'Something for Everyone' Is an Early, Albeit Sinister, Example of Queer Cinema

by Michael Barrett

17 March 2017

Directed by Broadway legend Harold Prince, this film's provocative subject matter made it one of MPAA's earliest X-rated movies.
Angela Lansbury and Michael York 
cover art

Something for Everyone

Director: Harold Prince
Cast: Michael York, Angela Lansbury

DVD Release date: 6 Dec 2016

Belying its ironic title, Harold Prince’s 1970 film, Something for Everyone, is hardly well-known, never mind a mainstream hit. It is, however, a cult specialty in that intersects several important careers more famous for Tony-winning Broadway work. With its VHS incarnations out of print for decades, it finally hits the digital era.

Riding a bicycle through Austria in his lederhosen, Konrad (Michael York) sets his sights on a castle currently owned by the poverty-stricken Countess von Ornstein (Angela Lansbury). It’s the same castle featured in his much-thumbed children’s picture book, and he will calmly go about inveigling himself into that fairy-tale ruin by any means necessary. This will involve romancing an heiress (Heidelinde Weis) and getting a job as a footman under the suspicious eye of a butler (Wolfried Lier), who represents the Nazi past.
  
A completely amoral character whom the Countess believes represents “the new man” of the age, Konrad only has to know whom he must kill or screw to achieve his goals. “You’ll sleep with anyone, won’t you?” says the Countess’ simpering son Helmut (Anthony Higgins, then billed as Anthony Corlan). “If I have to,” Konrad replies with an arm around his shoulder, “but I have my preferences.” This makes the film an early example of queer cinema, albeit a sinister one.

Predictably, Lansbury steals the show as she swans about with perfection, waving her arms while darting beady glances. Also in the cast are John Gill and Eva Maria Meineke as the heiress’ vulgar parents, and Jane Carr as the Countess’ daughter, a dumpy bespectacled dark horse who observes all. She tells Konrad that her dogs “only approve of murderers and parasites. Which are you?” He replies, “Both.”

A good-looking lark wrapped around a very sour center, this is the type of black comedy that was being made in that newly liberated, post-MPAA era of New American Cinema, along with such examples as M*A*S*H (1970) and Little Murders and The Hospital (both 1971). It’s not a specifically American story, however, but a comment on both old Europe and its decline, shot in Austria with a largely local cast and crew. Perhaps this, along with its sexual ambiguity, hampered its box office potential. It was one of the MPAA’s earliest X-rated movies, though now it’s an R.

Inspired by Harry Kressing’s novel The Cook, the screenplay is by Hugh Wheeler, who was on his way to winning Tonys for three major musicals—all directed by Broadway legend Harold Prince, whose first of only two films this is. His second film is the 1977 adaptation of his Broadway hit A Little Night Music. Perhaps if this first feature had been a smash, they would have been derailed into Hollywood careers, but it wasn’t to be.

Wheeler, by the way, is probably better known as mystery writer Patrick Quentin; his earlier plays were other queer milestones, Big Fish, Little Fish, and a short-lived adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s novel We Have Always Lived in the Castle. A film version of Jackson’s novel, directed by Stacie Passon, is releasing this year.

Composer John Kander—who’d already won a Tony working with Prince on the Nazi-themed Cabaret, soon to be filmed with York—scores this film with heavy doses of marches, yodels and liebfraumilch. The sun-drenched photography is courtesy of Walter Lassally, most famous for working with Tony Richardson, Michael Cacoyannis and Merchant Ivory. The disc has no extras apart from trailers for unrelated movies; the trailer for this film isn’t included on the disk.

Something for Everyone

Rating:

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