In an age that idolizes Rambo machismo, few movie companies would lay money on the line to tell the story of a man more interested in developing his wardrobe than his muscles. But in 1954, MGM plunked down hard cash to film the life of England's most famous dandy, George Bryan (Beau) Brummel (1778-1840), effectively giving birth to a cinema classic. Suave Stewart Granger, remembered for roles in historical dramas like Scaramouche, Sodom and Gomorrah, and Salome), stars as Brummel, the valet's son who rises far above his station in class-conscious England of the early 19th century to become the quintessential icon of fashion and etiquette. Granger has the dash and panache to make Brummel come alive, as he rises from the dregs of society to become an intimate companion of the Prince of Wales and future King of England, who shares Brummel's taste for finery and the good life. Peter Ustinov plays the prince with delicious decadence. At the time of the filming, Ustinov was basking in the success of his internationally acclaimed play, The Love of Four Colonels, and his knowledge of acting and theater served him well in his film-stealing performance as the king-in-waiting. But while Ustinov is elevating the quality of the acting, Elizabeth Taylor is pulling it down with a weak performance as Brummel's love interest. However, there is nothing wrong with the cinematography: it provides glorious shots of the English countryside and the interior of Ockwell Manor, a 15th century estate near Windsor Castle. Although Brummel eventually loses his standing in society thanks to audaciously telling the prince he is fat, the film itself is likely to maintain its standing for a long time to come because it dares to present fashion, style, elegance -- and high society intrigue -- as apt subjects for the camera.
by Mike Cummings review