'The Beauty Jungle' isn't really smutty at all, but it's set in the hard and venal world of professional beauty contests, where extensive ogling, fondling and the exchange of sexual favours are a prequisite for getting ahead, so it almost counts. It's terribly melodramatic, which I like, and gives us some brilliant glimpses of a pre-Beatles Britain, as well as an expose of a Ferrero Rocher lifestyle that once seemed the epitome of continental sophistication - peach champagne, shiny dinner jackets, salad, bidets, that sort of thing.
|Having a wonderful time, wish I was dead.|
|British Summer Time.|
|The Twist - a stupid dance, but everyone can do it.|
|Local girl made bad.|
|Pre-Facebook 'liking' something was a manual task.|
What follows is a whirlwind of Butlins holidays camps and Mecca ballrooms, disappointments and triumphs, her upward trajectory marked by better hair do's, higher heels and a perhaps intentionally hilarious montage of the various titles she gathers en route.
Eventually, she wins the title of 'Rose of England' (after the original winner is disqualified for having a padded bra). This takes her into the world of international modelling, and she begins to mix with film stars, business magnates, parfumiers, minor royalty and Joe Brown. All of this hits McKenzie pretty hard - he likes the money and the trips to Monaco, but Shirley is no longer his puppet, and the little personal liberties she once used to allow are now a distant memory. Ultimately, she enters Miss Globe, the biggest prize of all, and flies to the south of France to take part in the competition and its really odd opening ceremony.
|Here come the girls...chaperones.|
|Chas & Dave look rough.|
|A hopeful, radiant Shirley, about to have her dreams crushed forever.|
Desperate to win, blinded by ambition, she sleeps with one of the organisers and smiles and poses until she nearly has a nervous breakdown in order to wear the world crown - and comes sixth. It's a shit business.
Good fun, good cast (Sid James, Tubby Hayes, Stirling Moss and Kray Twins favourite Edmund Purdom pop up; Margaret Nolan pops out), and full of bizarre but strangely familiar incidental details that reek of Olde England- men sitting on the beach in suits, cigarette butts stubbed out on carpets, cantilevered bras, twist parties, dance bands, rain and candy floss and busty, bouffanted women in swimsuits and stilettoes. Marvellous.