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Dulcima (1971 film).jpg
Film poster
Directed byFrank Nesbitt
Written byFrank Nesbitt
Based onstory by H. E. Bates
Produced byJohn L. Hargreaves
Basil Rayburn
Starring Carol White
John Mills
Cinematography Tony Imi
Edited by Bill Lewthwaite
Music by Johnny Douglas
Distributed byMGM-EMI
Release date
  • December 1971 (1971-12)
Running time
98 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

Dulcima is a 1971 British drama film directed by Frank Nesbitt. It was entered into the 21st Berlin International Film Festival. [1] The story revolves around a love triangle: a farmer, his housekeeper and the handsome neighbour.



Dulcima Gaskain (Carol White) is the oldest daughter of a large, poor Gloucestershire farming family. Rescuing a drunken farmer, Mr Parker (John Mills) who has fallen and cut his head, she discovers his hat is stuffed with cash, and inveigles him to hire her as a housekeeper by voluntarily cleaning his filthy, chicken-ridden house. Her motivation is partly to escape her tyrannical father (Bernard Lee) and mother, who treat her as a skivvy and unpaid child-minder and verbally abuse her.

Parker's sexual interest in Dulcima deepens after she arrives for work in a revealing outfit. A widower, he invites her to become his live-in housekeeper. Dulcima accepts but keeps him at arm's length by creating a fictitious boyfriend, 'Albert', inspired by a male model she has seen in a magazine.

Showing off, Parker introduces Dulcima to his crooked dealings at the local livestock auction. As her employment continues he neglects to pay her. She however keeps a careful tally of money he owes her. The relationship becomes one of mutual deceit as well as mutual convenience.

Parker tries to spy on Dulcima as she bathes, and later invites her to join him for a beer in the parlour, but she excuses herself. Now knowing that he has a lot of cash stowed away, she begins to coquettishly encourage his increasingly lustful interest, from time to time reminding him he owes her wages, but he always deflects the demand.

Dulcima meets Ashby, a young gamekeeper who resembles 'Albert' her fantasy boyfriend (both are played by Stuart Wilson). When Parker spots Ashby rounding up pheasants which have strayed onto his farm he fears that 'Albert' is spying on him and Dulcima. She plays on this jealousy and paranoia.

To try to get Parker to pay her what she is owed she pretends to be packing to leave. Panicked at this prospect, Parker offers to pay, and she claims £40 rather than the £20 or so she is really entitled to. Parker agrees but tries to trick her with only £15. This payment is explicitly linked with her letting him sleep with her (she later takes the £25 shortfall from his secret cash tin). Thereafter there are several dialogue references to sexual favours as 'little extras' that must be paid for−. She spends money on fashionable clothes, make-up and shoes; Parker is impressed by her transformation and begins to lessen his miserliness.

Dulcima goes to visit Ashby. They are clearly interested in each other.

Parker decides to ask Dulcima to marry him but having met Ashby she asks for time to consider. In attempts to persuade her Parker buys a TV set so that they will have something to do on winters evenings when they are married, and 'reveals' the hoard of cash she already knows about.

In town, we see Parker untypically cheerful and benevolent at the market while Dulcima spots Ashby there and purposely gets the same bus home as he does. That evening, Parker has bought himself a new suit and a wedding dress for Dulcima but, distracted, she doesn't unbox it, instead telling Parker she is going out to visit her family. Suspicious, he follows her and sees her meet Ashby in a field, kiss him and head off toward his house (Parker still thinks this is "Albert"). Ashby and Dulcima go dancing. Parker gets drunk and becomes violent and abusive when she returns. She says she will leave in the morning and locks herself in her room. Parker smashes the living room furniture, including the new TV, and tears up the unwanted wedding dress, then remorsefully pleads forgiveness through her locked bedroom door. She remains silent.

In the final scene Dulcima next morning sees Ashby come into the farmyard through her bedroom window. Coming downstairs she finds both the ruined wedding dress and a wedding ring in a box. There is no sign of Parker. Joining Ashby outside, she tearfully tells him she cannot go with him as she is too worried about Parker. Before Ashby can react, Parker shoots him dead from an attic window.

Throughout the film, Duclima never calls the farmer anything other than 'Mr Parker', even after he has proposed to her.



The story was taken from a novella of the same name by H. E. Bates which was published in the 1954 collection The Nature of Love. [2]

The Canadian television film Dulcima (1969) was based on the same novella, with the setting transferred to a small town in Ontario. [3]

In 1969, Bryan Forbes was appointed head of production at EMI Films. Dulcima was announced as part of his initial slate of productions with John Mills and Frank Nesbitt attached from the beginning. [4] [5]


The bulk of the film was shot on location on a farm, over the summer in and around Minchinhampton and Tetbury in Gloucestershire. [6] Shooting was plagued by rain. [7]

Bryan Forbes later wrote "Frank was another young director starting out on a career and again I felt he showed great promise in his handling of this melodramatic, bucolic tale, shot entirely on location. But as with And Soon the Darkness, the cinema and distribution arms of the company showed no great enthusiasm for either film. Purely from a commercial standpoint it seemed an irresponsible waste of the shareholders’ money. Properly marketed with a little imagin- ation and given a chance to succeed, their fate could have been quite different." [8]

Other versions

In 1982 Nica Burns adapted the show for the stage. [9]

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  1. "Dulcima". Film Affinity. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  2. With Fatal Results: THE NATURE OF LOVE. By H. E. Bates. 217 pp. Boston: Atlantic-Little Brown. $3.50. By JAMES STERN. New York Times (1923-Current file); New York, N.Y. [New York, N.Y]23 May 1954: BR4.
  3. "Television highlights". Ottawa Journal , 8 October 1969.
  4. In the Picture Sight and Sound; London Vol. 38, Iss. 4, (Fall 1969): 181.
  5. Day-Lewis, Sean (13 August 1969). "British finance backs plans for 15 new films". The Daily Telegraph. p. 17.
  6. "Film: Dulcima". Reel Streets. Retrieved 23 February 2017.
  7. Moody, Paul (2018). EMI Films and the Limits of British Cinema. Palgrave MacMillan. pp. 43–44.
  8. Forbes, Bryan (1993). A Divided Life:Memoirs. p. 225.
  9. Review: ARTS: Stage presence: For nearly 30 years Nica Burns has run the Edinburgh festival comedy awards -Dickson, Andrew. The Guardian 27 Aug 2011: 14.