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  • I recently had the pleasure of viewing The Romantic Age again after about 25 years from an underground video. It used to occasionally play on the local LA late show back then, along with other such nostalgic films as Miranda, Cynara, No Minor Vices, The Lady Says No, etc. I found that I could remember much of the dialog which brought back a flood of youthful memories. A classic scene is when Hugh Williams' daughter, Petula Clark, starts dancing and drinking wildly in a British nightclub as her shocked father enters to pull her out of there. Over the sound of the jazz, a disreputable-looking fat lady starts laughing at this, and you can still hear her piercing laugh as Williams yanks Petula out into the streets. I can still hear that laugh 25 years after seeing the movie! The irony of this is that Williams has been having an affair with one of his students, namely Arlette Tessereau, a French flirt played by a young Mai Zetterling. This film may be fluff, but it ranks high with me probably due to its nostalgia power. It should be released on video as well as Miranda and other obscure British comedies which are my favorites. But where are these films now? Who owns them? And will they ever be shown or released again?
  • "The Romantic Age" (also known as "Naughty Arlette") is a British film set in a girls finishing school. A new teacher has arrived and it's a 'he'....not just another female instructor. Immediately, a French girl in the school, Arlette (Mai Zetterling) sees him as a contest....how long will it be until she makes him fall for her? At first, the teacher sees through her and realizes she's a bad influence. However, soon he proves that he's a total idiot and falls for her.

    While this Lolita-like film is interesting, it suffers from one big problem....Arlette's actions are hardly subtle and this makes the entire thing seem more trivial and unbelievable. You cannot believe a sane man falling for her like this! I don't so much blame Zetterling...more the writing. It just goes too fast and it's hard to believe a man who is as strong and insightful as he is initially later becomes a pawn so quickly. Had it been more subtle and deliberate, it would have been a much better movie. As it is, it's worth seeing...but also easily skippable.

    By the way, if you do watch it I'd love to know what you think of the final scene with the butler and the hairbrush!!
  • malcolmgsw20 November 2017
    The first thing to be said is that nearly all the schoolgirls are played by actresses who are well over 18 years old.Mai Zetterling was 24 years old.It is difficult to know if this was looked on as a romantic comedy.Noways it wouldn't get made because the Hugh Williams character would loose his career and end up in prison for a couple of years.
  • Movie Girl -

    I saw this film on TV in the early 60's as a kid on a station here that aired British films on Friday nights one summer. My older sister and I always loved this film.

    In the second review here it says that Petula Clark was the petulant daughter of Arnold who was spanked at the end. No, it was Mai Zetterling, her provocative school friend.

    When I saw the opening scene "Littleton School for Girls" I cheered, for I knew it was the beginning of the film. (Sadly, every time the film aired in the 70's the beginning was cut off and the same happened with Mad About Men!). In the early 90's I finally obtained a complete copy.

    The adolescent girl who got spanked by the butler was not Petula Clark here, but Mai Zetterling (as Arlette, a spoiled student) who had had an affair with her friend's father. She had earlier made a bet with her friends that she could seduce the new art master who was the only male teacher and was very reserved. Hugh Williams played the part very authentically.

    Petula is very good too as his daughter Julie, but Mai as Arlette Tereseau takes the cake! Raymond Lovell was his usual talented self as the butler. (At the end he reaches his limit of endurance when Arlette is repeatedly rude to him).

    I well remember the scene where Petula (as Julie the daughter) goes to a nightclub and dances provocatively with Arlette's boyfriend, Henri Sinclair. When Hugh (as Arnold Dixon) as her dad drags her out of there it makes him realize how sordid Arlette and her friends were. I do remember the woman in the bar who laughed and laughed when this happened! I can still hear her laughter ring out. (Julie secretly restores her family, for her father comes home again after that).

    Arnold parts in great sadness from Arlette, believing he has done her wrong. She secretly snickers at him. When Julie discovers the malicious plot hatched by her so-called school friend, she turns away in disdain, but keeps the girl's insults about her boring and stuffy father to herself.

    One thing that got by the censors was the spanking by the butler at the end, but the key thing was the fact that she did actually seduce Arnold! The students were on a field trip and it was pouring rain. Arlette was "lost" and sought refuge in a deserted hut. Of course she knew he (as the only man on the trip) would be the one to come to her rescue. (They had spent several hours in the hut). Margot Grahame is great as Helen, his suffering wife. They had been a happy family until Arlette entered the picture.

    I will always remember how fun it was to watch with my sister. A lot of things got by me at the time, but in viewing the film again it all fits into place.

