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The Gorgeous Hussy
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Reviews & Ratings for
The Gorgeous Hussy More at IMDbPro »

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28 out of 31 people found the following review useful:

An Assassination that never happened.

6/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
24 April 2004

MGM in trying to expand Joan Crawford's repertoire into period costume pieces spared no expense and gave her one all star cast in this drama about the Peggy O'Neal Eaton affair. The basic facts are true, Peggy O'Neal, daughter of a Washington, DC tavern-keeper and widow of a young Navy Lieutenant, marries the Senator from Tennessee who then is chosen Secretary of War in President Andrew Jackson's original cabinet. The Cabinet wives however refuse to receive Peggy socially as does the wife of the Vice President John C. Calhoun. Jackson blows his cabinet up, requests resignations from all involved and Eaton and Peg are sent in exile so to speak as he is made Minister to Spain.

The real story is far more complex than that. Jackson did regard Peggy as a slandered woman, much like his late wife Rachel was. Rachel Donelson Robards Jackson dies between the election and inauguration of Jackson. Beulah Bondi plays her in the movie and it's the best performance in the film. In real life this whole affair was being maneuvered behind the scenes by John Calhoun and Secretary of State Martin Van Buren taking anti and pro Peggy positions respectively. Van Buren's character is barely mentioned here. Played by Charles Trowbridge, he's given one or two lines in the film.

Robert Taylor strikes the right note as the young Naval Lieutenant Bow Timberlake. After Timberlake and Peggy are married, he is ordered to sea and dies there. The manner of his death has never been satisfactorily explained. It's also not explained here and that leaves the audiences up in the air.

Franchot Tone plays John Eaton and I think a lot of his performance is left on the cutting room floor. In real life there is some question as to whether Eaton and Peggy were involved while she was married to Timberlake.

But the most fantastic error in this plot is John Randolph's interest in Peggy. The real John Randolph was impotent, his testicles never descended, he never reached puberty. He never had any romantic attachments with anyone, he wasn't capable of it. In real life John Randolph because he never reached puberty had this girlishly high-pitched voice when he spoke on the floor of Congress. No one ever dared make fun of him though as he was a crack shot with a dueling pistol. Melvyn Douglas played a character with no basis in reality.

One of the other things I found a bit much was Douglas's constant prattle about state's rights. To him this a nice philosophy to be debated on the floor of Congress. Louis Calhern's character who is admittedly like a previous reviewer describes him as a Snidely Whiplash villain, is ready for secession. He goes to Randolph and says that he's organized a movement and he wants Randolph to lead it. The real Randolph would have been hot to trot for that. Melvyn Douglas reacts in horror however, he threatens to expose Calhern's villainy. Calhern has to shoot him. But if you think about it, the only thing Calhern did was take that state's right talk of Douglas to its logical conclusion and translate it into action.

The real John Randolph was never assassinated, he died of natural causes and had no major role in the Peggy O'Neal affair at all.

Maybe some day someone will make a better film of this incident.

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10 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

History soup

6/10
Author: netwallah from The New Intangible College
22 July 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A star vehicle for Joan Crawford, who plays Margaret O'Neal, daughter of an inn-keeper, adoptive niece of Andrew Jackson (Lionel Barrymore), hopelessly in love with Virginia Senator John Randolph (Melvyn Douglas), married first to the dashing naval lieutenant Timberlake (Robert Taylor), and then after turning down Randolph because he's intent on breaking up the Union, to steadfast John Eaton (Franchot Tone). The cast is made more lively by the presence of Beaulah Bondi as the pipe-smoking backwoods Rachel Jackson, by Sidney Toler as Daniel Webster ready to orate at the drop of a hat, by Alison Skipworth as the gossiping Mrs. Beall, and the gosh-shucks comic interludes of a very young James Stewart as Rowdy Dow. This is a sentimental melodramatic revision of history, with historical figures gravitating or (perhaps) orbiting about a beautiful, headstrong, smart young woman. But though she's smart and loyal, possessing all the same political convictions of most of the male characters, the only real scope she has is to marry, or not to marry, somebody whose politics she agrees with. And then the worst she has to endure—other than the heartbreak of not being able to marry Randolph because he's an incipient secessionist—is the petty nastiness of stuck-up Washingtonians who despise her because of her humble origins (she's "Pothouse Peg" to them) and because of what they imagine is scandalous behaviour—especially visiting Randolph's deathbed after he's assassinated by a really vile, sneaky rebel. Jackson intervenes, dismissing his entire cabinet, and Margaret sails with her husband for Spain.

