Cast & Crew
In early 19th century England, while watching military exercises, George IV, Prince of Wales, is impressed by the swordsmanship of the dashing Capt. George Bryan Brummell. When the prince pays his compliments, Brummell responds with suggestions for improving the design of the regiment's uniforms, and George, who designed the uniforms himself, is offended. Brummell, a man of exacting sartorial and Epicurean tastes, is unfazed by the prince's disapproval, and makes an appearance that evening, wearing daring stove pipe pants, at a regimental dinner. There he meets the beautiful Lady Patricia Belham, the intended of George's political advisor, Lord Edwin Mercer. When Brummell refuses to retract his criticism of the uniforms, the prince discharges him from the service. Late that night, as Brummell watches his regiment embark on an overseas assignment, Patricia approaches him and asks why he is willing to sacrifice his military career. The proud Brummell explains that he is unwilling to compromise his dignity and self-respect, and impulsively kisses her. Brummell is left with no clear course for the future, however, as he has neither family name nor fortune. While strolling through town one day with his loyal valet Mortimer, Brummell sees politician Sir Ralph Sidley addressing a crowd. Brummell interrupts Sidley's speech with some sharply worded comments about the prince, and a newspaper reporter invites him to repeat his opinions the following evening at a civic meeting. Brummell accepts, and quickly makes a name for himself with his stinging indictment of the prince's excesses. Later, George is urged by Mercer and his prime minister, William Pitt, to end his relationship with his widowed, Catholic lover, Mrs. Maria Anne Fitzherbert, and make an advantageous marriage. Brummell is summoned by the prince, and as he urges George to stand up to Pitt, a bond begins to grow between the two men. One evening, when Brummell returns from the prince's birthday party, Mortimer warns him that his numerous creditors are growing impatient and suggests they go abroad. Brummell, who has become George's close friend and confidant, refuses, insisting that the prince needs him. Patricia drops by, and after Brummell shows her his exquisitely furnished house, they admit their strong feelings for each other. Patricia considers him too unstable to be a good candidate for marriage, however, and Brummell soon learns that her engagement to Mercer will be announced at an upcoming hunting party. Brummell is present at the gathering, and the prince publicly praises him for his devotion, promising to make Brummell an earl when he becomes king. While the other guests are fox hunting, Brummell and Patricia find themselves alone in the woods, and they fall into a passionate embrace. After the hunt, Mercer brusquely tells Patricia they should cancel their engagement, but she promises never to see Brummell again. The following morning, the distraught prince tells Brummell that Mrs. Fitzherbert is planning to leave for Italy. Brummell tells the prince that Pitt has been concealing the fact that King George III has gone mad. He urges the prince to have his father certified insane and declare himself regent, which would empower him to marry whomever he pleases. With Brummell and several doctors at his side, the prince goes to court and calls on George III, who is declared mad after he fails to recognize his son and tries to strangle him. Parliament limits the prince's power as acting regent, although it does grant him authority to change the marriage act, which forbids marriage to a Catholic, and make it possible for George to wed Mrs. Fitzherbert. Brummell advises the prince to reject Parliament's conditions, however, or lose power to Pitt. Emotionally overwrought, the prince turns on Brummell, accusing him of acting out of self-interest. Brummell insults the prince, and their close friendship ends. When his break with the prince becomes known, Brummell's creditors close in, and Brummell and Mortimer flee to Calais, France. Time passes, and the prince ascends to the throne after the death of George III. One day, George tells Mercer, who is now married to Patricia, that he has heard Brummell is sick and impoverished. George requests Mercer to discreetly provide assistance to his former friend. Meanwhile, in a freezing garret in Calais, the ailing Brummell declines a lucrative offer to publish his memoirs lest they prove embarrassing to the king. Brummell's health declines, and he is visited on his deathbed by George, who is in Calais on state business. Brummell is greatly moved by the king's visit, and the two men have an emotional reunion. After the king leaves, Brummell dies, his heart finally at peace.
George De Warfaz
D. A. Clarke-smith
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
A. W. Watkins
Beau Brummell (1954)
Ironically, though he had been eager to do the film at first, he tried to get out of it when he discovered that it was to be shot at MGM's British studio in Denham, to use up MGM assets frozen by the British government after World War II. Granger's wife, actress Jean Simmons, was assigned to a Hollywood-lensed epic, The Egyptian (1954) at the same time, and Granger didn't want to be separated from her. When the studio refused to let him out of the picture, at least the British star could console himself with the chance to see his family back home.
