Saraband for Dead Lovers

Last updated

Saraband for Dead Lovers
Saraband for Dead Lovers FilmPoster.jpeg
Directed by Basil Dearden
Written by
Based onnovel by Helen Simpson
Produced by
Cinematography Douglas Slocombe
Edited by Michael Truman
Music by Alan Rawsthorne
Distributed by General Film Distributors
Release date
  • 4 October 1948 (1948-10-04)(general release)
Running time
96 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget£371,205 [1]
Box office1,315,516 admissions (France) [2]
£87,338 (UK) [1]

Saraband for Dead Lovers (released in the United States as Saraband) is a 1948 British adventure historical drama film directed by Basil Dearden and starring Stewart Granger and Joan Greenwood. It is based on the 1935 novel by Helen Simpson. Set in 17th-century Hanover, it depicts the doomed romance between Philip Christoph von Königsmarck and Sophia Dorothea of Celle, the wife of the electoral prince of Hanover. The saraband mentioned in the title is a type of Spanish dance.


Jim Morahan, William Kellner and Michael Relph were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Art Direction. [3] It was the first Ealing Studios film shot in colour.


In 1682, 16-year-old Sophie Dorothea has an arranged marriage to Prince George Louis of Hanover, and she and the prince are both unhappy with the alliance.

She seeks solace from the dashing Count Philip Konigsmark when her husband, later to become King George I of Great Britain, pays her no attention. The lovers are exposed by the jealous Countess Platen, Philip's previous lover.



The novel, by Australian author Helen Simpson, was first published in 1935. [4] [5] It was the "book of the month" for the Evening Standard. [6] [7] [8] Simpson adapted the novel into a play but died in 1940 before any production took place. [9]


Film rights were bought by Ealing Studios, which announced in 1946 its plan to produce the film over the following year, with Basil Dearden to direct. [10] The film was Ealing's first colour production.

Mai Zetterling was originally announced for the lead role, [11] [12] but she asked to be excused "on account of a domestic incident" (she was pregnant) and Lilli Palmer was selected to play the role in her place. [13] However, Palmer could not travel to England in time, so Joan Greenwood was given the role. [14] [15]

Filming took place in June 1947, with exterior sequences shot in Prague [16] and Blenheim Palace. [17]

Stewart Granger later said:

Saraband was a sweet film... and it's one I'm quite proud of. But whereas Gainsborough loved stars, Ealing didn't like them; the production was the star. Saraband was their first big color film. I said I would do it, but I wanted Marlene Dietrich, whom I loved, for Clara. I felt I couldn't be brutal to Flora Robson. Flora was a great actress, but she'd never been beautiful and it was hard to be cruel to a woman who was never beautiful. That's why I wanted Dietrich for the part. The opening sequence was planned in great detail. Francoise Rosay wanted to rehearse... but in the end this wasn't used. You see, Koenigsmark, whom I played, was introduced as penniless, and this was cut out because it involved Jewish moneylenders. [18]

In August 1947, Variety reported that the script was being rewritten in order to comply with the American production code. [19]

Peter Bull recalled: "They made me shave my head for that one in order that, as King George I of England, I could frighten the daylights out of my wife (the delectable Miss Joan Greenwood). They (the director and producer) assured me that my hair would grow ever so quickly and ever so much stronger after the shaving operation. This was not, I fear, strictly true and actually absolute rubbish." [20]

Filming was completed in October 1947. [21]



In 1988, George MacDonald Fraser, wrote: "As a screen entertainment it has never been judged remarkable; as an example of what a historical movie should be - a faithful dramatisation of fact - it is near-perfect." He added it "tells the story... with complete fidelity, and only the smallest of romantic touches, and makes an enthralling film of it. Stewart Granger (Konigsmark) was born for this kind of costume picture, and Joan Greenwood is an appealing Sophia. ... Best of all, the film conveys in a few brief scenes, the stifling monotony of court life in a pretentious little German state; in this too, Saraband is good history." [22]

Box office

The film was a box-office disappointment. It earned distributor's gross receipts of £87,338 in the UK, of which £59,034 went to the film's producer. [1]

Michael Relph later said: "it was a magnificent looking film, but it wasn't a success at the time. We were trying to get away from the Gainsborough-type romantic costume picture, which was totally unreal, and to do a serious historical epic. I think the public probably wasn't ready for it and also it ended up being a bit heavy." [23]

The film became one of Ealing's most successful in Germany. [24]


The acclaimed production design and art direction (nominated for an Academy Award) was complemented by the cinematography of Douglas Slocombe, who employed a muted style of colour filming that drew widely mixed opinions. Some described the approach as unusual and different while others found it pretentiously symbolic and with exterior and interior shots poorly matched. [25]


