Bad Lord Byron

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 Denis Price Byron in Bad Lord Byron
Denis Price
Byron Thorvaldsen Bust
Annabel­la Millbanke Sonia Holm
There­sa Guiccioli
Mai Zetter­ling
Fagnani teresa gamba guiccioli
Augus­ta Leigh

Lin­den Travers

Augusta Leigh pastel by John Berridge
Car­o­line Lamb Joan Green­wood Lady Caroline Lamb by Thomas Phillips

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