L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Vivien Leigh as Lady Hamilton, costumes by René Hubert, 1941

Called "That Hamilton Woman" in the United States and "Lady Hamilton" in Great Britain, the film was Leigh's third film to be made in Hollywood, and her third (and final) film with her very new husband Laurence Olivier; their respective spouses having belatedly agreed to divorces, the two were married on 30 August 1940 and filming took place in September and October. Produced on a tight budget, shooting was completed in a rushed five weeks, and only a few months later the couple returned home to an England at war with Germany. Their film, based on the lives of Lord Horatio Nelson, the great naval foe of Napoléon, and his mistress, Lady Emma Hamilton, was produced and directed by Alexander Korda during his enforced stay in Hollywood and, with its historical parallels, was a not so subtle call of support for the beleaguered British. (The United States wouldn't enter the war until after the attack on Pearl Harbor at the end of 1941.) Someone who would have had exactly no problem with the distinct whiff of propaganda was British Prime Minister Winston Churchill; it's been widely reported that this was his very favorite film, and that he eventually viewed it more than eighty times.

The gorgeous "Lord Nelson" gown. Lady Hamilton has been performing at a celebration for Nelson, hence the "N" on her necklace...
... and in her hair.
The "N" pendant of her necklace is matched by those of her earrings.
Happily, it appears that the original gown has survived.
Wearing the Nelson gown, Leigh posed for a slightly satirical take on the intense working conditions of the "Hollywood Machine".

The wonderful scene of the ravishing Leigh/Emma running to meet Olivier/Nelson; the wildly romantic glamour of the thing more than a little dulled by my sadly blurry capture.


  1. A flawless beauty. I sometimes wonder how my favorite Elizabeth Taylor movie, Elephant Walk, would have been like with Leigh. Leigh was originally cast in Taylor's role.

    1. I haven't seen that movie in sooo long; I really barely remember it. I'll have to re-watch! : )

      (And yes, I knew poor Vivien Leigh began it, but had a breakdown and had to drop out, mostly due, no doubt, to her unhappy affair with Peter Finch; she was very ill....)

  2. I like how Romney in his magnificent portrait captured her after her wedding, in that wide brimmed hat (not quite Leghorn?) That at least Hollywood could get it right...

    According to Goethe, who saw her act in her (by then already) famous Attitudes, Emmas's dress was of the Greco Roman style. Then, by coincidence, exactly the fashion of the time.

    Immediately after the French Revolution, the Merveilleuses (with Josephine de Beauharnais and Therese Tallien as leaders) inaugurated the new fashion: Greco Roman style in transparent (muslin?) fabrics and on their feet, flat sandals in golden or silver leather.

    In this movie, as usual, Hollywood is tampering with history in its proverbial way.