Mrs. Henderson Presents (2005) from Tuna and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)


Tuna's notes

Mrs. Henderson Presents (2005) is a show business musical based on the actual Windmill Theater in Soho, the management of which convinced the Lord Chamberlain to permit female nudity on stage in the 1930s and 40s. Their argument was that as long as the women didn't move, the women on stage were no different from a Botticelli in the National Gallery, and were protected by the same laws and precedents. The theater's status was inflated by the fact that its performances ran continuously from noon until midnight, and grew to near-legendary proportions when it refused to shut down during the blitz in WW II. As it was below ground, management argued that it was both safe and inspirational, and thus continued the non-stop performances.

The film chronicles the history of the theater through the Blitz, and much of the film shows actual production numbers, and includes the tableau nudity. The spirit of the film derives from the relationship between its headstrong owner, the aristocratic widow who bought the theater on a whim after her husband died, and its equally headstrong manager, Vivian Van Damm. Mrs. Henderson was filthy rich, and not overly blessed with awareness or tact, but was redeemed by her sense of mischief and her willingness to take outrageous risks. Van Damm, for his part, was a theatrical professional and a solid businessman, but perhaps a little too stuffy.

The film moves effortlessly from humorous to poignant, and had me spellbound. The two main roles were performed by two giants, Judy Dench and Bob Hoskins, and they owned the parts. This is in the top ten movies that I have seen from 2005.



  • Commentary by director Stephen Frears
  • Several Making-of featurettes


Kelly Reilly was the star of the shows, and the other women, while equally naked, were mostly shown in groups, and had very little substance in their roles. Everyone did full frontal and rear in medium long shots, and close up breast shots.

Some of the other nude girls included: Rosalind Halstead, Sarah Solemani, Natalia Tena, and Anna Brewster.

There are several male full-frontals, including Bob Hoskins!

Scoop's notes

The thing I like best about Mrs. Henderson Presents is that it is not just a movie about the late thirties and early forties, but it is a movie from that period, albeit one enhanced by modern film techniques and (of course) nudity. Imagine Casablanca with tons of naked chicks, and there you have it. I don't know whether the script is a perfect recreation of that era, but it is certainly a perfect recreation of the films of that era. Oh, yeah, there's the whole sly fast-talkin' Warner Brothers Musical aspect to it, but more important than that is the fact that it contains the single basic ingredient which made the best wartime movies so stirring - the ability to move effortlessly from deep cynicism and light-hearted bickering to shameless sentimentality and patriotism. The whole idea behind Casablanca was that the Rick's cynicism and offhandedness gave us permission to cry at his selfless actions, something we would have been embarrassed to do in a Disney-style film in which the sentimentality would be pervasive and cloying from the opening bell. Mrs. Henderson uses a lot of the same sorts of techniques. If you close your eyes, you can easily imagine Claude Rains in the Christopher Guest role, a young Lauren Bacall in the Kelly Reilly part, Bogie replacing Bob Hoskins, and Kate Hepburn replacing Dame Dench. Dench and Hoskins bicker constantly and wittily, Reilly snaps off the sarcastic remarks like a sassy 40's dame, and Guest is the eternally befuddled but ultimately fair-minded public official who is occasionally allowed to think he is in control.

I agree with Tuna that this is one of the most pleasant entertainments of the year 2005. Since our primary "job" is to catalogue screen nudity, we have to go where the naked action is -  by-the-numbers thrillers, foreign comedies, no-budget splatter films, and overripe arthouse melodramas. After suffering through all that crap, it just warms out hearts to see all this beautiful nudity in a movie with both a brain and a heart and two of the great character actors of all time in the leads. I really enjoyed it. Of course, you have to account for my bias. I love the movies and the music of the 30s and 40s, so your mileage may vary if you don't share my enthusiasm for that period, but it gets my whole-hearted recommendation if you like that sort of thing!

The Critics Vote ...

  • Super-panel consensus out of four stars: more than three.   James Berardinelli 3.5/4, Roger Ebert 3/4. Roger Ebert's essay is one of his most interesting - a personal account of a youthful Ebert's visit to the Windmill Theater, as well as some additional details about the history of the theater in the decades after the period covered by the film.

  • British consensus out of four stars: two and a half  stars. Mail 8/10, Telegraph 8/10, Independent 4/10, Guardian 2/10, Times 6/10, Express 8/10, Mirror 6/10, FT 6/10, BBC 3/5.

The People Vote ...

  • Box Office Mojo. It was a moderate success. Although it never reached more than 431 theaters, it played for months and months and grossed ten million dollars. In fact it is still playing in 74 theaters as I write this, although the DVD comes out in two days!

The Societies Vote ...

  • It was nominated for four BAFTAs and two Oscars (Dench's performance and the costumes). Although it garnered many other nominations, it was shut out except for two "best newcomer" awards for Kelly Reilly.


The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

Our own guideline:

  • A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre.
  • B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also assign a B- or better to a well-reviewed film which did not do well at the box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
  • C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are indistinguishable to you.
  • C means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others probably will not.
  • C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film, but films with this rating should be approached with caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C- and an E are indistinguishable to you.
  • D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-. Films rated below C- generally have both bad reviews and poor popular acceptance.
  • E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre.
  • F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.


Based on this description, this film is a B (Tuna) or C+ (Scoop). Scoop says, "I liked it just as much as Tuna did, but I hesitate to declare it a B because the unusual combination of copious nudity with a traditional stirring showbiz story may not be for many people. It is basically a PG story filled with nudity, and I'm not sure how large the audience would be for such an endeavor. On the other hand, Tuna may be right. It did seem to appeal to a broad audience. In either case, it certainly appealed to me!"

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