The Family Way

The Family Way is a 1966 British comedy-drama film about the marital difficulties of a young newlywed couple living in a crowded house with the husband's family. Based on Bill Naughton's play All in Good Time (1963),[2] the film began life in 1961 as a television play, Honeymoon Postponed.[3]

The Family Way
Directed byRoy Boulting
Produced byJohn Boulting
Written byRoy Boulting
Jeffrey Dell
Based on"All in Good Time" by Bill Naughton
StarringHayley Mills
Hywel Bennett
John Mills
Marjorie Rhodes
Murray Head
Avril Angers
Music byPaul McCartney
CinematographyHarry Waxman
Edited byErnest Hosler
Boulting Brothers
Distributed byBritish Lion Films (UK)
Warner Brothers (US)
Release date
  • 18 December 1966 (1966-12-18)
(UK) June 1967 (US)
Running time
115 min.
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office$2,225,000 (US/ Canada)[1]

The film was produced and directed by John and Roy Boulting, respectively, and starred father and daughter John Mills and Hayley Mills.[4] Naughton adapted the play himself.[2]


Following the wedding of young Jenny Piper (Hayley Mills) to cinema projectionist Arthur Fitton (Hywel Bennett), a rowdy reception is held at a local pub in their Lancashire town. The couple return to the Fitton home to spend their first night together, prior to leaving for a honeymoon in Majorca – only to find Arthur's father Ezra (John Mills) leading the drunken singing with some party guests in the living room. Arthur clashes with Ezra, a lifelong gasworks employee who doesn't understand his son's enjoyment of reading and classical music. After a strained evening, the newlyweds finally retire, only for their marital bed to collapse as the result of a practical joke played by Arthur's boorish boss, Joe Thompson (Barry Foster). Jenny laughs at the situation, but Arthur imagines she is laughing at him and then is not able to consummate their marriage. Arthur assures Jenny that all will be well once they get to Majorca, but the next day the couple discover that the travel agent who sold them their tickets has absconded with the money, resulting in them missing their honeymoon.

Unable to obtain a home of their own, Jenny and Arthur have to continue living in the crowded Fitton house with Arthur's parents and adult brother Geoffrey, where the thin walls and lack of privacy exacerbate Arthur's discomfort. As days pass into weeks, the marriage remains unconsummated, and the strain between the couple steadily worsens, not helped by Arthur's job keeping him away from the house at night, when Jenny is home from her day job. Jenny begins to go out socially with Geoffrey, who is attracted to her, although she puts off his advances. After a plea from Jenny, Arthur visits a marriage guidance counsellor, but his visit is overheard by a gossipy charwoman who spreads the story. Eventually, Jenny confides in her mother and Jenny's parents visit Arthur's parents to tell them. Lucy (Marjorie Rhodes) reminisces to the Pipers how Ezra took Billy, his close male friend since childhood, along on their honeymoon and spent more of his time with Billy than with her. Later, Lucy tells Mrs Piper of the evening she spent alone with Billy when Ezra was working late, which immediately preceded the abrupt disappearance of Billy from their lives, with no explanation. Jenny also confides in her Uncle Fred and he advises her that Arthur's problem would likely be resolved if she and Arthur lived in their own home instead of in Arthur's father's house.

When Joe Thompson, aware of the gossip, makes fun of Arthur and scornfully volunteers to satisfy Jenny's marital needs, an enraged Arthur starts a fight in the cinema car park, and batters him, and then walks out on his job, returning home to berate Jenny for disclosing their private affairs. Arthur and Jenny have a quarrel that finally leads to sex – overheard by the many gossipy neighbours in the gardens under Arthur's open window. The opening bars of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, ("da, da, da, dah" or "dot dot dot dash", Morse Code for the letter V) signifying Victory, are heard.

The couple then find out that the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) bond has returned their holiday money, and they get ready to rush off for a belated honeymoon in Blackpool. Before they go, Arthur, encouraged by his mother, asks his father for help with the down-payment on a cottage that has just become available. Ezra gladly agrees to provide the money, to build a better relationship with Arthur, whom he tearfully calls "son". After Arthur leaves, Ezra ingenuously remarks how much Arthur looks and acts like the long-gone Billy, and Lucy moves to comfort him.



Bill Naughton wrote a TV play for ABC`s Armchair Theatre called Honeymoon Postponed which aired in 1961. The Observer called it "a lively - almost Restoration - Lancashire working class comedy."[5]

Naughton adapted it into a play which premiered in 1963 with Bernard Miles playing the father. It played for six weeks at London's experimental Mermaid Theatre then transferred to a commercial house where it ran for three months. The London Drama Critics awarded it the Best New Play of 1962-63.[6] Naughton sold the American film and theatre rights for $100,000 enabling him to become a full time writer.[7]

David Susskind bought the rights to produce the play in America, and cast Eric Portman as the father.[8] However Portman was unable to play the part.