Co-star Elizabeth Taylor hadn't wanted to go overseas either, for much the same reasons. She was married to British actor Michael Wilding at the time, but his Hollywood commitments made it impossible for him to spend the entire shoot with her. As a consolation, the studio paid for them to take a six-week European holiday before shooting, even advancing her the money to add to her already growing jewelry collection.
Neither was too crazy about director Curtis Bernhardt, either. The German-born helmer was too much the martinet for them. When his instructions to Taylor got too lengthy, she would yawn in his face. And when he started swinging a large stick around to assert his authority on the set, Granger took it from him and broke it.
Yet Bernhardt brought a powerful visual sense to the film, using long takes in Cinemascope to give the picture a graceful quality. And the location shoot gave them the chance to shoot interiors at Ockwell Manor, a 15th-century mansion near Windsor Castle that helped make Beau Brummell a feast for the eyes.
Shooting in England also gave the film a strong supporting cast that included future stage star Rosemary Harris (The Lion in Winter,1968) and, as King George III and his son, the Prince of Wales, Robert Morley and Peter Ustinov. Morley's memorable performance as the mad George III would create some controversy when the film was chosen as the royal family's command performance for the year. Years later, however, the king's madness would be explored more fully in the much-praised The Madness of King George (1994), starring Nigel Hawthorne as the king and Rupert Everett as his son.
Director: Curtis Bernhardt
Producer: Sam Zimbalist
Screenplay: Karl Tunberg
From the play by Clyde Fitch
Cinematography: Oswald Morris
Art Direction: Alfred Junge
Music: Richard Addinsell
Cast: Stewart Granger (Beau Brummell), Elizabeth Taylor (Lady Patricia), Peter Ustinov (Prince of Wales), Robert Morley (King George III), James Donald (Lord Edwin Mercer), Rosemary Harris (Mrs. Fitzherbert)
by Frank Miller
Beau Brummell (1954)
Sir Peter Ustinov (1921-2004)
He was born Peter Alexander Ustinov on April 16, 1921 in London, England. His father was a press attache at the German embassy until 1935 - when disgusted by the Nazi regime - he took out British nationality. He attended Westminster School, an exclusive private school in central London until he was 16. He then enrolled for acting classes at the London Theater Studio, and by 1939, he made his London stage debut.
His jovial nature and strong gift for dialects made him a natural player for films, and it wasn't long after finding theatre work that Ustinov moved into motion pictures: a Dutch priest in Michael Powell's One of Our Aircraft is Missing (1941); an elderly Czech professor in Let the People Sing (1942); and a star pupil of a Nazi spy school in The Goose Steps Out (1942).
He served in the British Army for four years (1942-46), where he found his talents well utilized by the military, allowing him to join the director Sir Carol Reed on some propaganda films. He eventually earned his first screenwriting credit for The Way Ahead (1944). One of Sir Carol Reed's best films, The Way Ahead was a thrilling drama which starred David Niven as a civilian heading up a group of locals to resist an oncoming Nazi unit. It was enough of a hit to earn Ustinov his first film directorial assignment, School for Secrets (1946), a well paced drama about the discovery of radar starring Sir Ralph Richardson and Sir Richard Attenborough.
After the war, Ustinov took on another writer-director project Vice Versa (1948), a whimsical fantasy-comedy starring Roger Livesey and Anthony Newley as a father and son who magically switch personalities. Although not a huge hit of its day, the sheer buoyancy of the surreal premise has earned the film a large cult following.
Ustinov made his Hollywood debut, and garnered his first Oscar® nomination for Best Supporting Actor, as an indolent Nero in the Roman epic, Quo Vadis? (1951). After achieving some international popularity with that role, Ustinov gave some top-notch performances in quality films: the snappish Prinny in the Stewart Granger vehicle Beau Brummel (1954); holding his own against Humphrey Bogart as an escaped convict in We're No Angels (1954); the ring master who presides over the life of the lead character in Max Ophuls's resplendent Lola Montez (1955); and a garrulous settler coping with the Australian outback in The Sundowners (1960).
The '60s would be Ustinov's most fruitful decade. He started off gabbing his first Oscar® as the cunning slave dealer in Spartacus (1960); made a smooth screen adaptation by directing his smash play, Romanoff and Juliet (1961), earned critical acclaim for his co-adaptation, direction, production and performance in Herman Melville's nautical classic Billy Budd (1962); and earned a second Oscar® as the fumbling jewel thief in the crime comedy Topkapi (1964).
