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The Killing of Sister George is a 1964 play by Frank Marcus that was adapted as a 1968 film directed by Robert Aldrich.

Sister George is a beloved character in the popular radio series Applehurst, a nurse who ministers to the medical needs and personal problems of the local villagers. She is played by June Buckridge, who in real life is a gin-guzzling, cigar-chomping, slightly sadistic masculine woman, the antithesis of the sweet character she plays. June lives with Alice "Childie" McNaught, a younger dim-witted woman she often verbally and sometimes physically abuses. When June discovers her character is scheduled to be killed, she becomes increasingly impossible to work and live with. Mercy Croft, an executive at the radio station, intercedes in her professional and personal lives supposedly to help, but she actually has an agenda of her own.

Although it is strongly implied that June and Childie are lesbians, and towards the end it is suggested that Mercy could be as well, this is never explicitly stated. Marcus intended the play to be a farce, not a serious treatment of lesbianism, but because there was so little material about lesbians it became treated as such.

It was also clearly a parody of the killing of Grace Archer in The Archers (an episode much better known at the time the play was written than it would be in the 21st century) and has sometimes been compared with Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?.[1]

The 1964 West End production starred Beryl Reid as June. Two years later she reprised the role on Broadway in a production directed by Val May. After 7 previews, it opened on October 5, 1966 at the Belasco Theatre and ran for 205 performances. The cast also included Eileen Atkins as Alice and Lally Bowers as Mercy. Beryl Reid won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play and the play and Eileen Atkins received nominations.


Film adaptation

The Killing of Sister George

Original film poster
Directed by Robert Aldrich
Produced by Robert Aldrich
Written by Lukas Heller
Starring Beryl Reid
Susannah York
Coral Browne
Cinematography Joseph F. Biroc
Distributed by Cinerama Releasing Corporation
Release date(s) 1968
Running time 138 min
Country United States
Language English

Lukas Heller wrote the screenplay for the 1968 feature film version directed by Robert Aldrich. Beryl Reid was cast as June. Bette Davis and Angela Lansbury were considered for the role. Susannah York played Alice and Coral Browne as Mercy. In the movie Applehurst became a television soap opera, and the lesbian aspects of the plot are much more explicit. The film added many characters and shot many scenes on location. The opening sequence has June wandering through the streets and alleyways of Hampstead west of Heath Street. Another is in a real-life London lesbian hangout, the Gateways Club. Alice is portrayed as childishly naive rather than dim-witted, and June is more of an alcoholic. In one scene, while under the influence, she molests two novice nuns in a taxi, behavior that precipitates the beginning of the end for Sister George.

Between the time the movie started filming and ended production, the movie industry instituted the new MPAA ratings system. Largely on the basis of a graphic sex scene involving Alice and Mercy (deleted in some TV screenings) Sister George received an X rating, which limited its exposure in theatres and ability to advertise in mainstream newspapers. Aldrich spent $75,000 battling the rating, but his lawsuit was dismissed, and the film died at the box office.

Beryl Reid was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture Actress in a Drama. The film is available on DVD. Rarely seen on television, it was broadcast uncut by Turner Classic Movies as part of its June 2007 salute to gay cinema.

Radio adaptation

John Tydeman adapted and directed the play for BBC Radio 4. Broadcast on April 25, 2009, Sarah Badel played June, Lucy Whybrow played Alice and Anna Massey played Mercy.

See also


External links

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