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Mrs. Henderson Presents (Widescreen Edition)

4.4 out of 5 stars 368 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Mrs. Laura Henderson may be a widow but she is by no means going to spend the rest her days playing bridge. The Windmill Theater becomes her game and the infamous showman Vivian Van Dam becomes her partner and fiercest opponent. The Germans are bombing London but the roar of the Windmill is all that can be heard, as Laura convinces Lord Cromer to allow her actresses to be the one thing no one could ever imagine: Nude. Brought to its knees by war, what Mrs. Henderson Presents brings a nation to its feet in applause.

Special Features

  • Commentary by director Stephen Frears
  • Making-of featurette

Product Details

  • Actors: Judi Dench, Bob Hoskins, Christopher Guest, Will Young, Kelly Reilly
  • Directors: Stephen Frears
  • Writers: David Rose, Kathy Rose, Martin Sherman, Sheila van Damm
  • Producers: Bob Hoskins, Cameron McCracken, David Aukin
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
  • Studio: Weinstein Company
  • DVD Release Date: April 18, 2006
  • Run Time: 103 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (368 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000ETRCN0
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,666 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Mrs. Henderson Presents (Widescreen Edition)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 19, 2006
Format: DVD
MRS. HENDERSON PRESENTS is easily one of the best films of 2005. That it didn't garner an Oscar for Judi Dench is amazing as this is one of her finest roles (in a long line of superb films!). Director Stephen Frears (Dangerous Liaisons, Dirty Pretty Things, The Grifters, Liam etc) has put together a film that is at once nostalgic, sophisticated, intelligent, witty, sad, and thoroughly entertaining. This little film is a winner.

London, 1937, and Laura Henderson, having lost her only son in WW I is discovered at the graveside of her recently departed husband. Not wanting to be stuck with the British widow stance, she decides on a hobby to occupy her time: she buys, renovates and readies a theater in the West End of London, hires Vivian Van Damm (Bob Hoskins) to be her impresario and the two successfully begin a music hall type of entertainment. Their efforts are soon so imitated that their income falters, giving Mrs. Henderson a new concept: she will introduce full nudity into her theater to replace the French postcard surrogates the soldiers carry. Mrs. Henderson is indefatigable, has a laceratingly funny relationship with Van Damm, and even manages to cajole the politicians to go along with her 'new concept'. By now WW II is at it s peak and despite the London blitzkriegs the theater manages to survive, but not without some sacrifices and some self-revelations between Mrs. Henderson and Van Damm. There are many little subplots involving the company of performers, but they all blend nicely into the poignant story.

Judi Dench is absolutely radiant in this role, a role that allows her to cover a wide gamut of moods, each of which she handles expertly.
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Last year's cinematic celebration of the London theatre scene was BEING JULIA, in which Annette Bening plays a no-longer-young stage actress of the late 1930s, who has hitherto starred in the productions her theatre-owner husband stages, and who crafts a delicious revenge against a fresh-faced protege whom her spouse hires and falls in love with.

Based more on actual events, and also set in the late 1930s/early 40s, MRS. HENDERSON PRESENTS has wealthy Laura Henderson (Judi Dench), on the death of her husband, purchasing and renovating a derelict cinema and renaming it The Windmill Theatre for want of anything more interesting to do in 1937. To manage the establishment from the outset, she hires strong-willed Vivian Van Damm (Bob Hoskins), who insists on having final say on their stage performances' artistic content and the day-to-day running of the place. He begins by presenting an around-the-clock vaudeville show, the 24/7 nature of which is a groundbreaking concept. This keeps The Windmill the talk-of -the-town for awhile, i.e. until other London theatres begin to imitate, and then ticket sales fall off. To regain the advantage, Laura has the idea of putting naked actresses on-stage, but then must convince the dubious Van Damm and outmaneuver the absolute veto power of the censorous city authorities, here personified by Laura's friend, Lord Cromer (Christopher Guest).

The creators of MRS. HENDERSON PESENTS have taken timeline liberties. The real Mrs. Henderson actually acquired The Windmill site in 1931, opening first with a live play, "Inquest", which proved unsuccessful. After briefly returning to screening films, a new manager, Van Damm, produced and opened the non-stop "Revuedeville" in 1932.
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Warning! Spoilers ahead:

I love popular culture, especially intelligent popular culture, but I have become progressively less and less enchanted each year with the summer blockbuster films that we are saddled with and the bloated, overwrought holiday films we are given each November and December. MRS. HENDERSON PRESENTS is the perfect tonic for anyone sickened by bombastic cinema, a small, lovely, and subtle film that tries to entice you with its story rather than its special effects or massive vistas. Its ambition is to tell a small, unique period story as well as possible. In this the film succeeds.

The film tells the story of how in 1938 a newly widowed woman (played by Dame Judi Dench), for want of anything more compelling to do after the death of her husband, buys and renovates a West End London theater, which she calls the Windmill. Dench's performance is marvelous and I was greatly heartened to see that she was rewarded with an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. Mrs. Henderson hires promoter Vivian Van Damm, who persistently denies being Jewish, as artistic director and gives him unfettered control over every artistic aspect of the operation. Bob Hoskins does his usual superb job as Van Damm (am I the only one who is under the impression that he has looked almost exactly the same for thirty years?) and much of the appeal of the film derives from the complex-combative and respectful while at the same time distantly intimate-friendship and partnership that Henderson and Van Damm form. The initial innovation of the theater is to perform musical reviews 24 hours a day, but when other theaters begin to imitate them, their ticket sales begin to decline. Mrs. Henderson then suggests that they trump the competition by having nude girls on stage.
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