Lady Caroline Lamb (1972) Poster

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Melodramatic & inaccurate
z221407617 October 2000
As a work of fiction, this is an unexceptional piece of melodrama with a familiar story: the heroine falls in love with a man who abandons her cruelly. Then she does it again, and finally dies miserable and alone. Unfortunately, the main characters in this story are *supposed* to be real people. In the course of presenting Caroline Lamb (played by his wife) as a woman wronged, Bolt rides roughshod over historical facts and turns a blind eye to some of her less noble moments. In particular Lord Byron, her sometime lover, is presented as a poorly researched caricature. (On the bright side, the crippled leg that plagued him throughout his life has miraculously vanished.)

It is true, as depicted in the film, that 'Caro' and Byron had an affair, and that Byron was the one to break it off as she became more and more obsessed with him. But the film completely fails to note that she went on to conduct a vicious campaign of revenge against him that lasted for considerably longer than the original affair, and played a major part in ruining his reputation in England with accusations of crimes up to and including murder. Byron was certainly a flawed human being, but Bolt magnifies and distorts those flaws while ignoring many of Lady Caroline's.

It appears that Bolt is more interested in making a good story than in representing the life of the real Caroline Lamb, which would be forgivable if he *had* created a good story. But there's nothing exceptional about this one, not even the costumes; just a run-of-the-mill "woman ruined by heartless men" tale. If it's 19th-century fiction you're after, a Jane Austen dramatization would be a better choice; if it's historical accuracy you like, you won't find it here.
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It's the Music which Makes this Movie
David Butterworth26 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
It doesn't really matter when pondering the origins of artistic creative genius when you have the privilege of actually hearing it, and it doesn't come much better than listening to Richard Rodney Bennet's musical score to this film. I watched the VHS version which, unfortunately, is still the only one available, last winter, and was struck by the film's musical message and subject content. It also doesn't really matter if historical accuracy is somewhat shrouded by other matters, considered more important, such as the core, or center of the soul, which was the essence of Caroline Lamb's relationship with Byron, and which caused her life to break down into hopeless violence and chaos; "it'll end badly," according to her husband's accurate prediction. This is what Bolt wanted to portray and did so successfully, much like his portrayal of Thomas More in 'A Man For All Seasons.' Of course, the film isn't without flaws - very few are. Sarah Miles was probably more successfully cast in films such as 'Those Magnificent men in Their Flying Machines,' or 'Ryan's Daughter.' But a historical Lady Caroline is probably difficult to act. Margaret Leighton did a much better job portraying a shrewish hard-nosed Lady Melbourne. You couldn't, in those days, go beyond being "a little shady," right to her ignorant, inexpressive and unmoved response to Caroline's bizarre 'wild' death from a broken heart: "My god... wouldn't she!" All she ever cared about was her son's political status and ambition, no less than her own reputation. It's perhaps ironic that these two actresses played opposite each other in a contemporary version of 'Great Expectations' when Leighton as Miss Havisham regrets rearing a heart of stone, Estella. The death scene is almost reminiscent of dark and stormy parallel film genre situations, such as Susannah York's wandering around the Yorkshire Moors in an adaptation of Jane Eyre, and Anna Calder Marshall's performance as the ghost of a dead Catherine Earnshaw in a 70's adaptation of Wuthering Heights. Byron and Heathcliff are rocks on which their heroines dash themselves against. There are other examples of 19th Century tragic women caught in wind or rain, such as Hardy's 'Far From the Madding Crowd,' and for which Bennet also wrote the film score.

