Scandal (1989)



Director:  Michael Caton-Jones.

Starring:  John Hurt (Stephen Ward), Joanne Whalley (Christine Keeler), Bridget Fonda (Mandy Rice-Davies), Ian McKellen (John Profumo), Leslie Phillips (Lord Astor), Britt Ekland (Mariella Novotny), Daniel Massey (Mervyn Griffith-Jones), Roland Gift (Johnnie Edgecombe), Jean Alexander (Mrs. Keeler), Alex Norton (Detective Inspector), Ronald Fraser (Justice Marshall), Paul Brooke (John, Detective Sgt.), Jeroen Krabbé (Eugene Ivanov), Keith Allen (Kevin, Reporter Sunday Pictorial), Ralph Brown (Paul Mann). 

Sex and politics, a volatile mixture these days.  Based on the John Profumo scandal; young showgirl Christine Keeler has an affair with the high ranking cabinet official, John Profumo. A scandal breaks out when the press learns of her affair with the government official, while having a simultaneous affair with a Soviet official.


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie.

London 1963.  A serious political scandal has become public knowledge in Great Britain.  British Minister of War Jack Perfumo and the Russian naval attaché were both having sex with the same woman, Christine Keeler.  This was considered a serious breach of national security.  In court the night club performer and prostitute Mandy Rice-Davies implicated John Perfumo, a prominent British politician who was thought capable of becoming Prime Minister one day.

Flashback.  London 1959.  Dr. Stephen Ward is at a night club busily socializing.  When he sees the very young and beautiful Christine Keeler on stage in a skimpy outfit he is immediately taken with her beauty.  Later he talks with Christine telling her that she really shined in the performance.  On another day he shows up at the trailer of her mother.  They are fast becoming bosom buddies.  He introduces Christine to famous people such as Lord Astor, who they call Bill. 

Christine moves in with Stephen Ward, but there is no sex between the two.  He tells her:  "We are going to be friends for a very long time."  He has her change her hair color from platinum blonde to brunette.  He turns away from her when she tries to get closer to him physically. 

Conservative Prime Minister Macmillan wins his third term in office.  John Perfumo is expected to be the next Minister of War. 

Dr. Ward takes Christine to a sex party and she willingly participates.  At work Christine has a confrontation with brassy newcomer Mandy Rice-Davies.  On stage Mandy hogs the spotlight by going topless. 

Dr. Ward introduces Christine to Eugene Ivanov, the Russian naval attaché.  He takes an interest in Christine and Ward encourages the relationship.  This brings Ward to the attention of the British secret service MI5.  Agent Woods asks Ward to foster the relationship between Christine and Eugene in the hope that the Russian can be turned to spy for the British.  Ward is thrilled to play James Bond and actively encourages Christine to go out with Eugene.  At a pool party with Christine and Eugene, Ward tries to remove her bathing suit for the enjoyment of Eugene.  With a great deal of encouragement she takes her suit off.  The noise accompanying the affair causes the other attendees to look to see what is going on.  Christine runs around and bumps into Perfumo, who grabs and holds her.  At this time one of the guests puts the lights on and Mrs. Perfumo and the other guests see Mr. Perfumo holding the naked Christine.  Mrs. Perfumo is not very happy. 

Jack (John Perfumo) starts a sexual relationship with Christine.  So now she is having sex with Eugene and Jack.  But Christine really seems to love Dr. Ward.  Because he shows no real affection for her, she starts partying with and then dating black guys. 

Christine has become friends with Many Rice-Davies and she tells Mandy about her affair with John Perfumo.  Mandy asks Christine what Stephen thinks about this and she says that he thinks it is quite a coup for her.  Mandy tries to get Christine away from Ward, but she will not leave him.  Christine says that Ward would be lost without her. 

Christine has a lot of sex with Perfumo.  But after a while he becomes very worried about being discovered and demands that Christine leave Ward's apartment and move into one of her own.  He says:  "I can't go on seeing you if you are with Ward."   Christine answers that she will stop seeing him (Perfumo) if he is going to demand that she leave Ward. 

