Portrait of Petula Clark is not, as its title might imply, a film about the life and times of the iconic British songstress. It is, in fact, the 1969 television special of the same name, presented in its entirety along with some DVD extras. Filmed in several locations, including Paris, London and Los Angeles, and featuring several guests, it is essentially a variety show “hosted” by Clark and highlighting many of her hits of the period. As such, it’s possible this may only appeal to die-hard Petula Clark fans.
The show, naturally, is a bit dated, sharing many of the production values of the time, like colorful sets and background video montages that flash by during some of the songs. It may be an interesting look into the era’s ideas of entertainment for some viewers, as it features Clark’s songs as well as performance numbers with her guests, but even this may be something for fans only.
Her guests, incidentally, are part of the themes that accompany the segments in the different cities. In London, Ron Moody, reprises his role as Fagin in the film version of Oliver, and he and Clark engage in a bit of song and dance together. In Paris, Clark dances on a saloon set with French singer Sacha Distel, who sings “Love is Blue” and performs “The Poor People of Paris” with Clark and her other guest, Andy Williams.
Williams is something more like a co-star than a guest in Portrait of Petula Clark. He appears in several segments, one of which includes a “picnic” with Petula. The duets between Williams and Clark, including “Visions of Sugar Plums” and “You Can’t Rollerskate in a Buffalo Herd” are among the best of the vocal performances presented—Clark’s voice is timeless—even if the songs are a bit silly. Williams also performs the song “Happy Hearts”, with which he and Clark both had hits.
In addition to these duets and guest spots, Clark of course performs solo for such songs as “This Girl’s in Love with You”, a lovely “My Funny Valentine”, and “When I Was A Child”. She ends the special by simply singing, with no skits, location changes or production pieces, “I Know a Place”, “You and I” (from the movie Goodbye, Mr. Chips.) and “My Love”.
Among the DVD’s bonus features are two extra songs, “Without a Song” and “Walk through the World with Me”, from Goodbye, Mr. Chips. It’s not clear why these weren’t included in the show itself; perhaps time constraints played a part, for they are not noticeably different from the originally broadcast material.
The bonus section also has contemporary interviews with Petula Clark and Andy Williams about the show, with Williams discussing what it was like to work with Clark and Clark talking about working with other stars as well as about her preparation processes. Neither is particularly revelatory, but both are still nice additions, especially for fans.
All in all, that last statement pretty neatly sums up Portrait of Petula Clark. It features 16 songs by a fabulous singer and some of her friends and it is an example of the type of television that was made for “specials” in 1969, but it is mostly going to be of interest to those who are already Petula Clark fans.