About six or seven years ago, I picked up a tatty second hand paperback called 'I Want What I Want' by Geoff Brown. In it, a teenage boy called Roy is struggling with his over-riding desire to be a woman. When his unsympathetic Dad catches him in high heels and make up, Roy moves away to a rented room where, in anonymous solitude, he perfects his real self, Wendy. For a while he lives and dresses as a woman, making friends who have no idea of his true identity. When Wendy falls in love with a brutish games teacher called Frank, however, her secret life starts to unravel pretty quickly.
Overall, it was a slightly trashy but absorbing read. I even wrote a song about it for a friend of mine to perform. When I found out they'd made a film of the book, my head nearly exploded. Ridiculously, it has taken me until now to track a copy down and, although it's no masterpiece, it's a fascinating piece of work.
Made in 1972, it stars Anne Heywood in the dual (well, sort of) role of Roy and Wendy. Anne is slightly too mature for the role and doesn't look much like a man, to be honest, but then Roy is slight and finely featured. As Wendy, however, Anne uses her voice and some clever make up to pull off the difficult acting trick of being a woman who is a man who looks like a woman.
The film is choc-a-bloc with great period detail and transplants the books locations of Beverley and Hull to Bracknell and London. Bracknell was a new town (it's still under construction in some of the location shots), and can also be seen in other 'Island' favourites 'I Start Counting' and 'The Offence'. I might do a feature about it one day.
There is one crucial difference between the book and the film: on paper, it ends abruptly with the chillingly ambiguous sentence 'I fell down the stairs'; on film, there is something approaching a happy ending. That said, both versions feature a woman trying to cut her penis off.
Here's the trailer. It's in Spanish, but I rather like that about it.
Two final facts pertaining to the film: it was apparently the first mainstream film to include a sympathetic portrayal of a trans character , and Anne Heywood's real name is Violet Pretty, which is quite charming, especially as she was the 1950 Miss Great Britain.