But to top it all, it's the music that shines forth, right from the striking opening, hearing the symbol percussion instrument when the film's title appears on the screen (like switching on a light) and is much better in the original widescreen format, to the solo violin elegy and closing credits. Miles galloping across the moors is incurably and slaveringly romantic like the romance of the times, enhancing the passion, wildness, eagerness, an unquenchable flame, in this music. Being rich, ravishing, unquenchable, insatiable, I listen to it again and again and again. It's dramatic and overwhelming; even haunting cold, hollow. Enough said.
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One of the best curtain lines ever!
Greg Couture17 April 2003
After enduring Robert Bolt's rather turgid retelling of Lady Caroline Lamb's ill-fated love and finding myself, once again, unable to warm to his real-life wife (at the time), the rather tiresome Sarah Miles, the whole enterprise was redeemed by that fabulously funny curtain line. When told that Lady Caroline has died of a broken heart, one of her chief female detractors faces the camera (through the lace curtains of a window, I seem to recall) and hisses, (Alas! I'm not quoting verbatim, since I haven't seen this since its theatrical release, but here goes...) "She would!, wouldn't she?!?" I laughed all the way out to the parking lot. Not available on video, apparently, and if they do unearth this bit of cinematic costume jewellry (not really a precious gem, mind you), let us hope that it will be on DVD where the Panavision/widescreen ratio will be preserved.
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Really rather splendid
Martin Bradley15 January 2015
Robert Bolt won two Oscars back to back, (for "Doctor Zhivago" and "A Man for All Seasons"), as well as penning that most literate of epics "Lawrence of Arabia". Indeed for a time he seemed to be David Lean's writer of choice until his script for Lean's elephantine "Ryan's Daughter" and that films critical failure, severed those ties. In 1972 Bolt not only wrote, but also directed, "Lady Caroline Lamb". It wasn't really a success and, as may be expected, is a very literate-minded costumer but also, as may be expected, is highly intelligent and very nicely played.

It is, of course, an account, for the most part, of the title character's scandalous and disastrous affair with the mad, bad and dangerous to know Lord Byron, seen here as some kind of 19th century rock star. As Lady Caroline, Sarah Miles is quite splendid, (she was, of course, Mrs Bolt), I've always felt Miles was a much better actress than she was ever given credit for, though her tremulous style wasn't to everyone's taste. As Byron, a somewhat surprising Richard Chamberlain acquits himself somewhat surprisingly well, while Jon Finch is more than adequate as Lady Caroline's husband. The supporting cast are made up mostly of the great and the good of the British acting establishment, (a superb Margaret Leighton, John Mills, Laurence Olivier as Wellington, Ralph Richardson in an excellent cameo as King George IV, Michael Wilding), and the production overall is extremely handsome to look at. (It's obvious, on the whole, no expense was spared). Indeed, as historical dramas go, this one is a cut above the rest with Bolt displaying a keen sense of the cinematic in several scenes. Hardly ever revived, it's worth seeking out.
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very romantic
mcb190013 March 2002
I have watched this movie countless times, and always find its understanding of hopeless romance (is there any other kind?)very striking. This film is filled with vulnerability and compassion - I recommend it to anyone that would like to be swept away. It's unfortunate that it's almost impossible to find these days.
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It's the raw humaness and beauty that holds me.
dhwood-19 April 2003
I loved this film the first time I watched it more than a dozen years ago. It does not surprise me that the writer and director Mr. Robert Bolt was a playwright-this film captures the best of what makes a film and a play, which is a very unusual occurrence.

This film always-always captivates me with it's genius beginning-the camera is the mind of the director and writer and this mind is a brilliant and passionate one! The first minute of this film reveals Sarah Miles' character, Lady Caroline Lamb, perfectly. The rest of the film is just as honest and raw. I suppose it's the raw humaness and beauty of this film that holds me and shall always cause me to hold this film so much higher than others. I am willing to bet that because Mr. Bolt was a playwright that he had a high respect for the craft of acting-perhaps this is another reason the film is so rich-the actors are given the time to do their art. Thanks to Mr. Bolt and Sarah Miles for coming together and bringing into the world this beautiful, poetic and tender work.
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I'm glad I didn't pay $2 to see this in 1973
Steven Torrey18 July 2014
I gave the movie an 8 out of 10 stars--because I thought the actors gave convincing portrayals of a drug-addled Caroline Lamb, and an ambitious William Lamb 2nd Viscount Melbourne, and an equally ambitious mother of William Lamb. Without seeing Lady Caroline Lamb as one addicted to laudanum, the viewer misses an important part of the Sarah Miles portrayal; I was convinced from the acting and make up that Lady Caroline was addicted and emotionally disturbed--the cropped hair, the pale--wan look, the bugged eyes. Lord Byron, played by Richard Chamberlain came across as the cad Byron was in real life. The other actors more than fulfilled their contract and gave exemplary performances.