Somehow, I have reservations about Crawford here—and not just the part written for her. True, she is very good-looking indeed, but she doesn't seem to inhabit the part as much as she moves and holds still for the camera, and employs the appropriate facial expressions, the big sad eyes, the sparky impish look, the indignant glare, the soft yielding gaze, the angry flounce. She's overdressed (by Adrian) for the part, and so is her accent. If the dialogue didn't mention it from time to time it would be hard to remember she's not supposed to be a "lady." Her carriage reflects this problem, too, until it seems that everybody else in the cast is acting while she is delivering Joan Crawford content.

And now the other problem with this movie—Andrew Jackson. Lionel Barrymore does a great job making him a crusty but kind-hearted and principled backwoods original, with his colourful curses and idioms, with his corn-whiskey voice and with his bushy white eyebrows. But this is a sentimentalized Jackson, retooled in a process of romantic primitivization: he is made up of equal parts of federalist principles, loyalty to his hayseed origins and his beloved hillbilly wife, avuncular kindness to Margaret, and huffing-and-puffing temper. He is made out to be a proto-Lincoln,determined to Save the Union. I suppose he might have been, but I am so angry with the real Jackson about manifest destiny—the banishment of Indians from the east and the Trail of Tears—that I find this soppy idolatry rather creepy.

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Joan in hoop skirts

3/10
Author: jjnxn-1 from United States
28 January 2012

No! No! No! What is that most modern, at least to her time, of actresses Joan Crawford doing in hoop skirts and crinoline? Pretty much making a fool of herself, not that it's her fault MGM should have known better. There is not one look or gesture that she makes that has a feeling of any period but the 20th century.

Both stagnant and silly this completely miscast picture takes an interesting and scandalous piece of American history, The Petticoat Affair, and make it seem asinine and trivial when it practically tore Jackson's presidency apart and did lead to most of his cabinet's resignation.

Proof positive that not every film that came out of Hollywood's golden age and its premiere studio was a classic worth seeing filled with top flight talent or not. Even if you are a completist of any of the stars work this will be a struggle to get through.

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7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

too genteel for its subject matter

3/10
Author: mukava991 from United States
28 April 2008

THE GORGEOUS HUSSY, based on a 1934 historical novel by Samuel Hopkins Adams, is another one of those genteel forays into the past from squeaky clean MGM. The only compelling ingredients in this overlong saga about the controversial hussy Peggy Eaton who wielded much influence over President Andrew Jackson are a few of the performances and the novelty of actual political debates occurring in the context of a love affair; Hollywood seldom mixed those two elements. The first half hour is bone dead, with familiar performers strutting around in period costumes and delivering the necessary exposition. Joan Crawford is not particularly persuasive as a young tavern keeper's daughter. She looks somewhat haggard and hard, but still beautiful. Things liven up with the appearance of Andrew Jackson (Lionel Barrymore) and his unpopular and maligned wife Rachel (Beulah Bondi). Barrymore may have been a ham who gave basically the same performance in film after film, but at least he puts some juice into the proceedings, making the most he can of the extremely diluted representation of Jackson supplied by the script. Bondi is touching in her depiction of the ill-fated Rachel, the love of Jackson's life. Until then we have had to endure endless moments with a dashing but wooden Melvyn Douglas and a competent but unexciting contribution from neophyte Robert Taylor. Jimmy Stewart and later Franchot Tone are on hand too but only in a few scenes and to little effect. And we have the always nasty and conniving Alison Skipworth as a disapproving society matron to hold our attention. And the marvelous Zeffie Tilbury as Skipworth's deaf mother who disagrees strongly with her snobbish daughter's malicious gossip. Between these bits there are occasionally interesting sketches of the political contentions of the time, mostly about how much power should be granted to the individual states, foreshadowing the Civil War. But we never get a sense of what an extraordinary woman the title character was. Nothing in Joan Crawford's performance or in the material given her indicates that this is anything other than an unusually attractive and well behaved lady with romantic yearnings – but someone for whose honor and reputation a President would dissolve his cabinet and change the course of US history? No way. You cannot make a polite film about these characters in this historical period, but this is what MGM tried to do.

