review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Scandal received an overall approval rating of 91% based on 32 reviews.[14] Roger Ebert awarded it four stars out of four and said the film was "surprisingly wise about the complexities of the human heart". He praised the performance of John Hurt.[15] Following Hurt's death, The Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw said the performance was Hurt's masterpiece.[16]

The film made a comfortable profit.[3] In the UK made £3,705,065.[17]

Commenting on the pain felt by his parents when the film was released, David Profumo said "I never felt sorrier for them in my life".[18]



  1. ^ A body double was used when, according to Whalley-Kilmer, her husband (Val Kilmer) objected to the nude scenes.[6]


  1. ^[bare URL]
  2. ^ "UK Top Grossing films of 1989". Archived from the original on 8 April 2016. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  3. ^ a b Olins, Rufus. "Mr Fixit of the British Screen." Sunday Times (London, England) 24 Sept. 1995: 9[S]. The Sunday Times Digital Archive. Web. 29 March 2014.
  4. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Scandal". Retrieved 4 August 2009.
  5. ^ a b c d Jeffrey Richards; Anthony Aldgate (31 December 1999). Best of British: Cinema and Society from 1930 to the Present. I.B.Tauris. pp. 223–. ISBN 978-0-85771-081-9.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Peter Biskind (2004). Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance, and the Rise of Independent Film. Simon and Schuster. pp. 60–61. ISBN 978-0-684-86259-0.
  7. ^ "Reviews/Film; British Sex Scandal of the 60's Is Dramatized". The New York Times. 28 April 1989. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  8. ^ "Mandy Rice-Davies had secret meetings with Bridget Fonda over film portrayal". The Guardian. 20 December 2014. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
  9. ^ "ANOTHER SMART MOVE FOR LUROT BRAND" (PDF). Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  10. ^ "In the hot seat". The Observer. 10 February 2002. Retrieved 19 June 2017.
  11. ^ "The Keeler Affair (1963)". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved 19 June 2017.
  12. ^ a b Kevin Sandler (22 August 2007). The Naked Truth: Why Hollywood Doesn't Make X-rated Movies. Rutgers University Press. pp. 98–. ISBN 978-0-8135-4146-4.
  13. ^ The Trouser Press guide to '90s rock, Ira A. Robbins, David Sprague, 1997, page 555. "The following year, the Pet Shop Boys wrote and recorded the magnificent 'Nothing Has Been Proved' for Springfield to sing on the Scandal soundtrack."
  14. ^ "Scandal". 28 May 1989. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  15. ^ "Scandal". 5 May 1989. Retrieved 14 June 2017.
  16. ^ "Peter Bradshaw on John Hurt: 'A virtual folk memory of wisdom and style'". The Guardian. 28 January 2017. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  17. ^ "Back to the Future: The Fall and Rise of the British Film Industry in the 1980s - An Information Briefing" (PDF). British Film Institute. 2005. p. 28.
  18. ^ "A love that survived scandal". The Telegraph. 2 September 2006. Retrieved 16 June 2017.

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