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.
by Craig Butler review