THE FAMILY WAY was the biggest homegrown hit in Britain in 1966 and when released the following year in the States it pulled a respectable $5,000,000 or thereabouts. The attendant publicity buzz was not just that it had something to do with Sex, but that said sex involved 20-year-old Hayley Mills, now grown-up enough to even slip a peek of the Mills bum—has the World gone starkers? Apparently it had, or she had, because the other bare-thee-well of the chatter puzzle was that the former Disney darling fell for her director, Roy Boulting, 53 (yikes) and married (the little vixen! the dirty bugger!), and they began an affair. Bygone dirt now dished, the movie they made is a total charmer. *
Their planned honeymoon in sunny, sexy Spain cancelled thanks to a bogus promoter, young newlyweds ‘Jenny Piper’ (Hayley) and ‘Arthur Fitton’ (Hywel Bennett) find privacy a problem when living in the house with Arthur’s parents and brother. Stress combined with virginal nerves play havoc with Arthur’s ability to consummate bliss, and soon enough everyone in their Lancashire town knows the pair aren’t properly pairing. The spirit may be willing to sail, but the HMS Bloke is stuck in dry dock.
Boulting and Jeffrey Dell wrote their witty and compassionate script based off “All in Good Time”, a working-class comic play written five years earlier by Bill Naughton (Alfie). Intimate, gentle and revealing, pointedly funny in an observant and forgiving fashion, ultimately quite touching, it’s an excellent showcase for a spot-on cast.
Though her fame rested on her winning personality and sunny cuteness in her delightful Disney classics like Pollyanna and In Search Of The Castaways, the younger Hayley had also done well in dramas Tiger Bay, Whistle Down The Wind and The Chalk Garden. Now she showed the same skill as an adult; still charming and smart, she never misses a beat, but the cute had up-shifted into fetching. Bennett, 22, a budding Welsh talent, made his feature debut here, and he’s very good: Boulting related “We weren’t purposely looking for an unknown, but mostly for someone who had the appearance of both sensitivity and masculinity.” Playing his father is Hayley’s real dad, John Mills, whose role as Arthur’s blustery, somewhat clue-shy old man is one of his very finest, a skillful blend of farce and pathos, defiantly oblivious loneliness. Marjorie Rhodes is likewise superb as his wise, wry, long-suffering wife ‘Lucy’. Also fine are John Comer and Avril Angers as the forlorn yet hopeful bride’s bickering but concerned parents. Every personality is exceptionally well-drawn.
Filmed in the towns of Bolton, Rockdale and Slough, it also features a pleasing soundtrack from Paul McCartney and George Martin. With Murray Head (the cheeky brother), Wilfrid Pickles, Barry Foster and Liz Fraser. 115 minutes.
* Hayley Mills and Roy Boulting married four years later; it lasted for seven. Hywel Bennett would be cast again with Hayley in the 1968 thriller Twisted Nerve and the lame 1972 mystery Endless Night. He also was godfather to her first child. Bennett passed away at 73 in 2017. This was John Mills’ 4th picture acting with his daughter, following Tiger Bay (1959), The Chalk Garden (1964) and The Truth About Spring (1965). He’d just directed her in the winning, little-seen Sky West And Crooked.
Hayley’s old boss Walt Disney passed late in ’66, though not from hearing the scandal gossip about his fan-capturing Pollyanna. However, it’s an unconfirmed rumor that Hayley’s freefall into adulthood sent Dumbo on a champagne bender, saw Tinkerbell headed for Vegas and provoked college students running the Matterhorn ride to start shaking down line-exhausted families from Iowa.