Nell Gwyn

  • 1934
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Historical, Romance

In this tale set in 17th-century England, Neagle plays the title character, a Cockney dance-hall girl who caught the fancy of King Charles II, played by Hardwicke. Having seen her perform a rousing drinking song, Hardwicke brings the uncultured Neagle into his inner circle and makes her his mistress, much to the dismay of his court, which was used to more...read more

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In this tale set in 17th-century England, Neagle plays the title character, a Cockney dance-hall girl who caught the fancy of King Charles II, played by Hardwicke. Having seen her perform a rousing drinking song, Hardwicke brings the uncultured Neagle into his inner circle and makes her his

mistress, much to the dismay of his court, which was used to more refined visitors. The angriest member of Hardwicke's entourage is de Casalis, his current concubine, who feels threatened by this pretty young girl. With the battle lines drawn, Hardwicke sits back and watches with amusement as his

mistresses fight for his attentions. The hostilities between the two women peak when Neagle publicly snubs de Casalis by wearing a ridiculously large and gaudy hat--a direct insult to her rival, whose penchant for loud headgear was a source of constant amusement to the court. Soon it becomes

apparent that Neagle has captured Hardwicke's heart for good, and she remains his favorite mistress until his death. NELL GWYN was given a lush and historically accurate production by producer-director Wilcox, who was anxious to flaunt the talents of his discovery (and later wife) Neagle, a rising

star in England. His gamble with NELL GWYN paid off. The film, which was racy, even ribald at times (Neagle's performance is frank and open, enhanced by revealing costumes that caused a stir), was well received by the public, which had come to know Neagle as a shy personality on screen. The

shocking change of image in NELL GWYN was exactly what Wilcox was hoping for. (He had done the same for Dorothy Gish in his silent version of the same material in 1926.) While the British public delighted in Neagle's saucy performance, American censors cringed at the thought of allowing the film

into U.S. theaters without substantial changes. To begin with, several shots that revealed too much of Neagle's anatomy were snipped. Then a framing story was added which had the film open after Hardwicke's death. Neagle is shown as a penniless hag who dies in the gutter, making the entire British

production a flashback. The film then concludes back in the gutter, just to remind American audiences that an adulterous life doesn't pay. As if that were not enough, the Hays Office forced the studio to shoot an entirely false and historically inaccurate scene which saw King Charles II and Nell

getting married, just to satisfy the warped sense of morality prevalent among the industry's paranoid custodians. Despite the cuts and additions, NELL GWYN did reasonably well in America and helped establish Neagle as a box office personality in the U.S., though England would remain the strongest

market for the films directed and produced by her soon-to-be husband Wilcox, who would guide Neagle through her greatest roles.

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  • Rating: NR
  • Review: In this tale set in 17th-century England, Neagle plays the title character, a Cockney dance-hall girl who caught the fancy of King Charles II, played by Hardwicke. Having seen her perform a rousing drinking song, Hardwicke brings the uncultured Neagle into… (more)

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