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George De La Pena,
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
Beautiful and bawdy and Ann Margaret was never better at both
This sumptuous 18th Century romp is both bawdy and beautiful (sometimes simultaneously). From powdered wigs and fluttered fans to farmyard frolics there is fast paced farce. But it is Ann Margaret who commands attention - the white-faced period make-up accentuates her expression whether of predatory interest in a fresh faced youth or flashes of anger and frustration when her designs and desires are thwarted. I'm not sure any of her actress contemporaries could summon up that amount of power in a single look.
Richardson once again brings humour to history (the traffic jam of horse-drawn carriages is neat and funny). Even the demise of Ann-Margaret's elderly gouty husband ("taking the waters" at Bath in England) combines beauty with dark humour.
One curious inexplicable failing are the opening titles - firstly in the dreadfully monotonous and repetitive song sung in thoroughly undistinguished fashion by Jim Dale and the flat, lifeless and pointless visuals appearing behind the titles. Those who have seen the dazzling title sequence to his "Charge of the Light Brigade" will be especially struck by difference. In this latter case the titles had been farmed out to an animator who regarded it as his best - and hardest - work. What a shame Richardson did not do the same here.
Overall a classic even if flawed.
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