Based on the Profumo Scandal of 1963, an affair between an exotic dancer and the Minister of War shakes up the British government.


Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Christine Keeler (as Joanne Whalley-Kilmer)
Lord Astor (Bill)
Mariella Novotny
Daniel Massey ...
Roland Gift ...
Johnnie Edgecombe
Jean Alexander ...
Mrs. Keeler
Detective Inspector
Justice Marshall
John, Detective Sgt.
Eugene Ivanov (as Jeroen Krabbe)
Kevin, Reporter Sunday Pictorial
Paul Mann


An English bon-vivant osteopath is enchanted with a young exotic dancer and invites her to live with him. He serves as friend and mentor, and through his contacts and parties she and her friend meet and date members of the Conservative Party. Eventually a scandal occurs when her affair with the Minister of War goes public, threatening their lifestyles and their freedom. Based on the real Profumo scandal of 1963. Written by Ed Sutton <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


In 1960 Christine Keeler met Mandy Rice-Davies. Three years later they brought down the British Government See more »


Drama | History

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong sexuality, and for language | See all certifications »




Release Date:

28 April 1989 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Skandal  »

Box Office


$8,800,000 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Produced in 1988 concurrently with a theatrical season in London for Ian McKellen, who along with several co-stars took part in assisting Sam Wanamaker's attempts to ensure the heritage of both the 'Globe' and 'Rose' theatres. This included several inspection visits that are recalled anecdotally by volunteers. Later some co-stars attending the densely packed celebrity event, the 'Save the Rose Theatre' campaign's public PR day in May 1989. This film was promoted to the media on the day, along with many others. [See artist entries, The Tall Guy (1989) and Henry V (1989) as examples.] See more »


When Mandy Rice-Davies and Christine Keeler walk alongside the river Thames in the early morning, a 1980s coach crosses the bridge in the background. See more »


[Mandy is being cross-examined in court]
Mervyn Griffith-Jones: Are you aware that Lord Astor has denied impropriety in his relationship with you?
Mandy Rice-Davies: [smiles] Well, he would, wouldn't he?
[crowd in gallery roars with laughter]
See more »


Spoofed in The Man Who Knew Too Little (1997) See more »


Running Bear
Written by The Big Bopper
See more »

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User Reviews

Surprising and moving
18 October 2005 | by (Wolverhampton, England) – See all my reviews

I saw this for the first time last night on Channel 4. I've never sought out the film before because I assumed that it would be an uninvolved telling of an uninteresting piece of British history. I was wrong.

The piece works on several levels, as they say. First, the period evocation is excellent. I became interested in this era after reading an interesting book on slum landlord Peter Rachmann a few years back (he is a minor character here). Christine Keeler was a figure who inhabited both the pot and ska parties of London's impoverished immigrant community and the bedrooms of the most powerful men in the land, and this breadth and contrast gives the film sufficient scope to successfully capture the energy and feel of the time.

Second, the handling of character development is exemplary. The film surprises you by gradually shading in the relationship between Keeler and Stephen Ward, until their completely believable 'love affair' becomes the focus in the moving finale. Joanne Whalley and John Hurt are both exceptional as Keeler and Ward, turning in subtle and detailed performances. These characters are contradictory and ambiguous, the kind of complex human beings who could quite easily be reduced to type by lesser actors.

Third, the film is made with real heart and intelligence. It is sympathetic to its characters and it strives to understand them, and thus help us to understand them. The director, Michael Caton-Jones frames and cuts with brilliant understatement, making potent and witty use of contemporary music throughout. I really didn't expect the seamless technique and low-key accretion of detail employed here, and it kept me fascinated.

The tone of the picture is just right. A kind of compassionate sadness. We come to feel the real injustice of the moral and social hypocrisy bought to bear without being assaulted by it, and as noted before, the ending is powerful and affecting. It would appear that tabloid scumbags were as pernicious an influence then as they are now, and the observations thereon are as relevant as ever.

If I had to find fault with the film, it would be this: Ian McKellen models perhaps the least convincing bald pate in the history of cinema as John Profumo. So much so, that, for me, it impacts negatively on his otherwise notable performance. Its a minor flaw all told.

I was surprised. I was impressed. I was moved. If you happen upon the film, sit down and watch it. You will be rewarded.

28 of 31 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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