A Taste of Honey (film)

A Taste of Honey is a 1961 British film adaptation of the play of the same name by Shelagh Delaney. Delaney wrote the screenplay, aided by director Tony Richardson, who had directed the play on the stage. It is an exemplar of a gritty genre of British film that has come to be called kitchen sink realism.

A Taste of Honey
UK release window card
Directed byTony Richardson
Produced byTony Richardson
Screenplay byShelagh Delaney
Tony Richardson
Based onA Taste of Honey
by Shelagh Delaney
StarringDora Bryan
Robert Stephens
Murray Melvin
Paul Danquah
Rita Tushingham
Music byJohn Addison
CinematographyWalter Lassally
Edited byAntony Gibbs
Distributed byBritish Lion Films
Release date
  • 15 September 1961 (1961-09-15)
Running time
100 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

The film opened on 15 September 1961 at the Leicester Square Theatre in London's West End.[3]


The story is set in a run-down, post-industrial area of Salford. Jo (played by Rita Tushingham) is a 17-year-old schoolgirl, with a self-centred, 40-year-old mother with a drinking problem, Helen (Dora Bryan).[4]. After a fall while walking past the Manchester Ship Canal, Jo meets a black sailor called Jimmy (Paul Danquah) who invites her onboard his ship to attend to her grazed knee. The two accidentally meet again and start a brief romantic relationship, but Jimmy's ship soon sails and they part. Relations between Jo and her mother become further strained when her mother courts and marries a self-made businessman, Peter Smith (Robert Stephens).

Feeling rejected by her mother, Jo leaves school, starts a job in a shoe shop and rents accommodation in an old workshop on her own. She meets a gay textile design student, Geoffrey Ingham (Murray Melvin), and invites him to stay. Together they make the workshop more livable. When Jo discovers she is pregnant by Jimmy, Geoff is supportive, even offering to marry her, saying "You need somebody to love you while you're looking for somebody to love". Her new step-father Peter rejects Jo and regards her gay friend with contempt.

A few weeks later, Jo's mother Helen re-appears on the scene, ever needy, after the failure of her marriage to Peter. She moves in with Jo, which causes tensions between Helen and Geoff. Symbolic of Helen's jealousy of Geoffrey is her return of the old-fashioned basket that he had adapted for Jo to use as a cot for her baby. Geoff decides he can no longer stay at the workshop, leaving Helen to care for Jo and her soon-to-be-born baby.



A. H. Weiler of The New York Times gave a positive review, stating "In being transported out of the theatre, this "Honey" has been enriched."[5]

Awards and honours

The film won four BAFTA awards: Richardson won Best British Screenplay for Sheila Delaney and Best British Film. Bryan won Best Actress and Tushingham was named Most Promising Newcomer.

Tushingham and Melvin won Best Actress and Actor at the 1962 Cannes Film Festival.[6][7]

In spite of dealing with several topics then rarely touched on in Hollywood movies, the film won Tushingham a 1963 Golden Globe for Most Promising Female Newcomer and got Richardson a 1963 Directors Guild of America award nomination. Delaney and Richardson also won a Writers' Guild of Great Britain award.

A Taste of Honey was ranked at 56th place in the BFI Top 100 British films list, made in 1999.


The Criterion Collection released a new, restored 4K digital transfer of the film on Blu-ray and DVD on 23 August 2016.[8]

Box Office

The film made a profit of £29,064.[9]


  1. Alexander Walker, Hollywood, England, Stein and Day, 1974, p. 124.
  2. Petrie, Duncan James (2017). "Bryanston Films : An Experiment in Cooperative Independent Production and Distribution" (PDF). Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television: 7. ISSN 1465-3451.
  3. "Tony Richardson, John Osborne And Rita Tushingham". Retrieved 4 March 2017.
  4. "A Taste of Honey (1962) - Full Synopsis". Retrieved 4 March 2017.
  5. Weiler, A. H. (1 May 1962). "Screen: 'A Taste of Honey' Arrives:British Drama Stars Rita Tushingham". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 August 2019.
  6. "Festival de Cannes: A Taste of Honey". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 25 February 2009.
  7. Hodgkinson, Will (15 June 2001). "Stark raving mod". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 June 2018.
  8. "A Taste of Honey". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 17 May 2016.
  9. Petrie p 9
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