Mrs Henderson Presents (2005) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • Laura Henderson buys an old London theater and opens it up as the Windmill, a performance hall which goes down in history for, among other things, its all-nude revues.

  • Recently widowed well-to-do Laura Henderson is at a bit of a loose end in inter-war London. On a whim she buys the derelict Windmill theatre in the West End and persuades impresario Vivian Van Damm to run it, despite the fact the two don't seem to get on at all. Although their idea of a non-stop revue is at first a success, other theatres copy it and disaster looms. Laura suggests they put nudes in the show, but Van Damm points out that the Lord Chamberlain, who licenses live shows in Britain, is likely to have something to say about this. Luckily Mrs Henderson is friends with him.



The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Mrs Laura Henderson (Judi Dench) has just become a widow. After the funeral, her friend Lady Conway (Thelma Barlow) advises her to do some things, for example having a lover or doing lady-like activities like financing a home for single mothers. None of these work for Mrs Henderson. One days, she asks her chauffer to drive her around London. After returning from a visit to her only sons tomb in a British Army cemetery in French soil, she decides to buy a dereclict theatre.

    She hires English stage director Vivian Van Damm (Bob Hoskins). He's about to leave because she was unforgivable late and she was rude to him. However this, Mrs Henderson is determined to hire him.

    The remodelation of the theatre begins, with plenty of disagreement between financer and director: the name of the girl chorus, the kind of show... They finally decide to do some vodeville farce, casting the popular actor Bertie (Will Young). They are successful, but all theatres copy-cat them, so in no time they are losing money. Mrs Henderson has the brilliant idea of creating a nude show à la Moulin-Rouge. They start casting. There is also the problem of finding the right leading girls. They finally travel around the country looking for the right girl without success. Returning home utterly frustrated, Van Damm and Bertie throw a biker girl to a river. Bertie jumps in to rescue her and Van Damm realises he's found his star. This countrygirl has been helping her father in his chemist's, so she wants to do something different.

    They start rehearsing without having the Lord Chamberlains permission signed, and they know they may not get it. Mrs Henderson knows Lord Cromer (Christopher Guest) in person, from the times when they both lived in India. They had lost contact since Mrs Henderson decided to stay in the UK after her late husbands pass away. She bullies him a little, and his secretary (Michael Culkin) opposes the idea strongly. Finally, Lord Cromer says he'll give or refuse his permission after the premiére. He also tells her that nude girls must not move, as if they were paintings in a museum.

    Rehearsals go on. The girls Frances (Rosalind Halstead), Vera (Sarah Solemani), Peggy (Natalia Tena) are upset when they have to go nude. The director tries to convince them, but it's Bertie who finally solves the stituation suggesting that all males present go nude as well. They finally do it, and Mrs Henderson and Van Damm's secretary find them in that way. They stand utterly confused.

    The night of the premiére everything runs according to plan, and Lord Cromer goes to talk to the girls and gets red in the face. He signs the permit. However, Mrs Henderson and Van Damm have a terrible row, as she was very rude to Van Damm's wife (Patti Love). She has just realised that he is married, and that she's fallen in love with him. However, Vivan won't put up with Mrs Henderson's moods, and tells her that if she ever dares to do something like that again, he will leave her and her theatre for good.

    Time goes by and WW2 begins. During the Blitz, the Windmill theatre is the only one open, because performances are given in the underground. Many soldiers go there, and some of these soldiers go out with the girls. Only Maureen wants to stay a spinster. However, Mrs Henderson introduces Maureen to a shy soldier. They go out, and a little after he goes to the trenches, she discovers she's pregnant. By then, the shy soldier has told Maureen by letter that he will come back to his town after the war to her girlfriend. Maureen tells Mr Van Damm that she quits and why. She is so distraught that she goes out for some fresh air and a cup of tea. However, when Bertie tells Mr Van Damm that they can't go out because the siren alarms have gone off a little time before, it's too late. A bomb kills Maureen. Van Damm is so angry that he blames Mrs Henderson, forbidding her to come back to the theatre.

    Lady Conway advises her friend to come back to the theatre through the back door, or disguised. Van Damm is still angry, but show must go on. The reconciliation will arrive when the Lord Chamberlain insists on closing the theatre, because if a bomb falls there, too many soldiers would die, as many soldiers wait outside for the girls. Mrs Henderson makes a speech talking about his son's death, when she found a French vignette with a nude girl hidden in his bedroom. At that moment the alarm bells start ringing again, and everybody, even Lord Cromer, go down to the theatre.

    Shows go on and on, everychanging. They become patriotic and more political, and Eric Woodburn (Thomas Allen) makes a special appearance.

    Mrs Henderson and Mr Van Damm will dance together in the rooftop, something which he had advised her not to do. On stage, the nude girls move a little, breaking the Lord Chamberlain's prohibitions.

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