Eventually the play debuted on Broadway in 1965 with Donald Wolfit playing the father. Susskind produced it with Daniel Melnick and Joseph E. Levine in association with the Boulting Brothers who were to make the film version (see below).[9] It closed after only 21 performances.[10]



John Mills attended the opening night of the play at the Mermaid Theatre. Afterwards he went back stage to get the film rights as a vehicle for himself and his daughter Hayley but discovered they had already been promised to the Boultings.[11]

In July 1963 it was announced that David Susskind would make a film of the play as a co production with the Boulting brothers, with John producing and Roy directing. Boulting was writing a script with Naughton and Susskind was hopeful that Peter Sellers, who had made a number of films with the Boultings, would play the father.[12]

The Boultings then focused on making Rotten to the Core.[13]

The film was financed by British Lion Films and the Boultings themselves. It was the only film made in Britain within a 12 month period financed completely with British capital.[14]


The Boultings contacted John Mills while the latter was making King Rat in Hollywood and offered him the role of the father. "I'd call it a comedy with serious intent," said Mills who called his role "the best part I've had since Hobson's Choice."[11]

Hayley Mills was cast as the bride. She called her role "a most marvellous departure... no more school girl parts for me unless the character happens to be absolutely fascinating."[15] Mills called the film "an answer to Britain's kook generation."[16]

Hywel Bennett was cast after John Boulting saw him in the play A Smashing Time. "We weren't purposely looking for an unknown," said Roy Boulting, "but mostly for someone who had the appearance of both sensitivity and masculinity."[15]


The film was shot in Naughton's hometown of Bolton as well as Rochdale and Slough.[17][18][19] Some indoor scenes were filmed at Shepperton Studios.[20]

John Mills later wrote in his memoirs "during the first half hour on the set on the first morning's shooting I knew that I was going to enjoy myself. Roy was not only a superb technician but because he was pro- not anti-actor his direction was helpful and sensitive. We all felt perfectly safe in his hands and I personally owe a great deal to him for the final success of Ezra and indeed the whole film."[21]

Hayley Mills did a nude scene in the movie which received much publicity. She called it "a very integral part of the film... the whole thing was handled with great taste."[22]

She also fell in love with Roy Boulting, although he was married. The two of them later became a couple and married.[23]


The Family Way soundtrack was scored by Paul McCartney, who was still a Beatle at the time, and producer George Martin.[4]


The premiere of the film was in London on 18 December 1966. The film was released on video on 24 February 1989.

The movie went on to be a notable critical and financial success in the UK.[23][14] In October 1967 John Boulting claimed it was the most successful film British film made over the past year.[24]

The nude scene led to the film receiving a "condemned" rating by the Catholic Film Office.[25]

Critical reception

Variety wrote, "Hayley Mills gets away from her Disney image as the young bride, even essaying an undressed scene. Bennett is excellent as the sensitive young bridegroom. But it is the older hands who keep the film floating on a wave of fun, sentiment and sympathy. John Mills is firstclass in a character role as the bluff father who cannot understand his son and produces the lower working-class man’s vulgarity without overdoing it. Avril Angers as the girl’s acid mother and John Comer as her husband are equally effective, but the best performance comes from Marjorie Rhodes as John Mills’ astute but understanding wife."[26]

The cover sleeve of "Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before", a single by English rock band The Smiths, features Murray Head (as Arthur's brother Geoffrey) in a still photo from the film.[27] Another Smiths single, "I Started Something I Couldn't Finish", is adorned by a still of Avril Angers from the same film.[28] Both songs were released from the Smiths' final album, Strangeways, Here We Come.[29]


  1. "Big Rental Films of 1967", Variety, 3 January 1968 p 25. Please note these figures refer to rentals accruing to the distributors.
  2. "The Family Way (1966)". BFI.
  3. Honeymoon Postponed on IMDb
  4. "The Family Way (1967) - Full Credits -". Turner Classic Movies.
  5. America Scores Again RICHRDSON, MAURICE. The Observer 5 Feb 1961: 31.
  6. The pioneer Crozier, Mary. The Guardian 7 Mar 1963: 7.
  7. Mermaid---Globe's Goodly Neighbor Marks, Sally K. Los Angeles Times 25 June 1967: c25.
  8. ALL IN GOOD TIME' TO STAR PORTMAN: Comedy Hit in London Due at Lyceum on Nov. 23 Best New British Play Double Bill Closes Champion Signed By SAM ZOLOTOW. New York Times 30 July 1963: 19
  9. The Theater: 'All in Good Time' Opens: Bill Naughton Comedy Is at the Royale By HOWARD TAUBMAN. New York Times19 Feb 1965: 25.
  10. ' All in Good Time' Joins List of Failing Imports New York Times 22 Mar 1965: 38.
  11. Mills: Patriarch of Acting Family Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 6 Dec 1966: D22.
  12. BY WAY OF REPORT: Chaplin and Susskind And a 'President' By EUGENE ARCHER. New York Times 28 July 1963: 75.
  13. Focus on 'Rotten' Crime in Britain By A.H. WEILER. New York Times 28 Feb 1965: X9
  14. Bowling Over Mr. Boulting Los Angeles Times 17 July 1967: c19.
  15. Little Hayley Now Mature Miss Mills Clifford, Terry. Chicago Tribune 9 July 1967: f13.
  16. Hayley's Director Love of Her Life Lesner, Sam. Los Angeles Times 6 July 1967: e13.
  17. men Administrator (19 April 2010). "Town is backdrop to so many films". men.
  18. Steve Howarth (8 September 2015). "Review: The Family Way @ Bolton Octagon". men.
  19. "Reel Streets".
  20. "The Family Way – Pinewood filming location".
  21. Mills, John (1981). Up in the clouds, gentlemen please. Penguin. p. 372.
  22. Would Yor Believe a Hayley Mills 'For Aduls Only'? By REX REED. New York Times 9 July 1967: 75.
  23. Out of the family way The Guardian 28 Jan 1972: 9.
  24. Where does British Lion go from here? BOULTING, JOHN. The Guardian 4 Oct 1967: 14.
  25. Nudity in 'Family Way' Held Necessary to Plot Dorothy Manners:. The Washington Post, Times Herald 31 July 1967: D10.
  26. Staff, Variety (1 January 1967). "The Family Way".
  27. "Morrissey".
  28. "I started something I couldn't finish – The Smiths".
  29. Stephen Thomas Erlewine. "Strangeways, Here We Come". AllMusic.

See also

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