Julie Walters (Becoming Jane, Harry Potter) stars as Mary Whitehouse in Filth, a new biopic airing on Masterpiece Contemporary this Sunday on PBS. Mary is a suburban housewife who only has one thing on her mind – filth – and the fact that there is far too much of it on television to suit her standards. In this new movie based on actual events circa England’s sexually progressive 1960’s, Mary is shocked by a BBC program about premarital sex broadcast at teatime and proceeds to do something about it in a big way by doing battle with the progressive and free thinking head of the BBC, Sir Hugh Greene, played by Hugh Bonneville (Miss Austen Regrets, Mansfield Park). Here is the program description from PBS.
It's the Swinging Sixties, and suburban British housewife and art teacher Mary Whitehouse (Julie Walters Mamma Mia!) is an unlikely activist. But when she witnesses lewd content on television during teatime, it is Whitehouse's indignation that boils over. A single letter to the BBC soon turns into a burgeoning grassroots campaign, largely directed at BBC Director-General Hugh Carleton Greene (Hugh Bonneville, Miss Austen Regrets), the man Mary believes is largely responsible for indecency on television. A war of words and ideals ensues — one that still reverberates today. Based on a true story, Filth is a timely, sympathetic, provocative and entertaining look at the intersection of artistic expression and decency.
I had the opportunity to view this film and enjoyed it. Even though they tried to lighten it up with a bouncy and comedic music score, it is a subject that touches upon the uncomfortable topics of our personal freedoms of speech, artistic expression and choice of decency and who should decide what is appropriate for public television. We see both sides of the debate from conservative Mary Whitehouse and liberal Sir Hugh Greene which makes for an interesting story.
Julie Walters and Hugh Bonneville are superb as adversaries determined to apply their viewpoint on the British nation. Observant viewers might also catch another actor in the cast with Austen connections who previously portrayed one of Jane Austen’s most ‘oathful’ characters in the movie adaptation of Northanger Abbey which aired on Masterpiece Classic last January. Interestingly, Mary Whitehouse would have objected to him also even though Jane Austen’s work is considered the height of decorum by many!
Filth airs on Masterpiece Contemporary on Sunday, November 16 at 9pm on PBS. It is a thought provoking and controversial movie, amazingly peppered with more than a few laughs.
Read a plot synopsis of Filth
Cast and Credits
Find out more about Mary Whitehouse, her war with the BBC and her legacy.
Visit Filth on the Masterpiece Contemporary website