A Private Function

A Private Function is a 1984 British comedy film starring Michael Palin and Maggie Smith. The film was predominantly filmed in Ilkley, Ben Rhydding, and Barnoldswick, in the West Riding of Yorkshire.[2] The film was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1985 Cannes Film Festival.[3]

A Private Function
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMalcolm Mowbray
Produced byGeorge Harrison
Denis O'Brien
Mark Shivas
Written byAlan Bennett
Malcolm Mowbray
Music byJohn Du Prez
CinematographyTony Pierce-Roberts
Edited byBarrie Vince
Release date
  • November 1984 (1984-11)
Running time
94 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office$2,527,088[1]


In a small Northern English town in 1947 the citizens endure continuing food rationing. Some local businessmen want to hold a party to celebrate the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth to Prince Philip and illegally decide to raise a pig for that occasion. However, the pig gets stolen by Gilbert Chilvers (Michael Palin), who was encouraged to do so by his wife Joyce (Maggie Smith). Meanwhile a food inspector is determined to stop activities circumventing the food rationing.



Three pigs were used in the filming of A Private Function, all named Betty. Producer Mark Shivas was advised by Intellectual Animals UK that the pigs used should be female and six months old so as to not be too large or aggressive. However, the pigs were "unpredictable and often quite dangerous". During filming of one of the kitchen scenes, Maggie Smith was hemmed in by one of the pigs and needed to vault over the back of it in order to escape.[4]


The film won three BAFTA Film Awards: best actress for Maggie Smith, best supporting actress for Liz Smith and best supporting actor for Denholm Elliott. It was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay (Alan Bennett) and Best Film.

Musical adaptation

A musical based on the film opened in the West End in April 2011, under the new title Betty Blue Eyes. It was produced by Cameron Mackintosh and ran for several months at the Novello Theatre. It starred Reece Shearsmith (of The League of Gentlemen fame) as Gilbert, and actress Sarah Lancashire as Joyce.[5]


  1. http://boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=privatefunction.htm
  2. Earnshaw, Tony; Jim Moran. Made in Yorkshire (PDF). Guerilla Books. ISBN 978-0-9554943-1-4. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 August 2008. Retrieved 28 June 2009.
  3. "Festival de Cannes: Quilombo". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 28 June 2009.
  4. Clarke, Roger (25 April 2008). "Story Of The Scene: 'A Private Function', Malcolm Mowbray, 1984". The Independent.
  5. Dominic Cavendish, Alan Bennett's 'A Private Function' hits the stage, The Telegraph, 13 March 2011
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