Christine starts to act out as she still gets no real love from Ward.  This gets her into a lot of trouble because two black men start fighting over her.  Lucky keeps trying to find her, but when he finally does find her, she is with Johnny.  The two black men fight and Johnny slashes the face of Lucky with a razor.  Christine seeks solace with Ward only to find that he has been having sex with Mandy.  Christine just laughs about it. 

Johnny is on the run for fear that Lucky will kill him.  From outside her building, Johnny tries to get Christine to go with him, but Christine refuses.  So he starts shooting at her and Mandy (who now lives with Christine and Ward).  He uses up all his bullets and then leaves. 

Dr. Ward scolds Christine for the little scandal:  "There is a limit. . . .I can't have it."  Christine blames him because he was the one who introduced her to the black nightclub.  She says:  "I'm what you made me."  He responds with "It's over little baby.  It's over." 

The newspapers are onto the story.  One of the reporters gets Christine's version of what has been happening with her, Stephen, Jack, and Eugene.  She blames Stephen for everything that happened.  

Given the scandal, it is no wonder that Eugene was called back to the Soviet Union.  Stephen says that it will all blow over.  The reporters are all over the Perfumos.  Mr. Perfumo makes a personal statement to Parliament.  He says that he met Christine in July 1961 and has not seen her since December 1961. He added that there was no impropriety whatsoever with Christine.   

The Conservative party starts to put pressure on Stephen.  The police interview over a hundred people to learn about his life style.  People stop talking to Dr. Ward.  Christine is very upset that Stephen is in such pain because of his social rejection.  Someone tells her:  "You can't save Ward."  She responds by saying that:  "I love Stephen.  He's the only man I've ever loved."  Jack Perfumo admits an impropriety with Christine Keeler and resigns. 

Scotland Yard talks with Stephen Ward.  They tell him that they interviewed 147 friends and acquaintances of his and they dug up some real harlots.  The states tries to prove that Dr. Ward lived on the earnings garnered from prostitution.  At trial Mandy Rice-Davies testified.  She said that Lord Astor paid her for sex and that it was Dr. Ward who introduced him to her.  Mandy laughed when she made the audience laugh and simply loved all the attention.  The very anxious Christine testified after Mandy.  She told the court that she had never had sex with Stephen Ward.  She admitted that she had sex with both the Russian naval attaché and the British Minister of War, but she denied that she was ever a prostitute.  The lawyer for the defense asked her about the 23,000 pounds she had received by selling her lurid story to a newspaper.  Christine started to cry and Stephen jumped up from his seat to say that "This is not fair".   Outside court Christine is mobbed. 

Dr. Ward takes a number of pills of nembutal and dies.  Christine tried to call him, but could not get him.  August 10, 1963 memorial services were held for Dr. Ward.  No one came. 

Christine Keeler was convicted of perjury in a related trial.  On December 6, 1963 she went to Holloway Prison.  She now lives alone in a London housing project.  Mandy Rice-Davies became a cabaret singer.  She opened a string of successful nightclubs abroad.  Married for the third time, she now resides in London and Florida.  Jack Porfumo left politics and dedicated his life to charity work.  In 1975 the Queen awarded him with one of England's highest honors, Commander of the British Empire.  In October 1963 Prime Minister Macmillan resigned.  The Conservative party fell, exhausted by scandal. 


Good movie.  Sexy movie.  Good performances by Joanne Whalley, Bridget Fonda and John Hurt.  In one sense Dr. Ward was a pimp.  He was not paid by his girls, but he did receive money indirectly.  Finding beautiful women who were sexually active and then introducing them to important people in Britain increased Ward's social status and power and indirectly his income.  The problem is that Dr. Ward never really realized that he was a pimp --  a pimp paid in higher social status and influence.  It's a shame that Christine never really told Dr. Ward how she felt about him and never demanded that the doctor tell her how he felt about her.      


Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Return To Main Page

Return to Home Page (Vernon Johns Society)