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Sir William Hamilton, a widower of mature years, is British ambassador to the Court of Naples. Emma who comes for a visit with her mother wouldn't cut the grade with London society but she gets along well with the Queen of Naples. Emma likes being Lady Hamilton and life goes smoothly until Lord Nelson pays a visit. Sir William decides at first to let his young wife have her fling and pretends not to know what is going on. But the real life lovers, whose first screen romance was in "Fire Over England" (1937) have an even more burning passion for each other in this film. Written by
Dale O'Connor <email@example.com>
Told by Emma Hart (Vivien Leigh) as a flashback on her life when she was on hard times later in her life, the film portrays her rise to courtly fame and fall from social grace after her affair with the Lord Horatio Nelson (Lawrence Olivier).She is supported by her mother, (Sara Allgood) and makes the acquaintance of the British envoy (Hamilton) to Naples in about 1798.The latter is looking for a trophy wife to add to his collection of sculptures being something of an aesthete and he manages to successfully disabuse Emma from the idea that her fiance will follow her onto Naples.Later he pursades Emma to marry him, more as a platonic relationship to show off.(Nothing has changed).All goes well and Emma further rises in court circles by befriending the King and Queen of Naples.
One day a 21 gun salute announces the arrival in the bay of Naples of the Lord Horatio Nelson on a diplomatic mission.Inevitably he and Emma have their grand affair and the British envoy seems to take it on the chin, (high society did not marry for love in those days).Unfortunately although it is love, Mrs Nelson(Dame Gladys Cooper) will not give Horatio the divorce he craves and his career could mean you were years between meetings with your spouse.The affair will not help his career with the Admiralty either.Of course the day dawns (October 21 1805) off the Cape of Trafalgar (Spain) when Britain took on the combined French and Spanish fleets under Nelson's command.Why did he decide to go on his flagship Victory's quarter deck against good advice showing all his medals and braid, thus making him an obvious target for the sharpshooters in the rigging of "Le Redoubtable"? Was it an unconscious desire to end his life because his private life was then untenable?After his great victory and national rejoicing, his body was preserved in a keg of rum in preparation for a state funeral at St. Paul's Catherdral, London after the voyage home.Trafalgar Square was built in his honour and was laid out in about 1840.When Hamilton dies, Emma graciously refuses to profit from his estate to the detriment of his legitimate son and heirs.With no financial support from her dead love, she falls on hard times.
Obviously Leigh and Olivier had a natural chemistry together because of their marriage and previous affair.Vivien looks utterly exquisite and this film would look sumptuous if a colourised version could now be made available to film connoiseurs.After seeing and reading several versions of Winston Churchill's biography, it was obvious he had a great admiration for historic British martial heros, so it came as no surprise to me that this was his favourite film.Unmissable if you are a Larry and Vivien film fan.I rated it 7/10
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