That Hamilton Woman

That Hamilton Woman

5.0 5
Director: Alexander Korda

Cast: Alexander Korda, Vivien Leigh, Laurence Olivier, Alan Mowbray

     
 

Alexander Korda's That Hamilton Woman (1941) was the first movie that this reviewer ever owned as a pre-recorded VHS tape (back in 1985); and it was the first movie we ever owned on laserdisc (in 1988). But its bow on DVD was delayed until the summer of 2009. It has finally shown up, in a Criterion Collection edition that's as handsome as the original movie andSee more details below

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Overview

Alexander Korda's That Hamilton Woman (1941) was the first movie that this reviewer ever owned as a pre-recorded VHS tape (back in 1985); and it was the first movie we ever owned on laserdisc (in 1988). But its bow on DVD was delayed until the summer of 2009. It has finally shown up, in a Criterion Collection edition that's as handsome as the original movie and as well produced as the movie itself. The film-to-video transfer is gorgeous throughout -- in only one sequence, in fact, Alan Mowbray's last scene in the film, was there any sign of any distracting source damage, and that was kept to a minimum, in comparison to some other editions of this movie that we've seen. And for the first time in at least two decades, the film's original American title, That Hamilton Woman (as opposed to the UK Lady Hamilton) has been restored to the extant edition of the movie. The full-screen black-and-white image (1.33-to-1) is richly textured and beautifully contrasted throughout, and the audio has also been mastered at a full, high volume level, which gives proper play to both Laurence Olivier's magnificent vocal portrayal of Lord Nelson, and to Miklos Rozsa's score, a masterpiece of romantic and martial sensibilities. The latter is also richly represented in one of the bonus features, an extended radio promotion feature from 1941 for the movie, which is a strange and delightgful curio. The original UK trailer is also included, in rather rough condition, but those are the least of the bonuses. The real value of this disc, apart from the finest presentation ever of the movie in question, lies with the two major bonus features. The first is a commentary track by English film scholar Ian Christie in which he traces the evolution of the screenplay and the direct path by which Korda, who got a knighthood in the wake of this movie, came to make That Hamilton Woman; he ranges across art, history, music, politics, and cinema, in a lecture that is a model for this sort of commentary (and this comes from someone who has done 30 of those himself). One can quibble about minor aspects of some of his interpretations, but the overall thrust of Christie's work is a marvel, and by itself would make this disc worth owning. But then there is the other major bonus feature, a 30-minute-plus on-camera talk -- supported by relevant clips of the movie, and stills -- by Michael Korda, the producer/director's author
ephew, who provides what could easily have been the beginning of a book about this movie, and yet another book about the Korda family. And by itself, that interview, despite one possible chronological slip in his discussion, is just about worth the price of admission. The disc itself, though loaded with bonus features, is structured in a very compact manner, with a simple, easy-to-use menu that opens automatically on start-up. The accompanying booklet includes an extensive analytical essay by film critic Molly Haskell, which is well worth reading.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
Once chosen by Winston Churchill as his favorite movie, That Hamilton Woman was initially conceived as something of a propaganda piece for the then-prime minister, who wanted a film about England's past that was applicable to its current situation vis-à-vis Nazi Germany. Director Alexander Korda framed his political commentary in an intensely romantic melodrama, and gave it a sumptuous production that well deserved its Oscar nomination for Art Direction. While the story drags a little, it never dawdles for long, and a tearful parting or a moving piece of oratory always comes along in just the nick of time to keep things going. If the script seems somewhat dated and obvious today, the performances of the leads are timeless, and the chemistry between Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh is startlingly real. Olivier has never been more dashing, and he imbues Nelson with an innate nobility that is painful under the circumstances. Leigh's performance is arguably the best of her career, a radiant, vibrant portrait of a woman whose wit and coquetry mask a deeper intelligence, capability and courage. She wrings the most out of every scene, making Hamilton a complex character whose flaws are as appealing as her virtues. Although Olivier appeared in several films over the next few years, Leigh did not appear onscreen again until 1946's Caesar and Cleopatra.

Product Details

Release Date:
09/08/2009
UPC:
0715515048811
Original Release:
1941
Rating:
NR
Source:
Criterion
Region Code:
1
Presentation:
[B&W, Full Frame]
Time:
2:05:00
Sales rank:
6,918

Special Features

Audio commentary featuring noted film historian Ian Christie; New video interview with author and editor Michael Korda, Alexander's nephew, who discusses growing up in the Korda family and the making of That Hamilton Woman; Theatrical trailer; Alexander Korda presents, a 1941 promotional radio piece for the film; A booklet featuring an essayby film critic Molly Haskell

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Vivien Leigh Lady Hamilton
Laurence Olivier Lord Horatio Nelson
Alan Mowbray Sir William Hamilton
Sara Allgood Mrs. Cadogan-Lyon
Gladys Cooper Lady Nelson
Henry Wilcoxon Capt. Hardy
Heather Angel Street Girl
Halliwell Hobbes Rev. Nelson
Gilbert Emery Lord Spencer
Miles Mander Lord Keith
Ronald Sinclair Josiah
Luis Alberni King of Naples
Norma Drury Queen of Naples
Olaf Hytten Gavin
Julie Compton Lady Spencer
Guy Kingsford Capt. Troubridge
George Davis Actor
Leonard Carey Orderly
Alec Craig Gendarme
Georges Renavent Hotel manager

Technical Credits
Alexander Korda Director,Producer
Lawrence W. Butler Special Effects
Julia Heron Set Decoration/Design
William W. Hornbeck Editor
Rene Hubert Costumes/Costume Designer
Vincent Korda Production Designer
Rudolph Maté Cinematographer
Walter Reisch Screenwriter
Miklós Rózsa Score Composer,Musical Direction/Supervision
R.C. Sherriff Screenwriter
Jack Whitney Sound/Sound Designer
William Wilmarth Sound/Sound Designer

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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- That Hamilton Woman
1. Opening Credits [2:12]
2. Prologue [4:02]
3. "I Was Beautiful Then" [6:41]
4. A New Life [7:01]
5. Emma, Lady Hamilton [4:04]
6. The Captain [9:16]
7. Five Years of War [5:51]
8. Care and Kindness [7:04]
9. Nelson in Love [11:31]
10. "Back to Naples" [12:41]
11. Lady Nelson [8:10]
12. The Ugly Truth [5:52]
13. "Her or Her?" [7:02]
14. No Peace [11:11]
15. A Home [6:04]
16. A Great Victory [11:35]
17. Endings [5:06]

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