The 1968 British film adaptation of Frank Marcus’s hit play The Killing of Sister George remains an important work of early gay & lesbian cinema, and Robert Aldrich’s body of film work.
The “killing” of George in the title is a metaphorical death — that of “Sister George,” a smarmy apple-cheeked do-gooder who stars in a sentimental BBC series about quiant village life. “George” is played in the series by June Buckridge (Beryl Reid), a brassy, bitchy, hard-drinking lesbian who’s the antithesis of the sickeningly sweet character she plays. In spite of the enormous popularity of George, her “death” is inevitable due to the constant embarrassments to the BBC of the woman who plays her. Her indecencies are quite public; they include enraged walkouts from the set, drunken binges, and most egregiously, an assault — which Aldrich treats as high comedy — on two novitiate nuns in a taxi! Some commentators have seen it as homophobic in portraying George as a monstrous version of a lesbian . But it’s ultimately less a comment on lesbianism (though it is that) than an exegesis of the human condition. Aldrich was right when he said “Sister George’s loud behavior and individuality . . . are encompassed in her personality, they’re not a product of her lesbianism. . . . She didn’t give a shit about the BBC or the public’s acceptance of her relationships. That’s why they couldn’t afford her.”