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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 <email@example.com>
Briefly, as explained in an introductory title card, "This is the historic tale of two people whose lives are an immortal romance; the story of the love and destiny of England's greatest beauty, and England's greatest sailor." The film focuses on the greatest beauty of Corinne Griffith (as Emma Hart). Her main lover is the greatest sailor, Victor Varconi (as Horatio Nelson). Ms. Griffith dominates the drama, which begins in late 18th century England. Introduced as a servant girl, Griffith becomes enamored with noble boss Ian Keith (as Charles Greville). After gaining a reputation as a "vulgar hussy", Griffith is sent to Italy; there, she becomes more ladylike, and marries Mr. Keith's uncle, H.B. Warner (as William Hamilton). Then, as "Lady Hamilton", she meets, and has an historically influential affair with Mr. Varconi, her "true love".
"The Divine Lady" is a showy, costly production. It was noticed during the second "Academy Awards" ceremony for the direction of Frank Lloyd. Mr. Lloyd's direction is, indeed, a strength; in one scene, he makes you feel you are on a Ferris Wheel. Lloyd was also noted for directing Richard Barthelmess in "Weary River" and "Drag", films which sandwiched "Divine Lady". John Seitz' photography is another strength; he is responsible for many beautiful scenes; and, of course, shows superstar Griffith in her best light. Comic relief Marie Dressler (as Mrs. Hart) appears too briefly.
In 1994, Corinne Griffith received a belated "Academy Award" nomination as "Best Actress" for "The Divine Lady"; the revelation appeared in Robert Osborne's "65 Years of the Oscar: The Official History of the Academy Awards".
There were no actual "nominations" announced that year (actually, the 1928-29 season); after the awards gained stature, there were attempts to bring the earlier ceremonies in line with what was becoming the industry standard. The inclusion of Griffith's name among the nominees may have been due to a suggestion Jeanne Eagels' performance in "The Letter" be dropped, since she died in October 1929.
A look at the other nominations would support Griffith's inclusion; however, the second ceremony was not one of the Academy's best efforts. Griffith's starry, self-conscious performance was better than "Best Actress" winner Mary Pickford's, in "Coquette"; but, so were most. Lillian Gish and Greta Garbo essayed far superior characterizations during the eligibility period, but were not nominated. However, dog star Rin Tin Tin was considered for a "Best Actor" nomination.
****** The Divine Lady (4/14/29) Frank Lloyd ~ Corinne Griffith, Victor Varconi, H.B. Warner, Ian Keith
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