Pretty Polly
Directed byGuy Green
Written byWillis Hall
Keith Waterhouse
Based onPretty Polly Barlow
by Noël Coward
Produced byGeorge W. George
Frank Granat
StarringHayley Mills
Shashi Kapoor
Trevor Howard
Brenda De Banzie
CinematographyArthur Ibbetson
Edited byFrank Clarke
Music byMichel Legrand
George-Granat Productions
Distributed byRank Film Distributors
Universal Pictures (UK)
Release date
20 September 1967
Running time
102 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget£590,416[1] or £601,841[2]

Pretty Polly (also known as A Matter of Innocence) is a 1967 British comedy film directed by Guy Green and based on the short story Pretty Polly Barlow by Noël Coward. It stars Hayley Mills, Shashi Kapoor, Trevor Howard and Brenda De Banzie. The film is largely set in Singapore.


Miss Polly Barlow decides to leave England and spend a few months with her wealthy spinster aunt as a traveling companion. While in Singapore, the sudden demise of her aunt leaves her alone to pursue her freedom and explore an arms'-length romance with a local Indian Singaporean tour guide, Amaz.


Original story

The film was based on Pretty Polly Barlow, a short story by Noël Coward. It was published in 1964 in a three-story collection titled Pretty Polly and Other Stories.[3]

Coward wrote in his diary on 27 December 1964 that the collection "has not received one really good notice. A few quite good, a lot very bad and all brief and patronising. It is foolish for a writer constantly to decry the critics; it is also foolish, I think, for the critic to so constantly decry anyone who writes as well as I do." Coward admitted the story Pretty Polly Barlow was "conventional in theme, but it is at moments very funny and eminently readable."[4]

1966 British television version

The story was sold to British television. On 21 March 1965, Coward wrote that William Marchant, who adapted it "has done a fine job on the television script of Pretty Polly, so good is it that I would like him to do the movie script as well."[5]

The British televised film of the short story, starring Lynn Redgrave and Donald Houston, aired in July 1966 as part of Armchair Theatre. Bill Bain directed it.[6]


Film production

On 16 May 1965, Coward wrote "there have been great complications over the Pretty Polly film deal but we hope that everything will be straightened out."[7]

In November 1965, it was reported that the film rights had been purchased by the Broadway producing team of George W George and Frank Granat, who would make the movie in association with Universal. Filming was to start the next June in Hong Kong with interiors shot in London. Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall were signed to write the screenplay, and Coward would write a title song.[8]

The film was part of a slate of four movies that Universal was making in Britain under the auspices of Jay Kanter, the studio's head of operations there. The other films were The Countess from Hong Kong, Fahrenheit 451 and Charlie Bubbles.[9]

Filming was delayed a number of months. In June 1966, it was announced that Sidney J. Furie may direct.[10] In September 1966, it was announced that Noël Coward would direct the film, which would star Carol Lynley, who had just made Bunny Lake is Missing (1965) with Coward.[11] However, by December Hayley Mills was signed to star, with Guy Green to direct.[12]

Mills had recently done a nude scene for The Family Way and formed a relationship with that film's director, Roy Boulting. Of her Pretty Polly role, she said, "No nude scenes but it's pretty sexy."[13]

The male lead went to Shashi Kapoor on the strength of his performance in Shakespeare Wallah. He was the first Indian to play the lead in an international film.[14] Director Guy Green later stated that one of his mistakes in making the film was not casting George Hamilton, who he had worked with on Light in the Piazza as the Indian "because he had that cynical edge to it which Shashi who was marvellous didn't have it all." Green was "loathe to bring George up at the time" because the actor's career was not going strongly at the time "so I didn't think I would get him. But I should have pushed for him because I think he would've made a lot of difference to the picture." Green felt Hamilton "would've done the Indian accent very amusingly" and "gotten the nuances" of the character. Green called the film "a bit of a mistake."[15]


Filming began in Singapore in February 1967. The cast and crew were based at Raffles Hotel. After six weeks in Singapore, the unit relocated to Pinewood Studios in London.[16] The film's sets were designed by the art director Peter Mullins.

The title song was composed by Michel Legrand and sung by Matt Munro.


On 22 June 1967, Coward wrote in his diary:

I... watched, with mounting irritation, the film of Pretty Polly which, as I deduced from the first script, was common, unsubtle and vulgar. Nobody was good in it and Trevor Howard was horrid. When I think of his charm and subtley in Brief Encounter. Hayley, poor child, did her best, but there was no hope with that script and that director. Guy Green should have remained a cameraman.[17]

Filmink argued the film "all seems very slight. It lacks something – extra characterisation, location footage, a plot twist" adding Mills was "actually quite good in the part, incidentally – better than the film, something that would become a recurring theme in her later career."[18]


See also


  1. ^ Chapman, Llewella (2021). ""They wanted a bigger, more ambitious film": Film Finances and the American "Runaways" That Ran Away". Journal of British Cinema and Television. 18 (2): 189. doi:10.3366/jbctv.2021.0565.
  2. ^ Chapman, James (2022). The Money Behind the Screen: A History of British Film Finance, 1945-1985. Edinburgh University Press. p. 360. ISBN 978-1399500777.
  3. ^ Coleman, John (15 November 1964). "The excitement of ideas". The Observer. p. 26.
  4. ^ Coward 1982, p. 584.
  5. ^ Coward 1982, p. 595.
  6. ^ "BRIEFING: films". The Observer. 17 July 1966. p. 18.
  7. ^ Coward 1982, p. 599.
  8. ^ Martin, Betty (30 November 1965). "Mexico-U.S. Partnership". Los Angeles Times. p. c19.
  9. ^ "Universal Bolstering British Film Production". Los Angeles Times. 3 December 1965. p. d25.
  10. ^ Weiler, A.H. (19 June 1966). "'Commissioner' To Be Shot Here: More About Movie Matters". The New York Times. p. 97.
  11. ^ Lynley, Carol (13 September 1966). "Noel's 'Pretty Polly' To Be". The Washington Post. p. D10.
  12. ^ Manners, Dorothy (22 December 1966). "Haley Mills' Plea Defers Start of 'Pretty Doll'". The Washington Post. p. C17.
  13. ^ Reed, Rex (9 July 1967). "Would You Believe a Hayley Mills 'For Adults Only'?". The New York Times. p. 75.
  14. ^ Marks, Sally K. (3 May 1967). "Kapoor Is India's First Actor to Play International Film Lead". Los Angeles Times. p. e13.
  15. ^ Schwartzman, Arnold (19 November 1991). "Interview with Guy Green side 3". British Entertainment History Project.
  16. ^ "Hayley Mills Happy to Be Controversial". The Washington Post. 27 March 1967. p. D8.
  17. ^ Coward 1982, p. 651.
  18. ^ Vagg, Stephen (19 March 2022). "Movie Star Cold Streaks: Hayley Mills". Filmink.