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The Life and Times of Beau Brummell
29 Oct 1954
World premiere in Philadelphia, PA: 6 Oct 1954; Los Angeles opening: 15 Oct 1954; New York opening: 20 Oct 1954
late Nov 1953--early Feb 1954 at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Boreham Wood, Elstree, England
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([George Bryan] Beau Brummell)
(Lady Patricia [Belham])
([George IV] Prince of Wales)
(King George III)
(Lord Edwin Mercer)
(Mrs. [Maria Anne] Fitzherbert)
(Lord [George Gordon] Byron)
(Sir Geoffrey Baker)
(Sir Ralph Sidley)
George De Warfaz
D. A. Clarke-Smith
(Sir John Wyatt)
(Countess Marie Duvarre)
In early 19th century England, while watching military exercises, George IV, Prince of Wales, is impressed by the swordsmanship of the dashing Capt. George Bryan Brummell. When the prince pays his compliments, Brummell responds with suggestions for improving the design of the regiment's uniforms, and George, who designed the uniforms himself, is offended. Brummell, a man of exacting sartorial and Epicurean tastes, is unfazed by the prince's disapproval, and makes an appearance that evening, wearing daring stove pipe pants, at a regimental dinner. There he meets the beautiful Lady Patricia Belham, the intended of George's political advisor, Lord Edwin Mercer. When Brummell refuses to retract his criticism of the uniforms, the prince discharges him from the service. Late that night, as Brummell watches his regiment embark on an overseas assignment, Patricia approaches him and asks why he is willing to sacrifice his military career. The proud Brummell explains that he is unwilling to compromise his dignity and self-respect, and impulsively kisses her. Brummell is left with no clear course for the future, however, as he has neither family name nor fortune. While strolling through town one day with his loyal valet Mortimer, Brummell sees politician Sir Ralph Sidley addressing a crowd. Brummell interrupts Sidley's speech with some sharply worded comments about the prince, and a newspaper reporter invites him to repeat his opinions the following evening at a civic meeting. Brummell accepts, and quickly makes a name for himself with his stinging indictment of the prince's excesses. Later, George is urged by Mercer and his prime minister, William Pitt, to end his relationship with his widowed, Catholic lover, Mrs. Maria Anne Fitzherbert, and make an advantageous marriage. Brummell is summoned by the prince, and as he urges George to stand up to Pitt, a bond begins to grow between the two men. One evening, when Brummell returns from the prince's birthday party, Mortimer warns him that his numerous creditors are growing impatient and suggests they go abroad. Brummell, who has become George's close friend and confidant, refuses, insisting that the prince needs him. Patricia drops by, and after Brummell shows her his exquisitely furnished house, they admit their strong feelings for each other. Patricia considers him too unstable to be a good candidate for marriage, however, and Brummell soon learns that her engagement to Mercer will be announced at an upcoming hunting party. Brummell is present at the gathering, and the prince publicly praises him for his devotion, promising to make Brummell an earl when he becomes king. While the other guests are fox hunting, Brummell and Patricia find themselves alone in the woods, and they fall into a passionate embrace. After the hunt, Mercer brusquely tells Patricia they should cancel their engagement, but she promises never to see Brummell again. The following morning, the distraught prince tells Brummell that Mrs. Fitzherbert is planning to leave for Italy. Brummell tells the prince that Pitt has been concealing the fact that King George III has gone mad. He urges the prince to have his father certified insane and declare himself regent, which would empower him to marry whomever he pleases. With Brummell and several doctors at his side, the prince goes to court and calls on George III, who is declared mad after he fails to recognize his son and tries to strangle him. Parliament limits the prince's power as acting regent, although it does grant him authority to change the marriage act, which forbids marriage to a Catholic, and make it possible for George to wed Mrs. Fitzherbert. Brummell advises the prince to reject Parliament's conditions, however, or lose power to Pitt. Emotionally overwrought, the prince turns on Brummell, accusing him of acting out of self-interest. Brummell insults the prince, and their close friendship ends. When his break with the prince becomes known, Brummell's creditors close in, and Brummell and Mortimer flee to Calais, France. Time passes, and the prince ascends to the throne after the death of George III. One day, George tells Mercer, who is now married to Patricia, that he has heard Brummell is sick and impoverished. George requests Mercer to discreetly provide assistance to his former friend. Meanwhile, in a freezing garret in Calais, the ailing Brummell declines a lucrative offer to publish his memoirs lest they prove embarrassing to the king. Brummell's health declines, and he is visited on his deathbed by George, who is in Calais on state business. Brummell is greatly moved by the king's visit, and the two men have an emotional reunion. After the king leaves, Brummell dies, his heart finally at peace.
