Friday, August 9, 2013

The Bliss of Mrs Blossom - the movie

In case I haven't made it clear by naming one of my dresses after it - I'm a big fan of the movie The Bliss of Mrs Blossom

I came across it back when I was 16 or so on a Saturday afternoon when channel 9 took a rare break from Clint Eastwood and Elisabeth Taylor films to show this visual treat.
I finally got a DVD copy a few years ago, so now let me share with you some of my favourite scenes and clothing from the film

(Note: This post is a little picture heavy!)

The Bliss of Mrs Blossom - 1968

Director - Joseph McGrath
Producer - Josef Shaftel
Writer - Josef Shaftel (original short story) Alec Coppel & Denis Norden
Cinematographer - Geoffrey Unsworth – (Credited on 2001: A Space Odyssey)
Production Designer - Assheton Gorton (Blow Up, Wonderwall, The Knack... and how to get it)
Costume design - Jocelyn Rickards – (Blow Up, Wonderwall, The Knack... and how to get it)
Assisted by – Bridget Sellers (There's a Girl in my Soup, Dr Strangelove…)
Filmed at various locations including Alexandra Palace, The National Film Theatre and Twickenham Studios.
The Blossom’s house is a real house at 115 Howards Lane, Putney

Main Cast
Shirley MacLaine as Harriet Blossom
Richard Attenborough as Robert Blossom
James Booth as Ambrose Tuttle
Freddie Jones as Det. Sgt. Dylan
William Rushton as Dylan’s assistant

Cameos by
Barry Humphries as the Art Dealer
John Cleese as the Post Office Clerk
Patricia “Hyacinth” Routledge as Mrs Reece
New Vaudeville Band (Also known for their song Winchester Cathedral)

The Bliss of Mrs Blossom is one of those quirky 60s movies that you can watch while willing away the afternoon. It’s no Oscar winner, but its fun and delightful and filled with lots of 60s visual treats as well as a few off beat scenes in which the characters get dressed up and play out their fantasies.

Mrs Blossom, (MacLaine) a bored house wife with a broken sewing machine, calls upon her husband Robert (Attenborough) to have someone sent over to fix it. Mr Blossom sends Ambrose Tuttle (Booth) - a young bumbling employee who would rather read ‘Teach Yourself books’ than work.

Tuttle, who is supposed to represent the Carnaby Street youth, turns up at the Blossom residence in a red military coat. The joke is that it is supposed to reference Booth’s previous role in “Zulu” but as he steps off his motorbike, he is spotted by a passing Chelsea Pensioner which results in a rather awkward moment between the two.

In the 60s shops like I was Lord Kitchener’s Valet sold military jackets and coats to the fashionable set, which left the returning soldiers somewhat upset over their respectable uniforms being worn as dresses or trendy outerwear.

Once inside the house, Mr Tuttle as he is respectably called by Mrs Blossom, is charmed by her sweetness. She invites him to take home their spare bed as he doesn’t have a proper one of his own.

She shows him to the attic and Tuttle wonders how he’ll get it back to his own apartment, (just like in that film "The Knack" he mentions) however he stays and so does Mrs Blossom.

It is a this point that the movie splits off to a fantastical scene as Mr Tuttle as a 17th Century French beau and Mrs Blossom as a silver dressed Marie Antoinette character

These little scenes pop up all over the movie as to indicate love scenes

Romeo and Juliet

Anna Karenina

Three Musketeers

Mexican Lovers

A Knight and his lady

Mr Blossom on the other hand, is a work obsessed brassiere manufacturer who spends his evenings conducting an invisible orchestra to Tchaikovsky or military marches. On the 1st floor of their house overlooking the balustrade, he conducts while Harriet paints.

A sneaky picture of Jean Shrimpton in the back there!  

The actual paintings in the movie are done by Sally Scott – you can see her current work here 

The murals on the wall unfortunately are not credited so I cannot be sure if these are also done by Sally Scott, but these tulips are what I was reminded of when I bought the fabric for my dress (Also because of the blossoms, which hopefully was obvious)

Mr Blossom eventually starts to lose his mind over the sounds being made by Tuttle, his missing pyjamas and wine and goes to see Dr Taylor (Played by Bob Monkhouse) in his psychedelic office filled with contraptions, TV cameras and flashing lights. 

He analyses him in a rather unorthodox way and tells Mr Blossom to take time off but instead the business slowly starts to go bad, with brassieres causing rashes and the workers unionising.

As Mr Tuttle becomes attached to Harriet he inevitably begins to feel bad for Mr Blossoms failings, so he educates himself with his ‘Teach Yourself’ books on the stock market and passes on trade tips to Robert via Harriet.

Mr Tuttle while reading his books also slowly transforms his attic into more comfortable surroundings and even installs a great big computer to help number crunch his stock market predictions. (When you think about it now, that computer probably functioned on only 64kb of memory!)

