That Hamilton Woman

  • 1941
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Biography, War

A drunken crone (played by Vivien Leigh), jailed on charges of theft and assault, begins to tell the story of her life to a cellmate, and the tale of THAT HAMILTON WOMAN unfolds in flashback. In 1786, young Emma Hart (Leigh) arrives at the court of Naples, expecting to wed the British ambassador's nephew. He proves a rascal, but Emma's joie de vivre soon...read more

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A drunken crone (played by Vivien Leigh), jailed on charges of theft and assault, begins to tell the story of her life to a cellmate, and the tale of THAT HAMILTON WOMAN unfolds in flashback. In 1786, young Emma Hart (Leigh) arrives at the court of Naples, expecting to wed the British

ambassador's nephew. He proves a rascal, but Emma's joie de vivre soon attracts the ambassador himself, Sir William Hamilton (Alan Mowbray), and she eventually becomes his bride. Seven years later, British naval hero Lord Nelson (Laurence Olivier) arrives in Naples, seeking the king's aid in the

war against Napoleon, and the rest, as they say, is history--or at least producer-director Alexander Korda's version of such. The film traces the growth in Naples of Emma and Nelson's love (to which her husband turns a blind eye, though tongues wag back home) and their return to England, where the

lovers set up house, although Nelson's wife refuses to divorce him. The war goes badly, and Emma persuades Nelson to return to his command, leading to his mortal wounding in the victory at Trafalgar, which in turn begins her slide into despair. Despite the marquee pull of newlyweds Olivier and

Leigh (she fresh from GONE WITH THE WIND), THAT HAMILTON WOMAN was not the hit its makers hoped it would be--though it reportedly was Winston Churchill's favorite movie. Korda, shooting in the US with little money, was forced to film quickly, without the lavish sets that were his specialty, and

the script's "tastefulness"--which downplays Nelson's sensuality and alters facts in making Emma pay for her sins later in the classic Hollywood style--while pleasing to 1941 censors and strengthening its propaganda value for then-embattled Britain, also lowers the level of excitement. For a more

accurate account, see Glenda Jackson and Peter Finch in THE NELSON AFFAIR (1973).

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  • Rating: NR
  • Review: A drunken crone (played by Vivien Leigh), jailed on charges of theft and assault, begins to tell the story of her life to a cellmate, and the tale of THAT HAMILTON WOMAN unfolds in flashback. In 1786, young Emma Hart (Leigh) arrives at the court of Naples,… (more)

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