Review: ‘Nell Gwyn’

In toto it's a generally unsympathetic saga of a 17th-century music-hall trollop which requires a specially produced prolog to square existing moral standards and the Hays office. It opens in a hovel with the English bailiffs dispossessing a hag in her early 30s (Nell Gwyn of history died at 36), which is obviously primed to point the bromide that sin is its own worst reward.

In toto it’s a generally unsympathetic saga of a 17th-century music-hall trollop which requires a specially produced prolog to square existing moral standards and the Hays office. It opens in a hovel with the English bailiffs dispossessing a hag in her early 30s (Nell Gwyn of history died at 36), which is obviously primed to point the bromide that sin is its own worst reward.

As the bailiffs are reminiscing on the glory that was Gwyn, the flashback takes up the adventures of a colorful hussy who captured the fancy of King Charles II in an English music hall, becoming intimately associated with him, and in spiteful manner besting the Duchess of Portsmouth (capably played by Jeanne De Casalis), the king’s favorite until the king sees Nell.

The medieval backgrounds contribute not a little charm; also more than a little dullness. That goes for the stilted dialog after the manner of Samuel Pepys, which is the scripting motivation.

Cedric Hardwicke, as King Charles, lends to his assignment the necessary regal poise and dignity. Anna Neagle’s hoydenish personality fits her role. De Casalis, if a bit broad and physically unprepossessing as a favorite inamorata, endows the part with the proper amount of restraint.

Nell Gwyn

UK

Production

British & Dominions/United Artists. Director Herbert Wilcox; Producer Herbert Wilcox; Screenplay Miles Malleson; Camera Frederick A. Young; Editor Merrill White; Music Philip Braham (dir.); Art Director L.P. Williams

Crew

(B&W) Extract of a review from 1935. Running time: 85 MIN.

With

Anna Neagle Cedric Hardwicke Jeanne De Casalis Lawrence Anderson Miles Malleson Esme Percy

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