He scored another Oscar® nomination in the Best Original Screenplay category for his airy, clever crime romp Hot Millions (1968), in which he played a con artist who uses a computer to bilk a company out of millions of dollars; but after that, Ustinov began taking a string of offbeat character parts: the lead in one of Disney's better kiddie flicks Blackbeard's Ghost (1968); a Mexican General who wants to reclaim Texas for Mexico in Viva Max! (1969); an old man who survives the ravaged planet of the future in Logan's Run (1976); and an unfortunate turn as a Chinese stereotype in Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen (1981). Still, he did achieve renewed popularity when he took on the role of Hercule Poirot in the star laced, Agatha Christie extravaganza Death on the Nile (1978). He was such a hit, that he would adroitly play the Belgian detective in two more theatrical movies: Evil Under the Sun (1982) and Appointment With Death (1988); as well as three television movies: Thirteen at Dinner (1985), Murder in Three Acts, Dead Man's Folly (both 1986).
Beyond his work in films, Ustinov was justifiably praised for his humanitarian work - most notably as the unpaid, goodwill ambassador for United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). Since 1968, he had traveled to all corners of the globe: China, Russia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Kenya, Egypt, Thailand and numerous other countries to promote and host many benefit concerts for the agency.
Ustinov, who in 1990 earned a knighthood for his artistic and humanitarian contributions, is survived by his wife of 32 years, Hélène du Lau d'Allemans; three daughters, Tamara, Pavla, Andrea; and a son, Igor.
by Michael T. Toole
Sir Peter Ustinov (1921-2004)
The working title of this film was The Life and Times of Beau Brummell. The onscreen credits include the following written prologue: "In the day of Napoleon, Nelson, and Wellington, of Pitt, Burke, and Fox there lived a man called Beau Brummell. Lord Byron said he was the greatest man in Europe. Brummell agreed-and he very nearly proved it." The opening credits also state that the film was "based on the play written for Richard Mansfield by Clyde Fitch." Mansfield, one of the leading American actor-producers of the late 19th century, commissioned Beau Brummell from Fitch, a highly prolific playwright, in 1889 as a starring vehicle for himself. The play was a great success for both Mansfield and Fitch. Although Fitch's play is credited onscreen, a note attached to the Screen Achievements Bulletin from studio executive Rudi Monta states: "The Clyde Fitch play was used by Karl Tunberg only as a mere springboard...as a matter of fact, the similarities between the Tunberg screenplay and the Fitch play stem from common historical sources."
George Bryan "Beau" Brummell (1778-1840) was educated at Eton and Oxford, and became a close friend of the Prince of Wales (later George IV) while he was a teenager. Gifted with an impeccable sense of style, Brummell achieved renown in high society both as a wit and as an arbiter of fashion. In 1816 he fled to France to escape his creditors, and served time in debtor's prison before dying in a lunatic asylum in Caen. George IV (1762-1830) was appointed prince regent in 1811 after his father, King George III, was found mentally incompetent to rule, and reigned as king of Great Britain from 1820-1830. In 1785, George secretly married Mrs. Maria Anne Fitzherbert, a widow and Roman Catholic; however, the marriage was later declared illegal by Parliament.
According to Hollywood Reporter, M-G-M was planning to make a version of the film, with Robert Donat in the title role, as early as 1938. According to May 1953 studio publicity material contained in the film's production file at the AMPAS Library, Eleanor Parker was originally cast opposite Stewart Granger. Beau Brummell was filmed entirely in England. On November 15, 1954, the film was given a Royal Command performance in London that was attended by Queen Elizabeth, the Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Margaret. According to a November 17, 1954 article in Variety, the screening was preceded by a stage show directed by Peter Ustinov, and the event raised money for the Cinematograph Trades Benevolent Fund. Critical reaction to the special screening was quite negative. According to a November 24, 1954 Variety news item, Sir Alexander Korda promptly published a letter in the Daily Telegraph recommending that the selection process for Royal Command performances be revised. A January 1986 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that recently declassified government papers revealed that Queen Elizabeth was offended by the film's portrayal of her ancestors. According to a memo from Winston Churchill included in the papers, the queen told him "what a bad film it was."
Fitch's play was first adapted for the screen by Warner Bros. in 1924. The silent film was directed by Harry Beaumont and starred John Barrymore and Mary Astor (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30). The life of George IV was the subject of the 1978 British television mini-series Prince Regent, which starred Peter Egan as the prince and Nigel Davenport as the king. George III's decline into mental illness was depicted in the 1994 British film The Madness of King George, which was directed by Nicholas Hytner and starred Nigel Hawthorne as the king and Rupert Everett as Prince George.
Released in United States Fall October 1954
Released in United States Fall October 1954