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11 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Crawford was not meant for period dramas

Author: nickandrew from PA
22 June 2003

Fanciful, but silly biography of Peggy Eaton (Crawford), a controversial figure during the Andrew Jackson administration in the late 1820s, and her relationships with influential men of that era. Semi-fiction story is "gorgeous" to look at thanks to elegant period settings and costumes, not so much the performances or script.

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12 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

Better than it gets

10/10
Author: beyondtheforest from United States
31 October 2007

Joan Crawford stars in The Gorgeous Hussy, often referred to as her only historical drama. This is a myth. During her silent years, Crawford was the star of other historical films (Across to Singapore, Rose Marie) and westerns. She also went on to star in Johnny Guitar in 1954, set at the turn of the century, which became one of her most famous films. When reviewers say Crawford was too modern for historical pictures, they conveniently forget the terrific reviews she received for Rose Marie in 1928, now a lost film, and her electric presence in Johnny Guitar.

The Gorgeous Hussy is not a popular film. Many writers claim that Hussy was a disastrous box-office flop, which is not true. It actually made back all of its huge production cost (Hussy was an MGM prestige picture) and turned in a small profit. A lot of people went to see Gorgeous Hussy in its day--more people than saw other films referred to as hits, such as No More Ladies, and yet the high production did not allow it to make a significant enough profit to be considered a hit.

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15 out of 25 people found the following review useful:

A very good film --honestly!!

Author: SkippyDevereaux from Parkersburg, West Virginia
24 February 2001

Joan Crawford shines in this movie, despite what many of her detractors have said about her. I have read many articles about how she was not right in this role and that she was much better in contemporary films and not period dramas, such as this. But I will tell you that they are wrong. This is one very entertaining film and it holds your interest from beginning to end. Everything about this film is breathtaking, the sets, the costumes, the acting (not only from the leads, but also the minors), and even the make-up is very good. Just take a look at Charles Trowbridge and his likeness of Martin Van Buren--amazing!! This film has it all and this film puts another jewel in the Crawford crown of great acting!!

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

This movie deserves nullification

4/10
Author: pbeat from United States
5 December 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This movie is a disgrace to history and period pieces of the 30's. The true story of Peggy Eaton was so much better and I have no idea why they didn't follow the storyline the way it played out in real life. Peggy Eaton was a flirt and married while she was having an affair with Sec. of Agriculture John Eaton. It didn't make any sense in this movie to have Joan Crawford's character not be turned on by Francot Tone, who she was married to in real life. Instead she was attracted to John Randolph, who was a Senator and this part was fictional for no reason. Why not have her fall in love with her future husband? Her husband, at the time, did die at sea and it was rumored that he committed suicide because Peggy was having an affair with John Eaton, who she married a month later. That would have been a real drama. Then, when she went calling on the Washington Ladies, they snubbed her and called her a "hussy." Andrew Jackson was so mad, he fired his whole cabinet, like in the movie. This movie didn't make any sense and to call it "Gorgeous Hussy" made people think they were going to get a good soap opera, which they could have if they would have written a script that stuck to the story. I can just see a good scene with Peggy calling on the ladies only to kept waiting in a hallway and head held high as she had to leave in shame. Joan Crawford can't act. Vivien Leigh, she is not. She spends every scene trying to look radiant and only looks like a deer in headlights.

