Cast & Crew
Marjory Clark wins a competition in her Midland town and finds herself in a Festival of Britain procession as Lady Godiva - though not in the buff. This leads by way of a suspect beauty competition to the show-business world of London. But it could be a slippery slope for simple home-town Marge.
Lady Godiva Rides Again
For Lady Godiva Rides Again (1951) (released in America as Bikini Baby), Gilliat produced while Launder co-wrote and directed. A Cinderella story told with a mix of satire and poignancy, it's about a naïve, talentless country girl (Pauline Stroud) who wins a beauty contest, is lured by the bright lights of fame and finds disillusionment. Launder dreamed up the story after serving as a judge in the 1950 Miss Kent beauty pageant in Folkestone, England, where much of the movie was shot.
Launder searched for a leading lady by combing the repertory theaters of the British Isles. After five months of scouting and interviewing, he finally decided on Pauline Stroud, a petite 19-year-old dancer whose only previous film experience was as Vera-Ellen's stand-in in Happy Go Lovely (1951). The Hollywood Reporter in its review deemed her "an actress of star quality who is obviously on the way up... She turns in a beautiful performance." In truth, Stroud went on to make just a few minor films and some sporadic television appearances, otherwise remaining in obscurity.
Other cast members in smaller roles, however, are much more remembered today: Diana Dors, something of a British Marilyn Monroe; Dana Wynter (in one of her earliest appearances), who would later star in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956); Kay Kendall, who would dance with Gene Kelly in Les Girls (1957); and Joan Collins, all of eighteen years old. This was Collins's first feature film. She had been considered for the lead but wound up with a small part as a beauty contestant. She later recalled that it was not the happiest time for her on set: "I spent three freezing days in a black boned bathing suit shivering in Folkestone Town Hall," she wrote. "Filming was uncomfortable and boring."
Also playing a beauty contestant is Ruth Ellis, who in 1955 would be convicted and sentenced to death for murder. She remains the last woman to be executed in England.
On the male side, British comedy mainstays Dennis Price, Stanley Holloway and George Cole all have major roles. Alastair Sim is hilarious as a film producer in crisis, and Trevor Howard makes a cameo as a theatergoer.
Lady Godiva Rides Again was retitled Bikini Baby for U.S. release, though it barely appeared in theaters. Nonetheless it received good reviews. Trade paper Variety called it a "a delightful piece of satire which knocks all the gilt off the beauty queen rackets... Major asset is a slickly written script... Takes every opportunity of getting a laugh and never takes the basic theme too seriously."
Val Guest's later film The Beauty Jungle (1964) (also known as Contest Girl) was a loose, unofficial and more ambitious reworking of Lady Godiva Rides Again.
By Jeremy Arnold