As always, anything from Hollywood and its environs in England or Italy or Germany, etc. is to be suspect. The business of Hollywood is to tell a story, not to describe history. Apparently Lady Caroline Lamb died at the early age of 43 (in January 1828) of influenza-- the dramatic collapse of Lady Caroline is just that--drama. The viewer can readily conclude from the movie that addiction to laudanum severely compromised her health. One turns to books to verify the information in the movie.

The movie portrays William Lamb as long suffering with an unstable and unfaithful wife--where in reality, William Lamb himself was no slouch in the infidelity department. William Lamb did not become Lord Melbourne till his Father's death in 1828-- after Caroline had died; Melbourne did not become Prime Minister till 1834--again, years after Lady Caroline died.

The movie is available on YouTube and is worth spending the two hours it takes; like I say, I'm glad I didn't spend the $2 to see it in 1973. There were many better movies to see at that time.
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In Praise of "Lady Caroline Lamb"
harukahoneyh8 November 1999
This is a beautiful picture and makes me cry every time I watch it. Also Richard Chamberlain is fantastic as Lord Byron. Sarah Miles give a wonderful portrayal of the tragic woman. Anyone who can't appreciate this film has no knowledge of Lamb's inner feelings. I loved it and am glad there was a film made about one of history's most slandered women.
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It is 40 years old after all...
KateC4929 July 2011
I first saw this film on holiday in London c1973 when it was first released. It was showing at the prestigious Odean Cinema in London & I recall at the time this film was such a 'big deal' that the we were given (or bought) a large glossy souvenir program that came with the film. It was treated like we were attending the opera or theater. Look at the line up of big names who were a part of this. Laurence Olivier, John Mills, Ralph Richardson, Margaret Leighton & 'super star' Richard Chamberlain after his 'Dr Kildare' fame.

Forty years on it all seems rather ordinary and we know that Bolt was rather loose with the historical facts. But I still enjoyed seeing it again remembering that first time I saw it all those years ago. In fact, some of the best work Richard Chamberlain would do was in the 5-6 years he lived in the UK and about the time he made this. And even now I give it an 8/10
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Laurence Olivier as Lord wellington makes the movie!!
alicecbr5 May 2000
Boy, can women make fools over themselves and over such a cute little boy as Lord Byron!!! Lord Lamb is made to look a lamb indeed, as he continually forgives his neurotic/crazy wife for affairs that other women, including his own mother, have left and right but with discretion!! It reminded me of the hooraw over poor Pres. Clinton and his dalliance with the hooker/I mean aide, and the hypocritical rantings of Newt Gingrich who was doing the same thing all the time,.....but DISCREETLY. My goodness, aren't we just like the English!!! Since I don't really know the history, other than that the Brittannica says that she made a scene at some Lady's party...boy, did she ever!!! cutting her wrists and bleeding all over everybody's ball gowns. The mother, former mistress of George IV is quite intelligent and not half-bad. I loved all the costumes and the histrionics myself. Just to look at all those palatial estates was worth the price of the movie!!

