You know, of course, that there’s a lot of pathetic rubbish that pretends to be a Byronic document, hoping to borrow a little of the popular lustre our author still enjoys.
This 1949 film is now just one more scrap in the trash, although it had some things going for it:
Not as bad as its reputation would suggest, since it is well acted and stylishly shot, but the script is undeniably silly. Starting with Byron (Price) dying in Greece, it cuts to a celestial trial at which the women in his life appear to give evidence, their stories being seen in flashback. The fatuous point is to determine whether Byron is a great poet and fighter for liberty or a bad, evil rake. Very basic stuff, historically inaccurate and not made any more convincing by the eventual revelation that the judge is Byron himself (though his lines have hitherto been delivered by someone else (Time Out review)
Cinema-goers were not interested. It lost £180,000 on release in 1949 — then, a huge sum.
I haven’t seen it. Denis Price looks too arch to me; altogether too precious to be a credible Byron. But the principal female parts were taken by some stunning beauties whose presence in the drama must have accounted for something. Then Peter Quenelle was one of the writers…
Here are some image comparisons. I’ve picked historical portraits of each of the principals that I believe are the most likely to be accurate. In Byron’s case, this is the original copy of the Thorvaldsen bust. The modern actors are
|Gordon, Lord Byron||
|Annabella Millbanke||Sonia Holm|
|Caroline Lamb||Joan Greenwood|