Updated: May 11
BLU-RAY REVIEW / FRAME SHOTS
Elizabeth Taylor stars as Lady Patricia Belham and Stewart Granger as 19th-century fashion icon Englishman Beau Brummell.
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BEAU BRUMMELL” – WARNER ARCHIVE COLLECTION
Blu-ray, DVD; 1954; Not Rated
Best extra: Only a 1954 Trailer
IT ISN’T EASY to steal scenes from Elizabeth Taylor, yet Stewart Granger manages in the MGM film directed by Curtis Bernhardt (“Sirocco,” 1951) and adapted for screen by Karl Tunberg (“Ben-Hur,” 1959; “Taras Bulba,” 1962).
Think of “Beau Brummell” as the bromance of its time. Dashing and dynamic Stewart Granger (“Scaramouche,” 1952; “King Solomon’s Mines,” 1950) takes the lead and runs with it as the legendary style-setter and bon vivant of 19th century England. Brummell becomes the confidant and adviser to the Prince of Wales (Peter Ustinov, “Spartacus,” 1960), son of the infamous George III from whom American colonists rebelled. They meet when Brummell is a young captain in the Tenth Royal Hussars, where he insults the Prince’s uniform design.
Yet the Prince is fascinated by him, and that’s the center of this 1954 film. Ustinov’s prince has everything but a friend. Son of a middle-class family, Brummell’s wit and lifestyle (he loves to gamble) far outweighs his income, though the dandy refuses to compromise. He soon takes the Prince under his wing. The real Brummel was fastidious in appearance from cleaning his teeth to daily bathing, a habit that was soon adopted by the aristocracy and upper class. In one scene mirrored from truth, Granger makes a show-stopping entrance in a black stove-pipe pants suit ensemble that wows the Prince and his court, changing fashion throughout London. A later scene with Taylor as Lady Patricia Belham can’t hold a candle to it despite her magnificent gowns and jewels.
Slave to attitude, Brummell is soon relying on his friends, especially the Prince, to handle his needs, dodging creditors right and left. Although she loves Brummell – and courts scandal – Lady Belham stays the course to marry her reliable and loving fiancé. It’s a smart move, too, because Brummell’s excesses eventually cause his downfall. That and his falling out with the Prince of Wales.
(1) Lady Patricia Belham and Mrs. Maria Anne Fitzherbert (Rosemary Harris) watch the military exercises. (2) Granger's Captain Brummell of the Tenth Royal Hussars meets the Prince of Wales. (3) The Prince of Wales, played by Peter Ustinov, is the son of George III.
Filmed in England, the movie was adapted from a play by Clyde Fitch written in 1890 according to TCM. It was first made into a silent film in 1924 starring John Barrymore and Mary Astor. The 1080p presentation (1.75:1 aspect ratio) from Warner Archive Collection looks very good. Working from a new 4K scan of the original negative, color is lush with outstanding detail. Film grain is heavy, especially in opening scenes indicating that a second-generation negative may have been used. Grain becomes more refined after the first 15 minutes.
It was shot in Technicolor on 35mm film by cinematographer Oswald Morris, who won an Academy Award for Best Cinematography for “Fiddler on the Roof” (1971), and was nominated for “Oliver!” (1968) and “The Wiz” (1978).
When released, the film had trouble with the Production Code Administration because of the “immoral” relationship between the Prince and his beloved Mrs. Fitzherbert (Rosemary Harris); because a steward at a private club had the “manner of a sex pervert”; because the Prince checks a poodle’s gender, and for use of the word “damn” according to imdb.com.
Sound is delivered through a DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio track balancing clear dialogue, effects and score by Richard Addinsell of Dark Journey (1937) and “Blackout” (1940). His music was also used in “My Week with Marilyn” (2011) and “The Sea Wolves (1980).
As per the style of the time, fact is liberally mixed with fiction in “Beau Brummell,” but it’s still grand fun to watch.
— Kay Reynolds
(1) Brummell and his loyal valet Mortimer (James Hayter) watch politician Sir Ralph Sidley address a crowd. (2) Brummell and The Prince of Wales at a spa. (3) Glasses raised for the Prince. (4) A fox hunt leads to another encounter between Brummell and Lady Patricia.
(1) Lady Patricia considers her romantic options. (2) Robert Morely is cast as George III, whose madness led Parliament to pass the Regency Act, placing his son in charge of the monarchy. (3&4) The Prince arrives in France to visit his sick and impoverished friend.
WARNER ARCHIVE CLIP