And of course, Olivier is different in every movie! How I miss him!
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one of the dullest British costumers ever
MartinHafer9 June 2005
I tried VERY hard but could never make it through this film without falling asleep. I tried twice but the boredom level of this TOTALLY uninteresting picture was off the charts. How could you make a movie based on a 19th century sex scandal boring?! I don't know, but the studio found a way! At the time, I was very surprised, as I have loved Richard Chamberlain in so many other movies (such as the made for TV MAN IN THE IRON MASK, SHOGUN or COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO). Subsequent to seeing this awful film, I had the displeasure of going to the theater and seeing an even worse Chamberlain film (KING SOLOMON'S MINES). Apparently he is MORE than able to star in crappy films after all!
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LADY CAROLINE LAMB (Robert Bolt, 1972) **1/2
MARIO GAUCI4 April 2014
This was one of four high-profile yet maligned films, all dating from the same year, which were slapped with the dreaded BOMB rating by the "Leonard Maltin Movie Guide"; conversely, the more conservative Leslie Halliwell was generally more receptive to their old-fashioned qualities! Anyway, two of these (including the one under review) had been very hard to come by, though both were quite recently shown on Italian TV – and, in fact, came across my copy of LADY CAROLINE LAMB off "You Tube" which I looked for on a whim on the occasion of co-star Richard Chamberlain's birthday! For the record, the other titles I am referring to are THE GREAT WALTZ (which still eludes me), MAN OF LA MANCHA and POPE JOAN (which has only been made available in a trimmed version and which I will be getting to presently in my Easter Epic marathon)…

I have always enjoyed pictures dealing with historical figures but, around the time this came out, these had acquired a Revisionist outlook which often exposed the less-than-pleasant details of their private lives. Perhaps the first to do this had been Ken Russell via a number of irreverent made-for-TV musical biopics throughout the 1960s but, by the end of the decade, his movie career had taken off in earnest – with THE MUSIC LOVERS, starring the afore-mentioned Chamberlain as Tchaikovsky, hitting the screens in 1971. Here, then, he is libertine poet Lord George Byron – first seen challenging a black man to a boxing match – who became the lover of the titular figure (played by Sarah Miles) while she was married to politician Sir William Lamb (Jon Finch). While we are told that such affairs were common practice, sometimes involving even royalty, they were mostly kept "discreet" – a term which certainly cannot be applied to the one depicted in the film.

Indeed, the movie's low estimation in some critics' minds has much to do with its definite camp value: Miles, sporting short-cropped hair, is tomboyish – never more so than, when uninvited to a dinner honouring the Duke of Wellington (Laurence Olivier) due to her scandalous behaviour (with Byron opting to escort another lady), she adopts the garments of the torch-carrying lads ostentatiously accompanying his carriage around at night!; worst of all, however, she attends a costume ball half-naked and in blackface (purporting to be Byron's negro slave!) – it is here that the cracks in their relationship start to show, as she is ignored by her partner and laughed at by her peers! Having mentioned Wellington, it is also unbecoming to watch either the famed general or the celebrated thespian indulge in a one-night stand with Miles; incidentally, things would come to a head between Caroline (often referred to merely as "Caro"!) and Byron at the Duke's party, where she attempts suicide!

Finch, an able orator in Parliament (a protégé of George Canning, played by John Mills, even if he stands on the opposite side in the House of Representatives), obviously suffers on account of his wife's indiscretions; indeed, he is asked to choose between her and his career by none other than King George IV (Ralph Richardson) – who had once been his own mother's (Margaret Leighton) lover! The elder woman had always resented Miles and, in fact, her coldness results in Caroline going mad at the end. Notable bit players here include Peter Bull, Pamela Brown and Michael Wilding; the production values were certainly the best that money could buy: the late cinematographer Oswald Morris, art director Carmen Dillon and composer Richard Rodney Bennett (who supplies the expected lush score).