Andrew Jackson was not Jed Clampett, as he is portrayed here. For God's sake, he was a lawyer, Senator and General at the time of his inauguration. He would not have been brawling at his inauguration party and he didn't say "ain't". Rachel was not Granny Clampet either. She was from a wealthy family in Tennessee and did smoke a pipe, but then a lot of independent minded women smoked. I was just appalled at the portrayal of these characters. No plot was developed and the political issues of nullification, states rights, Bank of America and Peggy Eaton as the 'hussy' were not developed and if the viewer doesn't know history, this whole movie would be perplexing to say the least. As the last scene fades, when the "heroine" who doesn't love her "hero" sails off to Spain, we are left feeling cheated of history. This movie is only good to see the beautiful sets and costumes of the time. I don't even understand why Beulah Bondi, who was great as Rachel was nominated for an Academy Award for her 3 or 4 scenes. There must have been other actresses who had more complex roles that year. Joan Crawford was just awful and Lionel Barrymore should have done a little more study on Andrew Jackson, who was a strong and noble gentleman, not a country bumpkin.

I only rate this movie as high as I did for the costumes and set design. Don't take any of the history seriously. They shamelessly bungled this movie.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Joan and Old Hickory

5/10
Author: utgard14 from USA
12 January 2014

Fictionalized historic soaper about Andrew Jackson's friendship and protection of a young woman named Peggy O'Neal. Lionel Barrymore plays Jackson and Joan Crawford plays Peggy. The rest of the cast is pretty impressive. Melvyn Douglas, James Stewart, Robert Taylor, Franchot Tone, Beulah Bondi, and Louis Calhern....not a bad lineup. Too bad the movie is boring. Andrew Jackson's wife dies and asks Peggy to look out for him. Thus she becomes the unofficial First Lady, despite not being married to or even romantically involved with the President. Peggy has a somewhat scandalous reputation of her own, which reminds Jackson of his wife, who suffered at the hands of Washington gossips. Worth seeing for Lionel Barrymore alone. But the rest of the cast being what it is warrants you check it out.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Not gorgeous, but watchable

5/10
Author: hte-trasme from United States
7 March 2010

"The Gorgeous Hussy" impressed me at once as a rather trite, artificial history-based (I won't actually call it historical) film about the Eaton Affair scandal of Andrew Jackson's presidency. It's an odd subject somewhat to choose as the basis for a romance-filled drama, and the script doesn't do it a whole lot of justice at times. A lot of the dialogue is just difficult to swallow or sickly-sweet, and American history is treated with a kind of overly orthodox distorting reverence -- turning the scandal into a stage for Andrew Jackson to be held up as an early defender of the Union in a proto-iteration of the Civil War -- that grates.

There are good points too however: Lionel Barrymore creates a wonderfully memorable performance as the raucous and rough yet wise President Jackson. He makes the former president human even while the script presents him somewhat two-dimensionally as a kind of grumpy but lovable old uncle most of the time (with a few nice scenes where he gets to be principled and statesmanlike in the face of his congress). Joan Crawford seeps magnetism and sympathy as Margaret, even as we are not really allowed to see the struggles between men that make up much of the movie emotionally dramatized for her. These actors get to play a few nice dramatic scenes amid the posturing, including a very effective one after President Jackson's wife's death.

Unfortunately, the piety with which "The Gorgeous Hussy" treats American history extends to other elements of its subject matter. We are supposed to sympathize with Margaret about the viscous rumors that are spread about her, but we never really learn what the rumors are or why they are spread. In other words, in this Hays-code influenced feature, we see how the titular gorgeous hussy is gorgeous, but never really how she is a hussy.

There are a few fine performances here, and the film is quite watchable, but it is let down by an overly careful, pious, and reverent production in many respects.

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