  1. 1 2 3 Chapman, J. (2022). The Money Behind the Screen: A History of British Film Finance, 1945-1985. Edinburgh University Press p 355. Gross is distributor's gross receipts.
  2. Box office information for Stewart Granger films in France at Box Office Story
  3. "NY Times: Saraband for Dead Lovers". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times . 2009. Archived from the original on 24 February 2009. Retrieved 20 December 2008.
  4. NEW NOVELS: People--Royal, Ordinary, and Odd The Scotsman 7 February 1935: 15.
  5. Wallace, M. (5 May 1935). Intrigue at court. New York Times
  6. "A WOMAN'S JEW SUSS". The Telegraph . Queensland, Australia. 8 February 1935. p. 1 (LATE CITY). Retrieved 2 June 2018 via National Library of Australia.
  7. "NEW BOOKS". The Australian Women's Weekly . Vol. II, no. 44. Australia. 6 April 1935. p. 14. Retrieved 2 June 2018 via National Library of Australia.
  8. "AN AUSTRALIAN NOVELIST OF MANY TALENTS. Helen Simpson— Cook, Lecturer, and Musician". The Sydney Morning Herald . No. 31, 017. New South Wales, Australia. 1 June 1937. p. 21 (Women's Supplement). Retrieved 2 June 2018 via National Library of Australia.
  9. "HELEN SIMPSON'S DEATH". The Newcastle Sun . No. 7124. New South Wales, Australia. 16 October 1940. p. 2. Retrieved 2 June 2018 via National Library of Australia.
  10. "Britain To Double Film Production". The Advertiser (Adelaide) . Vol. 89, no. 27526. South Australia. 26 December 1946. p. 4. Retrieved 2 June 2018 via National Library of Australia.
  11. Helen de Guerry Simpson
  12. LONDON HAILS A LADY OF 'GREAT EXPECTATIONS' By C.A. LEJEUNE.. New York Times 2 February 1947: X5.
  13. LONDON CHEERS PAULETTE GODDARD By C.A. LEJEUNE. New York Times 30 March 1947: X5.
  14. "British Film Briefs". Variety. May 1947. p. 19.
  15. "Film News". The Sun . No. 11, 651. New South Wales, Australia. 29 May 1947. p. 18 (LATE FINAL EXTRA). Retrieved 2 June 2018 via National Library of Australia.
  16. Slocombe at Ealing: the early years | Watershed
  17. Saraband For Dead Lovers | Film Locations
  18. Brian MacFarlane, An Autobiography of British Cinema, Methuen 1997 p 231
  19. "What Benjamin Needs is a Good 26 Hour Day". Variety. 6 August 1947. p. 3.
  20. Bull, Peter (1973). Life is a cucumber; some not frightfully "belles lettres". P. Davies. p. 122. ISBN   978-0-432-01954-2.
  21. London Film Letter, Bentley, Kay. The Times of India 12 Oct 1947: 5.
  22. Fraser, George MacDonald (1988). The Hollywood History of the World. London: Michael Joseph Limited. p. 118. ISBN   0-7181-2997-0.
  23. Brian MacFarlane, An Autobiography of British Cinema, Methuen 1997 p 482
  24. "Germany's Profit Possibilities". Variety. 7 July 1954. p. 4.
  25. Alan Burton; Tim O'Sullivan (2009). The Cinema of Basil Dearden and Michael Relph. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 39–41. ISBN   978-0-7486-3289-3.

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Joan Greenwood</span> English actress (1921–1987)

Joan Mary Waller Greenwood was an English actress. Her husky voice, coupled with her slow, precise elocution, was her trademark. She played Sibella in the 1949 film Kind Hearts and Coronets, and also appeared in The Man in the White Suit (1951), Young Wives' Tale (1951), The Importance of Being Earnest (1952), Stage Struck (1958), Tom Jones (1963) and Little Dorrit (1987).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Philip Christoph von Königsmarck</span>

Count Philip Christoph von Königsmarck, also spelled Philipp, was a Swedish count and soldier. He was allegedly the lover of Sophia Dorothea, Princess of Celle, the wife of Duke George Louis of Brunswick and Lüneburg, the heir presumptive of the Principality of Calenberg, later to become Elector of Hanover and King of Great Britain.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Stewart Granger</span> British actor (1913–1993)

Stewart Granger was a British film actor, mainly associated with heroic and romantic leading roles. He was a popular leading man from the 1940s to the early 1960s, rising to fame through his appearances in the Gainsborough melodramas.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ealing comedies</span> Ealing Studios films, 1947 to 1957

The Ealing comedies is an informal name for a series of comedy films produced by the London-based Ealing Studios during a ten-year period from 1947 to 1957. Often considered to reflect Britain's post-war spirit, the most celebrated films in the sequence include Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), Whisky Galore! (1949), The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), The Man in the White Suit (1951) and The Ladykillers (1955). Hue and Cry (1947) is generally considered to be the earliest of the cycle, and Barnacle Bill (1957) the last, although some sources list Davy (1958) as the final Ealing comedy. Many of the Ealing comedies are ranked among the greatest British films, and they also received international acclaim.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Michael Balcon</span> English film producer

Sir Michael Elias Balcon was an English film producer known for his leadership of Ealing Studios in West London from 1938 to 1955. Under his direction, the studio became one of the most important British film studios of the day. In an industry short of Hollywood-style moguls, Balcon emerged as a key figure, and an obdurately British one too, in his benevolent, somewhat headmasterly approach to the running of a creative organization. He is known for his leadership, and his guidance of young Alfred Hitchcock.

