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It's the early nineteenth century Washington. Young adult Margaret O'Neal - Peggy to most that know her - is the daughter of Major William O'Neal, who is the innkeeper of the establishment where most out-of-town politicians and military men stay when they're in Washington. Peggy is pretty and politically aware. She is courted by several of those politicians and military men who all want to marry her, except for the one with who she is truly in love. Because of her personal situation at the time, she, in 1828, becomes the unofficial first lady to help her old friend - "old" both in terms of age and length of time - Andrew Jackson, who has just been elected President of the United States. Jackson and Peggy have the same political outlook, where the union of the states is paramount, especially when many states see their rights as being more important than the union. Jackson had a rough ride during the election in large part because his wife, Rachel Jackson, was seen as a pipe smoking ... Written by
It's a story about Washington D.C. It's about dirty tricks, sleazy operatives, scurrilous personal attacks and lies. The 2012 presidential campaign? No, "The Gorgeous Hussy."
Many people have noted that "The Gorgeous Hussy" is not historically accurate. This is true and at the beginning of the picture they call it "fiction"-drawn from real characters, but definitely fiction. What did you expect? It's MGM in 1936. There is a huge budget, lavish production values, beautiful costumes (male and female), top-notch acting and, of course, romance.
The story centers around Peggy O'Neill, Joan Crawford, an innkeeper's daughter called "Pothouse Peg," for her politics and her men. The men are a list of Metro's bestRobert Taylor, Jimmy Stewart, Franchot Tone, Melvyn Douglas and Lionel Barrymore. Robert Taylor dominates the first quarter of the picture with his enormous energy, his playfulness, his rapport with Crawford and his skin-tight costume. Taylor even sings and dances.
After Bow Timberlake's (Taylor's) heroic off screen death, things settle down. Andrew Jackson (Barrymore) dominates every scene he's in. Beulah Bondi, as Rachel Jackson, is equally good. She won an Oscar nomination for her role.
Joan Crawford is usually criticized for appearing in an historical picture because she was too "modern." Here she handles her costumes beautifully, using her skirts to express a range of emotions. While her acting is fine, she is overwhelmed by the male contingent.
Franchot Tone, Crawford's husband at the time, is quietly effective as her second husband John Eaton. Melvyn Douglas brings strength and intelligence to his role as Virginian John Randolph. Jimmy Stewart is wasted as Peg's failed suitor.
"The Gorgeous Hussy" is fun, sometimes moving and a reminder that political behavior wasn't all that different in the 1820s.
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