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George Bryan Brummel, a British military officer, loves Lady Margery, the betrothed of Lord Alvanley. Despite her own desperate love for Brummel, she submits to family pressure and marries Lord Alvanley. Brummel, broken-hearted, embarks upon a life of revelry. He befriends the Prince of Wales and leaves the army, becoming subsequently the best-known rake and decider of fashion in Europe. As his affairs flourish, so does his disdain for his benefactor, the Prince. Eventually Brummel falls into disfavor, and it is only Lady Margery who has any chance of helping him. Written by
Jim Beaver <email@example.com>
A charming, surprisingly subtle silent comedy of manners mixed with drama.
It's interesting how much 'wit' can be found even in a film without spoken words. "Beau Brummel" is playful, a little naughty, and at times quite sad. The acting here is notably restrained and natural for a silent film. with John Barrymore leading the way in an excellent performance as Gordon Byron 'Beau' Brummel.
Brummel was a real person, even though the film acknowledges up front that his escapades have been largely fictionalized by legend. In this reality, Brummel was an 18th century army officer and dandy, who, despite his lack of wealth or noble blood, partied with the elite, romancing the women, befriending the men, and being a style and trend setter. What gives this a sense of drama to go with the playful social satire is the fact that Beau is denied the one woman he really loves, so his other successes are all a bit hollow. Also, in the end Brummel has little other than his smarts and charm to stand on, which keeps him always one insolent move from falling into poverty and disrepute.
There are weak spots. The photography and direction aren't particularly imaginative, with a very stagy feel to the blocking and camera angles. Most of the film is shot in head on, eye level medium 2-shots. The sets also often look a bit more like something designed for the stage than for the 360 degree vision of film. But if this isn't a great film, it's a good, clever, enjoyable one, and a chance to see Barrymore, said by many to be the finest actor of his time, as a comparatively young leading man.
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