Cast & Crew
British wine merchant Martin Lynch-Gibbon considers himself extraordinarily lucky to have an attractive, lively wife, Antonia, as well as a young, devoted mistress, textile designer Georgie Hands. Martin's complacency is shattered when one evening Antonia confesses that she and her analyst, Martin's best friend, Palmer Anderson, are in love and she wishes a divorce. Martin assures her this kind of attachment is common between patient and analyst and suggests that she would get over her misplaced feelings if she and Palmer slept together. When Antonia admits that she and Palmer have slept together, Martin is outraged and goes to Palmer's house. Palmer cheerfully welcomes Martin and assures him that he and Antonia want to remain honest and include Martin in everything. Distressed, Martin goes to the country to visit his brother Alexander, an artist, but is disturbed by a bust that Alexander has made that is the very likeness of Antonia. While Palmer helps Antonia select a new flat for Martin, Georgie telephones to reassure Martin of her affection, but he remains vexed. Feigning bronchitis, Palmer asks Martin to pick up his sister, Oxford professor Dr. Honor Klein, at the train station. Martin meets Honor but is taken aback by her daunting, no-nonsense nature. Later at Palmer's house, after Martin realizes Palmer has manipulated him to be alone with Antonia, Honor berates him for his civil attitude, insisting that it is unseemly for Martin to remain on good terms with his wife's seducer. Later, Martin visits Georgie, but although she declares her love for him, he remains distracted. On impulse, Martin takes Georgie to his home for the first time, but when he hears a noise he thinks that Antonia has returned, and desperate to keep his relationship with Georgie a secret, he panics and forcibly throws Georgie out. Instead of Antonia, however, Martin is surprised to see Honor, who has come to search for an object she loaned to Antonia. Although initially angered to see her, Martin abruptly observes that Honor would never behave in a cowardly manner. Later, at their invitation, Martin visits Palmer and Antonia at their health club where they reveal they have discovered his clandestine affair with Georgie. Taken aback, Martin insists it is possible to love more than one person, then flees. At Georgie's office, Martin furiously wonders how Antonia and Palmer learned of their relationship and Georgie admits she told Honor when she asked her about it. When Martin expresses amazement, Georgie blames him for his recent mistreatment of her for her indiscretion. Later, despite Martin's protests, Antonia insists upon meeting Georgie and they dine together at a restaurant. Palmer joins them, but overcome by the polite hypocrisy surrounding her, Georgie abruptly bolts, followed by Martin. Georgie refuses to let Martin in to her flat, so he returns to Palmer's house where he finds Honor sitting at the dining table before a samurai sword, a souvenir from her travels to Japan. Honor brandishes the sword at Martin, then confesses that she never got beyond the introductory level of handling it. The next day, after seeing Antonia, Martin visits Georgie and is dismayed to find Alexander with her. Georgie explains that Honor introduced them, but Martin demands his brother leave. Afterward, Martin proposes to Georgie, but now uncertain of her own feelings as well as Martin's, Georgie does not respond. That night, a confused and despondent Martin gets drunk, then goes to Palmer's house where he shares a glass of wine with Antonia and Palmer while they relax in bed. Taking a wine case down in the cellar, Martin comes upon Honor and angrily accuses her of interfering with his private life. Disgusted by his boorish attitude, Honor attempts to leave, but Martin grabs her and in the ensuing squabble Honor slaps him. Abruptly aware of his physical attraction to her, Martin slaps Honor back. The next evening, Martin travels Honor's home in Oxford, but after receiving no answer to his bell, wanders about and enters an unlocked back door. To his shock, Martin comes upon Honor in bed with Palmer. Moments later, Palmer meets the stunned Martin to explain hastily that he and Honor are only half-siblings and pleads with Martin not to reveal their relationship to Antonia. That evening when Palmer returns home and Antonia innocently questions him, he uncharacteristically explodes, sending the volatile Antonia rushing back to Martin. Palmer follows