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A partly fictionalized account of history begins with the arrival of slatternly Emma Hart, a cook's daughter, at the home of Charles Greville. Greville takes her as his lover and grooms her until their relationship becomes an inconvenience. Greville then dupes Emma into traveling to Naples to live with his uncle, Lord Hamilton, ambassador to the court at Naples. Realizing that Greville has abandoned her, Emma agrees to marry Lord Hamilton. Soon, however, she meets Admiral Horatio Nelson of the British Navy. Emma plays a crucial role in convincing Naples to open its ports to Nelson during his campaign against Napoleon's French fleet. Soon, Emma and the married Nelson become romantically involved -- a relationship which will have consequences for them both. Written by
Shannon Patrick Sullivan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Both this film The Divine Lady and the better known That Hamilton Woman hardly give the correct portrayal of Emma Hart Hamilton. There was nothing saintly or divine about that woman. If you want to see a correct interpretation of her, I would recommend Bequest To A Nation, written by Terrence Rattigan and starring Glenda Jackson as Emma and Peter Finch as Lord Nelson.
However for those who love romantic stories be they true or fictional this restored transitional classic and the much better That Hamilton Woman will be your cup of tea. The Divine Lady was a mostly silent film with no dialog, but a dubbed singer for Corinne Griffith singing English airs of the period. I don't think anyone believed that soprano was Corinne's voice.
For those who don't know any of the films I've cited or English history, Emma Hart played by Corinne Griffith and her mother Marie Dressler are employed as cook and maid at the home of Ian Keith as Charles Greville. Griffith catches the eye of Sir William Hamilton who is in the diplomatic service of Great Britain and she marries him to skip quite a few rungs on the English social scale.
But while H.B. Warner as Hamilton has eyes for her, Griffith spots an up and coming naval officer Victor Varconi as Horatio Nelson. They begin one of the most notorious extra-marital affairs in history. That affair and the influence that Emma gains at the court of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies where Hamilton has been made ambassador has a great deal to do with saving Great Britain. That much is true.
What's not true is how noble Emma Hamilton was. She was quite the bawdy character in her day, her common origins did more than slip. She could be vulgar and cruel, she was very cruel to Lady Nelson in real life played here by Helen Jerome Eddy. But her place in history is secure as is her place in legendary romances.
The Divine Lady won an Oscar for Director Frank Lloyd, his first of three the others also being subjects concerning the United Kingdom, Cavalcade and Mutiny On The Bounty. Corinne Griffith was nominated for Best Actress although that seems to be a subject of dispute and the film got an Oscar nomination for cinematography. Probably the award it should have gotten was for special effects, but that category had not been established yet.
The Divine Lady is a cinematic and historical anachronism, but worthy of a viewing for those reasons.
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