An endlessly talky version of the famous story that scandalized England nearly two centuries ago, THE NELSON AFFAIR is yet another picture in Hal Wallis' continuing Anglophilia. In the past, he'd made ANNE OF THE THOUSAND DAYS, BECKET, MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS, THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD,
ELIZABETH AND ESSEX, and THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE among others. It's the summer of 1805, and Finch is returning home after two years of successfully keeping Napoleon's navy at bay. He's long been separated from his wife, Leighton, and now he wants a sabbatical with one-time blacksmith's
daughter Jackson, who is now Lady Hamilton. She is staying at Finch's estate in Surrey, and her fabled beauty has now faded due to too many trips to the liquor cabinet and years of discontent at Finch's travels. He invites his sister, Leigh-Hunt, her husband, Stock, and their young son, Guard, to
stay at the home as well. There is bad feeling between Finch's relatives and Leighton, but young Guard likes her, and, while Leighton is taking the waters at Bath (for a bad case of rheumatism), he agrees to be her spy. (He'd done the same thing before in THE GO-BETWEEN, three years earlier).
Jackson gets drunk at a party and verbally lashes Jayston, one of Finch's trusted men, then launches into a tirade against the king and queen, and then, for good measure, has some choice epithets to hurl at Leighton. Guard is shocked and says that he knows Finch has been ignoring some important
correspondence from Leighton. Finch is appalled at Jackson's behavior, and she pleads for his forgiveness, then says that she understands that he yearns to be at sea, and if that's what will make him happy, he should do it. Finch goes back to active duty and gets ready for a battle against the
French. Prior to leaving, he sends a letter to the king asking that Jackson be taken care of with enough money for the rest of her life should he die. The Battle of Trafalgar (shot with little production value and some stock footage that is intercut with the other scenes), sees Finch felled by a
bullet and dying in Jayston's arms. Leighton learns of her husband's death, goes to see Jackson, and tells her what Finch did with his letter to the king. However, since their affair was so blatant, the request is never honored. Jackson loses everything, goes to prison as a debtor twice, and
eventually winds up in France where she dies in poverty 10 years after Finch's demise.
Based on a play by Terence Rattigan which starred Zoe Caldwell, Ian Holm, Leueen MacGrath, and Michael Aldridge, this film owes much to a better picture, THAT HAMILTON WOMAN, which was made in the early 1940s and starred Vivian Leigh in the title role. The latter was far more romantic and had a
life to it that this one did not. Director Jones (TV's "The Forsyte Saga") made his movie debut with this feature, and it was not an auspicious one. Jackson and Finch had earlier been together in SUNDAY, BLOODY SUNDAY with greater advantage to both. Jackson appears to be doing an impression of
Bette Davis and Finch is trying hard to be a Richard Burton, with a touch of Errol Flynn. Leighton comes off best as the abandoned wife. Lots of foul language makes the picture inappropriate for the little ones. Locations in Devon, Somerset, Surrey, Berkshire, Bath, Windsor, and other sites are
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1973
- Rating: PG
- Review: An endlessly talky version of the famous story that scandalized England nearly two centuries ago, THE NELSON AFFAIR is yet another picture in Hal Wallis' continuing Anglophilia. In the past, he'd made ANNE OF THE THOUSAND DAYS, BECKET, MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS… (more)