Arithmetic of ComputersExercises on Business Decisions 

 The books make many more appearances in the film

Eventually the Blossoms finances are boosted again and Mr Blossom sets out to work on his greatest brassier ever that will "change the world!"

They throw a wonderful party where Mr Tuttle sneaks down to play party guest with The New Vaudeville Band providing the music

I don't want to completely ruin the movie for those of you who haven't seen it, but I'll share with you some other very interesting scenes from the movie

The End of the film features a huge launch party for Mr Blossom’s invention

The set must have taken ages to build and decorate!

All the countries are represented (even the Vatican though I’m not sure what they might need with a brassiere)

Some of Harriets' dresses were designed by Zandra Rhodes

 Cooking while dressed as a flapper? Why not!

Mrs Blossom did tissue paper pom poms way before Martha Stewart...  

 Matching bed and pyjamastrès chic!

The entrance to Mr Tuttle’s attic has a cupboard which features a line drawing of Romeo and Juliet (right of Harriets' head) – rather fitting for these two secret lovers.

There are also a few more famous faces through the film

John Cleese

Barry Humphries (aka Dame Edna Everage)

Patricia Routledge from Keeping Up Appearances

The interior of the home is what I really love. Plain white walls with Art Nouveau inspired wall art

 Mr Tuttle modifies the cupboards to create steps

Mr Tuttle's attic complete

The painted glass roof of the pool area really kicks it and is my favourite part of the film. The Director did a good job in highlighting the ceiling well and utilising it in many different scenes

The home is very much the domain of a strong yet feminine woman, with Mrs Blossom’s paintings, statues and floral motifs throughout. And the roof itself features many female figures, swans and other pre-Raphaelite style icons

Note the red headed goddess in the back

The film is (loosely) based on a real incident. In the late 1910s and early 1920s, Dolly Oesterreich kept her lover, Otto Sanhuber in the attic where he lived for many years. Her husband Fred ran a company that made aprons. Otto even moved with the couple from Milwaukee to Los Angeles to stay above his lover. Unfortunately, the real story doesn't have the happy ending of the movie.

The direction of the film can be very distracting with upward facing camera angles and shots that are taken from outside the room looking in. Though it all adds to the effect of one spying on the two lovers, but it can really be annoying

Most memorable for me is the Costumes and set design. The colours and art work all speak very naturally of the time and there a plenty of silly scenes to keep the movie interesting. 

Have you seen The Bliss of Mrs Blossom? What did you think of it?

Cat xo


  1. This film looks fun. I've never heard of it, but I'll definitely try to get a copy. I usually can't stand Shirley MacLaine, but it looks like the style of this film can make up for her presence.
    Also, it must have taken ages to do all those screen shots. Great post!

    1. Thanks! I do find some of her other films a bit wearing, but this one is ok, i think its well balanced with the other goings on.
      And yes it took a few days and a few watches to get the shots, but you get to see all the little details of the set and dialogue that way

  2. I haven't seen this film but it looks like a lot of fun. I will have to add it to my lovefilm list!

    1. its definitely a fun little film. hopefully its out there somewhere on DVD or VHS

  3. I'm totes going to watch this now! Thanks Cat

  4. Hello, dear Catherine! I haven't seen this particular Shirley MacLaine vehicle. Like Dandy in Aspic, I don't care for most of the characters Shirley has portrayed over the years because they tend to be arrogant, bitchy and bossy; yet I have followed her entire career from Hitchcock's The Trouble With Harry (1955) and Hot Spell (1958) to Downton Abbey.

    The Bliss of Mrs. Blossom certainly has a star studded cast and this is a colossal review, the emphasis being, as you mentioned, on costumes and set design. As a former producer and director I also pay close attention to those details whenever I watch movies or television programs. As a result I tend to spot continuity errors that most viewers miss.

    Mrs. Shady and I love British comedies and have seen the entire series of Keeping Up Appearances with Hyacinth Bucket. If you haven't seen it I highly recommend John Cleese in a Fish Called Wanda (1988), one of the most hilarious comedies ever made.

    This was a tremendous post with just the right amount of information and pictures to ignite my interest in the film without spoiling it. Thank you very much for all your time and trouble, dear friend Cat, and enjoy the rest of your Sunday!

    1. haha yes she can be cant she? I first saw her in Steel Magnolias and that was weird for a kid to watch. Even Sweet Charity i cant watch easily, but shes is quite lovely in this film.

      This film actually has a continuity error! with one of the paintings. If you ever watch it, you must come back and tell me if you spotted it!

      I haven't seen A Fish called Wanda actually, but I've watched most of the Monty Python movies and tv shows. And my mother used to love Keeping up Appearances! its funny to remember her quoting it now...

      I'm glad you liked the post. It took awhile to put together, so i don't think ill be doing too many too often

      Enjoy your weekend!


Thanks for your comment! Please do not comment anonymously - feel free to use the Name/URL option instead as I’d still love to hear from you xo

*Spam comments will be swiftly deleted, so please do not bother