The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

Our first archive treasure for 2013 comes to you on Burns Night, so our selection has some Scottish flavour.

"Give me a girl at an impressionable age, and she is mine for life". So claims Jean Brodie, played by Maggie Smith in the 1969 film adaptation of Muriel Spark's novel The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Set in 1930s Edinburgh the film introduces us to Miss Brodie, a girls' school teacher who has a passion for culture and an appreciation of fascism. She seeks to impart her wisdom to the pupils she teaches, whom she regards as the 'creme de la creme'. Ronald Neame directed, and Maggie Smith won her first Oscar for her performance as Jean Brodie.

The film was classified X by the BBFC in January 1969, when the only categories available were U (suitable for all) and X (over 16s only). Twentieth Century Fox asked the Board to reconsider in order to allow a wider audience to appreciate the film, believing that an X certificate implied that a film was more extreme or adult than they considered their production of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie to be. BBFC Director John Trevelyan explains to Fox, in a letter published here, that the X certificate will remain due to the potential for the eponymous teacher to influence young girls, and that "in a sense our decision is a compliment to the film and to [Maggie Smith's] performance". 

In 1970 the BBFC revised the category system, and introduced two new certificates - A (Advisory, the may be unsuitable for young children) and AA (over 14s). X had the age restriction raised from over 16 to over 18, and U remained as 'Universal'. This led to a category change for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, from X to AA. The film was classified 15 on video in 1989, and 12 for DVD in 2010.