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Monday, 7 January 2013

Classic Film Review: Beau Brummell (1954)

Beau Brummell stars Stewart Granger as the title character with Elizabeth Taylor as Lady Patricia and Peter Ustinov as the Prince of Wales. It's a loose historical drama (the final scene between Brummell and the Prince, for instance, is entirely fictionalised) but manages to be enjoyable in places due to its verbal chicanery. This is a rather sedate film but an interesting one.

Brummell, the famous man of fashion, befriends the Prince of Wales after grossly insulting him. His friendship with the future king allows him to gain credit and so he builds up his collection of expensive clothes and objects while redecorating his luxurious home whenever the mood takes him. He also indulges in a little romance with Lady Patricia, already promised to somebody else, and tries to solve the Prince's own romantic difficulties with an unsuitable woman, Mrs Fitzherbert (Rosemary Harris).

Granger's performance is adequate enough but it's Ustinov's performance as the Prince of Wales that proves to be the highlight of the film. Extravagant, childish, frustrated, Ustinov portrays the Prince with more depth than I expected. There are some particularly good scenes involving him: the one that springs to mind is when he goes to see his mad father and is nearly strangled to death. Unfortunately, despite Brummell's flamboyance, Granger pales in comparison to Ustinov and Elizabeth Taylor's performance is also adequate but unremarkable.

This is a drama that thrives on dialogue, some of which is hilarious if you listen carefully enough. It has no pretensions to reality and so makes a coherent film of what seems to be an incoherent time.

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