(Dir of photog)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
A. W. Watkins
Great Britain and United States
Inspired by the play
by Clyde Fitch (New York, 17 May 1890).
Passed By NBR:
Western Electric Sound System
print by Technicolor
George IV, King of England, 1820-1830
Great Britain--History--19th century
George Gordon Byron, Baron
George III, King of England, 1738-1820
Great Britain--History--Social life and customs
Great Britain. Parliament
Marriage--Forced by circumstances
William Pitt, the Younger
The working title of this film was
The Life and Times of Beau Brummell
. The onscreen credits include the following written prologue: "In the day of Napoleon, Nelson, and Wellington, of Pitt, Burke, and Fox there lived a man called Beau Brummell. Lord Byron said he was the greatest man in Europe. Brummell agreed--and he very nearly proved it." The opening credits also state that the film was "based on the play written for Richard Mansfield by Clyde Fitch." Mansfield, one of the leading American actor-producers of the late 19th century, commissioned
from Fitch, a highly prolific playwright, in 1889 as a starring vehicle for himself. The play was a great success for both Mansfield and Fitch. Although Fitch's play is credited onscreen, a note attached to the
from studio executive Rudi Monta states: "The Clyde Fitch play was used by Karl Tunberg only as a mere springboard...as a matter of fact, the similarities between the Tunberg screenplay and the Fitch play stem from common historical sources."
George Bryan "Beau" Brummell (1778--1840) was educated at Eton and Oxford, and became a close friend of the Prince of Wales (later George IV) while he was a teenager. Gifted with an impeccable sense of style, Brummell achieved renown in high society both as a wit and as an arbiter of fashion. In 1816 he fled to France to escape his creditors, and served time in debtor's prison before dying in a lunatic asylum in Caen. George IV (1762--1830) was appointed prince regent in 1811 after his father, King George III, was found mentally incompetent to rule, and reigned as king of Great Britain from 1820--1830. In 1785, George secretly married Mrs. Maria Anne Fitzherbert, a widow and Roman Catholic; however, the marriage was later declared illegal by Parliament.
, M-G-M was planning to make a version of the film, with Robert Donat in the title role, as early as 1938. According to May 1953 studio publicity material contained in the film's production file at the AMPAS Library, Eleanor Parker was originally cast opposite Stewart Granger.
was filmed entirely in England. On 15 Nov 1954, the film was given a Royal Command performance in London that was attended by Queen Elizabeth, the Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Margaret. According to a 17 Nov 1954 article in
, the screening was preceded by a stage show directed by Peter Ustinov, and the event raised money for the Cinematograph Trades Benevolent Fund. Critical reaction to the special screening was quite negative. According to a 24 Nov 1954
news item, Sir Alexander Korda promptly published a letter in the
recommending that the selection process for Royal Command performances be revised. A Jan 1986
news item reported that recently declassified government papers revealed that Queen Elizabeth was offended by the film's portrayal of her ancestors. According to a memo from Winston Churchill included in the papers, the queen told him "what a bad film it was."
Fitch's play was first adapted for the screen by Warner Bros. in 1924. The silent film was directed by Harry Beaumont and starred John Barrymore and Mary Astor (see
AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30
). The life of George IV was the subject of the 1978 British television mini-series
, which starred Peter Egan as the prince and Nigel Davenport as the king. George III's decline into mental illness was depicted in the 1994 British film
The Madness of King George
, which was directed by Nicholas Hytner and starred Nigel Hawthorne as the king and Rupert Everett as Prince George.
9 Oct 1954.
6 Oct 54
6 Oct 54
16 Aug 1938.
24 Aug 53
20 Nov 53
5 Feb 54
6 Oct 54
7 Oct 54
28 Oct 1954.
7 Jan 1986.
Motion Picture Daily
6 Oct 1954.
Motion Picture Herald
9 Oct 1954.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
16 Oct 54
27 Nov 1954.
New York Times
21 Oct 54
30 Oct 1954.
6 Oct 54
17 Nov 1954.
24 Nov 1954.
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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the
AFI Catalog of Feature Films
and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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