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Lady Booby alias 'Belle', the lively wife of the fat landed squire Sir Thomas Booby, has a lusty eye on the attractive, intelligent villager Joseph Andrews, a Latin pupil and protégé of parson Adams, and makes him their footman. Joseph's heart belongs to a country girl, foundling Fanny Goodwill, but his masters take him on a fashionable trip to Bath, where the spoiled society comes mainly to see and be seen, yet Sir Thomas really seeks relief for his sick foot, but drowns in the famous Roman baths. When the all but grieving lady finds Joseph's Christian virtue and true love resist her lusting passes just as well as the many ladies who fancy her footman, she fires the boy. On his way back on foot, he falls prey to highwaymen who rob him of everything, even the cloths on his back. He's found and nursed by an innkeeper's maid, which stirs lusts there, again besides his honorable conduct, but is found by the good parson. Meawnhile the lady consents to her cousin marrying below their ... Written by
History has forgotten this film, it's never talked about, almost never shown. Why? It's certainly not a quality problem. Richardson was of course trying desperately to get back to the level of success Tom Jones had a decade before. The fact that he's trying to copy himself gets the film some minus points.
The story is simple, a little too dependent on coincidences and unrealistic twists. The costumes are great, as are the wonderful settings. You certainly feel like you really are there in the 17th Century.
Firth and Ogle as the young loving couple are attractive but bland. They fail to live up to the comedic demands of Fielding's story. The rest of the cast does a very good job on the other hand. Special mention should go to Michael Hordern and Beryl Reid, two of Britain's finest actors.
Nevertheless the best acting in the film comes not from one of the British theater and character actors but instead from the only American in the cast: Ann-Margret. She was rightfully nominated for a Golden Globe but would have deserved an Oscar non too. It's a brilliant satiric performance full of subtlety and vulgarity at the same time, comic timing that's never off, she dominates the film. Considering the talent that is working alongside her, that's quite a feat. Her accent is perfect too, something that rarely happens and could so easily destroy such a film. In the worst possible scenario she could have been an anachronistic sex kitten from the 60s stuck in a costume drama: Those fears never come true, she's great. The thick make-up (that fits the role perfectly) prevents us from seeing hernatural beauty but she's still quite a sight. Why American producersdidn't see the film and immediately give her a comic lead role in anHollywood A film, seems like a brutal shame.
Overall, a fun little history story of love, romance and adventure.
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