The Reluctant Debutante (film)

The Reluctant Debutante is a 1958 American Metrocolor comedy film in CinemaScope directed by Vincente Minnelli and produced by Pandro S. Berman from a screenplay by Julius J. Epstein and William Douglas-Home based on Douglas-Home's play of the same name. The music score is by Eddie Warner and the cinematography by Joseph Ruttenberg.

The Reluctant Debutante
theatrical release poster
Directed byVincente Minnelli
Produced byPandro S. Berman
Written byJulius J. Epstein
Based onThe Reluctant Debutante (play) 1955
by William Douglas-Home
StarringRex Harrison
Kay Kendall
Sandra Dee
Angela Lansbury
John Saxon
Music byEddie Warner
CinematographyJoseph Ruttenberg
Edited byAdrienne Fazan
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • August 14, 1958 (1958-08-14)
Running time
95 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$2,980,000[1]

The film stars Rex Harrison and Kay Kendall whom he had married in 1957 after they worked together on The Constant Husband (1955) with featured performances by John Saxon, Sandra Dee, and Angela Lansbury. The setting is London's debutante season amidst the last presentation at Court in 1958. However, because of Harrison's tax problems, the film had to be made in Paris. Harrison had learned from Kendall's doctor that she had been diagnosed with myeloid leukemia, a fact that was kept from Kendall, who believed she was suffering from an iron deficiency. The actor cared for Kendall until her death at the age of 32.[2] She only completed one more film, Once More With Feeling, before her death the following year.

In 2003 the film was remade as What a Girl Wants, starring Colin Firth and Amanda Bynes.


When 17-year-old Jane Broadbent comes to London to live with her wealthy father Jimmy Broadbent, her stepmother Sheila feels compelled by her own social aspirations to introduce Jane to society. Jane is bored by the debutante balls she attends and the young men she is introduced to, but she becomes interested in a drummer named David Parkson who has a reputation for leading young women astray. To complicate matters, an upper-class man with perfect credentials, David Fenner, relentlessly pursues Jane although she openly detests him.

Parkson's reputation is undeserved, but Sheila is convinced otherwise. She tries to keep him away from Jane while her garrulous friend Mabel schemes to secure David Fenner for her own daughter, Clarissa.

Sheila's plans fail miserably. Jane and Parkson fall in love with each other and Parkson proposes to Jane. He also inherits an Italian title of nobility which makes him a better "catch" than David Fenner and satisfies Sheila's concerns for Jane's social status.



The Reluctant Debutante was the 12th most popular film at the British box office in 1959.[3] According to MGM records it earned $1,555,000 in the US and Canada and $1,425,000 elsewhere resulting in a loss of $355,000.[1]

See also


  1. The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  2. "Kay Kendall: Britain's lost bombshell". 10 February 2006. Retrieved 26 January 2018.
  3. "Year Of Profitable British Films." Times [London, England] 1 Jan. 1960: 13. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 11 July 2012.
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