Antonia to Martin's, but despite his appeals, Martin knocks him down and Antonia declares she cannot return to him. A few days later, Antonia and Martin receive the news that Alexander, who has begun dating Georgie, has proposed to her. Antonia blames Martin for this turn of events, but the couple invites Alexander and Georgie for dinner. When Georgie reveals they will be honeymooning in America, Antonia rushes from the room distraught, followed by Martin and Alexander. Troubled by both men's fawning over Antonia, Georgie departs. The following morning, Martin is alarmed to receive a small box filled with tresses of Georgie's long hair. Rushing to her flat, he finds her unconscious and calls an ambulance. Moments later Honor arrives, explaining that Georgie had written her a note revealing her intentions to attempt suicide. Later at the hospital, Antonia, Martin, Alexander and Honor are joined by Palmer, who declares that he will take the recovered Georgie on as his patient. Upon leaving the hospital, Martin offers Honor a ride and confesses that he has fallen in love with her. Honor chides him for evading reality, allowing himself to be caught up by only impressions of her. Claiming that a relationship between them would result in her becoming a trophy similar to the primitive tribal tradition of hanging up the severed heads of their conquests, Honor dismisses Martin. Returning home, Martin finds an anxious Antonia who confesses that she and Alexander have had a long term affair that pre-dated their marriage and that Georgie's dramatic action has forced them to conclude they should be together. Oddly relieved, Martin says nothing when Alexander arrives to pick up Antonia. Later, Martin goes to Georgie's flat, which he finds empty, as she has decided to go to America with Palmer. That afternoon at work, Martin is surprised by Honor's appearance. Claiming she returned as he wanted, Honor tells Martin that he can choose between her or happiness. Delighted, Martin tells her they will both take a chance on one another.
Saskia De Boer
Ian La Frenais
Alan Ladd Jr.
Mike Le Mare
A Severed Head
Producer: Alan Ladd Jr.; Elliott Kastner (uncredited)
Director: Dick Clement
Screenplay: Iris Murdoch, J.B. Priestley, Frederic Raphael; Iris Murdoch (novel)
Cinematography: Austin Dempster
Art Direction: John Clark
Music: Stanley Myers
Film Editing: Peter Weatherley
Cast: Lee Remick (Antonia Lynch-Gibbon), Richard Attenborough (Palmer Anderson), Ian Holm (Martin Lynch-Gibbon), Claire Bloom (Honor Klein), Jennie Linden (Georgie Hands), Clive Revill (Alexander Lynch-Gibbon), Ann Firbank (Rosemary Lynch-Gibbon), Rosamund Greenwood (Miss Seelhaft), Constance Lorne (Miss Hernshaw), Robert Gillespie (Winking Patient), Katherine Parr (Receptionist), Nerys Hughes (Nurse), Anne Jameson (Woman at Party (as Ann Jameson), Yvette Rees (Woman at Party).
A Severed Head
The opening credits are shown over shots of a revolving dias populated by dolls modeled after each of the stars. Eventually the dolls pair off, except for the one modeled after Clair Bloom as "Honor Klein," who wields a samurai sword and does not have a partner. A 1964 Hollywood Reporter news item indicates that Shelley Berman would star in a Fitzroy Films production of the Iris Murdoch and J.B. Priestly play, A Severed Head, produced on the stage in London a year earlier. In June 1965, a Hollywood Reporter item from London stated that producer Joseph Janni was developing a film production of the play to be written by Frederic Raphael. Two months later, Daily Variety noted that producer James Woolf had acquired the film rights of the play, which would be produced under the Romulus banner with John Schlesinger directing Laurence Harvey and Leslie Caron in the starring roles.
The project then languished, apparently, until January 1969, when Daily Variety announced that Elliott Kastner and Jerry Gershwin's Winkast Productions would be producing the film. In March 1969 Hollywood Reporter announced that Kastner and Gershwin had cast Lee Remick in the starring role and that director Richard Clement would also adapt the play. In April 1969, however, Daily Variety indicated Clement would only direct and use the Raphael script for the project, which would be produced by Alan Ladd, Jr. According to Filmfacts, although the film was shot in 1969, it was not released in the U.S. until 1971 and then only had showings in New York City.
Released in United States 1970
Released in United States 1970