    Though the film had serious elements there are moments of humor as problems are resolved.
  • In common with some French directors (cf. Duvivier's "Anna Karenina") Gréville made several films in England after the war. This film is a light-footed, fluffy type of comedy set in a girls' school in England with a plot based on the arrival of the first male teacher in this school and the flirtatious attempts mainly of Arlette, a French girl, played by Zetterling. She was a minor Swedish actress who worked mainly in the UK and Hollywood and ended up as a director, also of minor films. She is terribly miscast in this role, being way too old. She plays so over the top that you laugh every time she is on screen, which is clearly not what the director intended. The so-called French accent which she puts on when speaking English is very badly executed — anybody who has heard Greta Garbo or Ingrid Bergman would recognize Zetterling's voice in this film as being tinged definitely not with a French but a Swedish accent. Sometimes you wonder whether Zetterling found inspiration in Marlene Dietrich's night-club singer in "Der blaue Engel", which is patently ludicrous considering that her role is supposed to be that of a schoolgirl in England. The other members of the cast are quite good apart from the American girl in the school (too old and using inexplicable nautical jargon all the time). Hugh Williams as the teacher is a reliable performer and his daughter (also a pupil at the school), played by Petula Clark, comes across very convincingly as a teenage girl. Those interested in early post-war British cinema might enjoy spending one and a half hour with this lightweight but well-crafted film. At least — unintentionally on the part of the makers of the film — they would be assured of some laughs thanks to Zetterling's exaggerated performance
  • A fascinating and very vintage story about a teacher seduced by a devious student as an act of revenge. It's hard to know if this film is supposed to be a comedy (I found myself mainly laughing in agony over Mai Zetterling's French accent) or a more serious drama. The scene near the end in the cab is incredibly poignant, when Petula Clark attempts to save her father's feelings by lying to him.

    Hugh Williams was a romantic hero in his earlier career, but by 1949 he is pretty far from being love's young dream. Combined with Mai Zetterling's atrocious accent and the fact we know she is taking him for a ride, there's no real romance to be found here.

    Some interesting parallels may be found with Girls' Dormitory (1936) where schoolmaster Herbert Marshall is seduced by French schoolgirl Simone Simon. Marshall is at least single in that one, and Simon's accent is happily authentic. Both films feature a scene in a hut in the middle of a storm, where Hugh/Herbert "rescues" Mai/Marie. There is surely a deliberate parallel or influence there.

    As others have mentioned, the spanking scene at the end is frankly outrageous (though amusing for being so) and it's amazing it got past the censors. The silhouetting reminded me of the scene in Seinfeld episode "The Contest" where George visits his mother in hospital. It's very reminiscent of a Carry On film as well.

    Unlike many reviewers have claimed: it isn't the case that this student-teacher relationship would be "illegal" in the UK these days. Mai's character is 18 and therefore legally able to consent - the "position of trust" legislation enacted in 2001 does not apply to legal adults. Hugh would doubtless be sacked, but he wouldn't face criminal charges. Unethical, and unwise, but not illegal.
  • boblipton22 September 2017
    When Hugh Williams becomes the poetry and arts master at an exclusive girl's school, he brings along his wife, Margot Grahame, and his daughter, Petula Clarke. Top of the heap is Mai Zetterling, a student, who is resentful of Williams at first so, being French(!), she decides to seduce him.

    For a 1949 British movie, this is very mature and telling, with a fine performance by Miss Grahame. Nonetheless, the thought struck me, about halfway through, that it was all too conventional, that all the issues were just the sort that one would expect, and I began to wonder what would happen were the girl's school's St. Trinian's or had the movie been directed by Henri-George Clouzot. Did Ronald Searle see this movie and add it to the seething mass of cartoons that inspired the movies? Did Clouzot look at it and snarl "Au diable avec les edutiantes!" and start working on LES DIABOLIQUES? I'm not sure how useful comments like these are for appraising a perfectly decent and watchable British movie that has little to do with either of those works. It's simply that, somehow, I think they are.
  • boogie674 January 2010
    Somewhat dated in this post-feminist age, the premise of the story is possibly illegal, based as it is upon the notion that men can be seduced by teen-aged girls! If one looks past these anomalies, however (and that is a big 'ask') there are some memorable performances from the main players, including Petula Clark as the petulant daughter, who, at one point, rather charmingly receives her 'come-uppance' over the knee of the family butler. The film-goer is treated to a delightful, if somewhat tuneless, early example of Miss Clark's adolescent singing skills. It's hard to imagine a scene such as this getting past the censors today!
  • Yes today British male teachers have to be very careful of vexatious litigation from young female pupils if they decide to give them home tuition.The danger is that these pupils may become emotionally involved and if their amatory wishes and advances are thwarted, may take legal action against the teacher.Far better to restrict tuition to the classroom or have the girl's parent or other reliable chaperone on hand to witness the lesson if home tuition is necessary.My son is a teacher and gives a few lessons in pupils' homes but always safeguards his professional reputation in this way.Back in 1949 when this film was made society in Britain was much less politically correct and less litigious.

    How young looked Petula Clark and what a vixen looked Mai Zetterling.I thought I recognised the piece played on the piano by Petula towards the end as being heard in the musical soundtrack of "Pride & Prejudice" 1995 TV miniseries by Mary Bennett (Lucy Briers).