Aside from my modest collection of etiquette books, I get etiquette inspiration from films. Here I present my top 5 films that feature etiquette lessons.
I am not in the least surprised that many in the list feature makeovers. I’ve always believed that beauty is reflected not only in appearance, but also through genteel behaviour and charm.
Many might argue this film romanticises prostitution. It is simply a romantic film where a strong female lead and an unfeeling male lead fall in love with one another. She just happened to be an attractive, kindhearted cocotte. Julia Roberts’ character even charms the hotel manager, who coaches her on dinner etiquette (see picture). During the important dinner, she struggles with escargot, and accidentally pings the little snail across the room. She says, ever so coolly, ‘Slippery little suckers.’
The King’s Speech
This film teaches royal subjects how to address and converse with royalty. Helena Bonham Carter as Queen Elizabeth explains to a startled Mrs Logue, upon finding The Queen in her home, ‘It’s “Your Majesty” the first time. After that, it’s “ma’am.” As in “ham,” not “mum” as in “palm.”’
Two con artists try to pass off an amnesiac orphan, Anya as the eponymous long lost Grand Duchess in order to collect a generous reward from the Dowager Empress. As chance only found in fairy tales would have it, Anya is actually the real deal. Etiquette lessons in dining, dancing and comportment is set to catchy songs as can be expected from a 90’s animated film. They sing, ‘Never slurp the stroganoff.’ ‘I never cared for stroganoff!’ ‘She said that like a Romanov.’
The Princess Diaries
An awkward and timid teen is taught how to be the princess she secretly is by her grandmother, The Queen. Her princess lessons included public speaking, giving the “royal wave” and ballroom dancing. My favourite etiquette scene is when Princess Mia, played by Anne Hathaway, in the middle of a lesson, asks her grandmother if it was ‘customary in Genovia to imprison your dinner guests using Hermés scarves.’
My Fair Lady
Audrey Hepburn stars as a cockney flower seller who comes to live with the pompous Professor Higgins. His etiquette and elocution lessons were so effective, she passes off as a duchess at Ascot, and even dances with a foreign prince at a ball.
The most memorable line from the film was delivered by Professor Higgins, and has left me still wondering if there is a deeper truth in it: ‘You see, the great secret, Eliza, is not a question of good manners or bad manners, or any particular sort of manners, but having the same manner for all human souls. The question is not whether I treat you rudely, but whether you’ve ever heard me treat anyone else better.’
Do you know of other films that feature etiquette tips? Please do leave a comment below.