It's the early nineteenth century Washington. Young adult Margaret O'Neal - Peggy to most that know her - is the daughter of Major William O'Neal, who is the innkeeper of the establishment where most out-of-town politicians and military men stay when they're in Washington. Peggy is pretty and politically aware. She is courted by several of those politicians and military men who all want to marry her, except for the one with who she is truly in love. Because of her personal situation at the time, she, in 1828, becomes the unofficial first lady to help her old friend - "old" both in terms of age and length of time - Andrew Jackson, who has just been elected President of the United States. Jackson and Peggy have the same political outlook, where the union of the states is paramount, especially when many states see their rights as being more important than the union. Jackson had a rough ride during the election in large part because his wife, Rachel Jackson, was seen as a pipe smoking ...Written by
America, My Country Tis of Thee
Music by Lowell Mason, based on the Music by Henry Carey from "God Save the King" (1744)
Played in the opening scene as part of the score See more »
'The Gorgeous Hussy' had a lot of potential to be good. The subject sounded really interesting. Clarence Brown may not be one of my favourite directors, but he did do some good films. His films more often than not looked great and he was often very good in his direction of his lead actresses, a prime example being Greta Garbo. Have always loved period drama films. Plus who can resist a cast with the likes of Joan Crawford, Lionel Barrymore, Melvyn Douglas and Beulah Bondi in the same film?
Sadly, the film was a pretty major disappointment. There are certainly far worse films out there and it has its good things, but a story that actually is a lot more interesting than the film made it deserved better. As far as Brown's films go it is a lesser effort and it is a lesser effort of Crawford's too, both film and performance. Everybody, even the few actors that came over well, did a lot better both before and since (primarily since as some of the cast are in early roles).
Certainly there are good things. The best asset is the production values. It is sumptuously designed and costumed and even better is the cinematography, it clearly loved Crawford who didn't always look this luminous at this point of her career. The best performance belongs to Barrymore, he has the juiciest character and gives the role so much zing and enthusiasm (it may not be what one calls a subtle performance but then again Barrymore was not a subtle actor, which is not actually a bad thing in his regard).
Bondi also comes over very well, making the very most with what she was given. The score is not too over-bearing or melodramatic.
Most of the cast disappoint. Crawford to me was too mannered in her role and never seemed to gel with the setting with too modern a look. Douglas, Robert Taylor, Franchot Tone and James Stewart all gave their fair share of good performances, but all four are dull in sketchy roles. Tone is particularly wronged and doesn't look comfortable with dispiriting material. Brown's direction at best is undistinguished and quite leaden.
Also felt that the story never properly engaged, with too deadingly dull a pace and with too much narratively being too uneventful. It is a shame too that the story didn't have the same amount of juice and venom that the character of Andrew had and took on a far too careful approach that made the film feel very safe. The script is well intentioned, but came over as too talky and preachy.
Summarising, rather lacklustre though not without good things. 4/10
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