Incidentally, this was award-winning playwright/scriptwriter Bolt's sole directorial foray – which he created and personally nurtured, so to speak, as a vehicle for his real-life wife Miles. A co-production between the U.K. and Italy, it incorporated an irrelevant and fairly embarrassing scene set in the latter country as Miles and Finch go on a trip and decide to take a nightly stroll in a former gladiatorial arena – which is soon infested with wretched souls clamouring for money and grub; what makes it so bad, however, is the fact that the extras were not locals since they speak in broken Italian (even rendering "impiccati" – meaning "hanged" – as "impiegati" – workers)! As I said, then, the print I watched – interrupted every once in a while by the wording "PLAY" and related video information – was not in the best of shape…but the film was nowhere near as unwatchable as I was led to believe; if anything, back in the day, it had managed to score BAFTA nominations for Richardson, Bennett and Dillon!
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Stinker Extraordinaire
Anna Bunny10 March 1999
The story has been mangled. The acting was unconvincing and the dialogue improbable. I can't believe I managed to stay awake through the whole thing. And the costumes ranged from not bad to "which polyester knit fabric was that?" For curiosity value only.
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George And Caro
bkoganbing17 September 2008
Screenwriter Robert Bolt who wrote such great work for David Lean in Ryan's Daughter, Doctor Zhivago, and Lawrence of Arabia and for Fred Zinnemann in A Man For All Seasons, tried his one and only hand at directing in Lady Caroline Lamb. The problem was that screenwriter Bolt was done wrong by director Bolt. Especially let down was Bolt's then wife Sarah Miles.

Miles who when directed by David Lean in Ryan's Daughter turned in such a spirited performance, was not given the same inspiration for Lady Caroline Lamb. Whatever else Caroline Lamb was she was not dull to be around. Miles does all right, but the rest of the cast just seems to walk through the parts, even the two guys playing the men in her life, Richard Chamberlain as Lord Byron and Jon Finch as William Lamb the future Lord Melbourne and Prime Minister of Great Britain.

I think these guys and the rest of the cast knew this was a vehicle for Miles the minute they walked on set and performed accordingly. Even Sir Laurence Olivier as the Duke of Wellington is strangely lifeless. Of course after seeing Christopher Plummer as the perfect Wellington in Waterloo, I'm kind of spoiled.

In real life Melbourne was hardly an injured party. He had a couple of other scandals attached to his name that had nothing to do with Lady Caroline. He never let the grass grow under his feet. Byron was notorious all over Europe for bedding everything in skirts within reach. It's likely he did want to call it a day with Caro, but probably because she was crazier than him.

Still the escapades of George and Caro titillated all of Georgian Great Britain, but they don't move the audience a bit here.
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A tragic fool in an old film
robinmichael-hurley27 June 2014
I have not checked this film for historical accuracy. Lady Lamb comes across as a tragic fool who does not really understand the society around her. She is fortunate to have money, unlucky not to have brains or education.

At one point, against the advice of others, she impulsively throws a way an expensive bracelet. The beggar who gets it, is immediately chased by the other beggars and is killed. She does not seem to have an awareness of the consequences of her actions.

Her husband is portrayed as noble, Lord Byron as a cad who uses her to enter society, and the older women of the era as poisonous.

Because of the age of the film it is no longer a stroll through sumptuous film sets with a sexy subject.
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A shameful waste
milliefan5 March 2014
I have never understood why or how Sarah Miles became a film star. I assume that early in her career she must have been good in something, which led to her being promoted to leading roles, but whatever that magical film/play/TV role was I must have missed it. However until I saw Lady Caroline Lamb I had never thought her a truly terrible actress. I do now. In an unbecoming blonde wig and with weird, drag queen makeup (pencil thin eyebrows and pale pastel blue eyeshadow), Miles is strangely reminiscent of a faded Danny La Rue. In fact, Mr. La Rue might well have given a more nuanced, and almost certainly more entertaining performance. The most astonishing thing about this film is that it was written specifically for Miles by her then husband Robert Bolt as a showcase for her "talents". And to ensure success she was backed up by a supporting cast including the likes of Laurence Olivier, John Mills and Ralph Richardson. Playing a smallish role is Margaret Leighton, and she effortlessly steals the film. Leighton is sublime - a magnificent actress who commands attention and brings depth and meaning to her every line. Her genuine talent further exposes Miles as an amateur who is simply out of her depth. And as a delicious irony, Robert Bolt has Leighton say of Miles, to her screen husband, "Your wife is a mass of nothing. She has no centre, nothing at all". Talk about art imitating life!
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