<i>The Goose Steps Out</i> 1942 British film

The Goose Steps Out is a British film released in 1942, starring Will Hay, who also co-directed with Basil Dearden. It is a comedy of mistaken identity, with Hay acting as a German spy and also an Englishman who is his double. It was the film debut of Peter Ustinov.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">John Gregson</span> English actor (1919–1975)

Harold Thomas Gregson, known professionally as John Gregson, was an English actor of stage, television and film, with 40 credited film roles. He was best known for his crime drama and comedy roles.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Douglas Slocombe</span> British cinematographer (1913–2016)

Ralph Douglas Vladimir Slocombe OBE, BSC, ASC, GBCT was a British cinematographer, particularly known for his work at Ealing Studios in the 1940s and 1950s, as well as the first three Indiana Jones films. He won BAFTA Awards in 1964, 1975, and 1979, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography on three occasions.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sophia Dorothea of Celle</span> Electoral Princess of Hanover

Sophia Dorothea of Brunswick-Lüneburg-Celle was the repudiated wife of future King George I of Great Britain. The union with George, her first cousin, was a marriage of state, arranged by her father George William, her father-in-law the Elector of Hanover, and her mother-in-law, Electress Sophia of Hanover, first cousin of King Charles II of England. Sophia Dorothea is best remembered for her alleged affair with Count Philip Christoph von Königsmarck that led to her being imprisoned in the Castle of Ahlden for the last thirty years of her life.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Helen de Guerry Simpson</span> Australian novelist and British Liberal Party politician

Helen de Guerry Simpson was an Australian novelist and British Liberal Party politician.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Basil Dearden</span> English film director (1911–1971)

Basil Dearden was an English film director.

William Kellner was an Austrian-born art director who worked primarily on British films in the 1940s and 1950s. He began his career as a draughtsman working for Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger on their films A Canterbury Tale (1944) and I Know Where I'm Going! (1945) and on David Lean's Brief Encounter in 1946. He was also art director on two Ealing Comedies, Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) and the Lavender Hill Mob (1951). Kellner was nominated for two Oscars, in 1949 for Basil Dearden's Saraband for Dead Lovers and in 1959 for Joseph L. Mankiewicz's adaptation of Tennessee Williams' Suddenly Last Summer. He worked on two Anthony Asquith all-star productions, The V.I.P.s and The Yellow Rolls-Royce, both in 1964, before retiring in 1965.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Michael Relph</span> British film maker (1915–2004)

Michael Leighton George Relph was an English film producer, art director, screenwriter and film director. He was the son of actor George Relph.

John Gervase Dighton was a British playwright and screenwriter.

<i>Spare a Copper</i> 1940 film by John Paddy Carstairs

Spare a Copper is a 1940 British black-and-white musical comedy war film directed by John Paddy Carstairs and starring George Formby, Dorothy Hyson and Bernard Lee. It was produced by Associated Talking Pictures. It is also known as Call a Cop. The film features the songs, "I'm the Ukulele Man", "On the Beat", "I Wish I Was Back on the Farm" and "I'm Shy". Beryl Reid makes her film debut in an uncredited role, while Ronald Shiner appears similarly uncredited, in the role of the Piano Mover and Tuner.

On screen, George I of Great Britain has been portrayed by Peter Bull in the 1948 film Saraband for Dead Lovers, Eric Pohlmann in the 1953 film Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue, Otto Waldis in the 1954 film The Iron Glove, and Steve Plytas in an episode of the Granada Television series Rogues' Gallery entitled "A Bed-Full of Miracles" (1969).

<i>Out of the Clouds</i> 1955 British film by Basil Dearden

Out of the Clouds is a 1955 British drama film directed by Basil Dearden and starring Anthony Steel, Robert Beatty and James Robertson Justice. It was loosely based on the novel The Springboard by John Fores and was adapted by Rex Reinits, with a screenplay by Michael Relph and John Eldridge.

<i>The Square Ring</i> (1953 film) 1953 film by Basil Dearden

The Square Ring is a 1953 British tragi-comic drama, directed by Basil Dearden and made at Ealing Studios. It stars Jack Warner, Robert Beatty and Maxwell Reed. The film, based on a 1952 stage play by Ralph Peterson, centres on one night at a fairly seedy boxing venue and tells the disparate stories of the fighters and the women behind them.

<i>Cage of Gold</i> 1950 film

Cage of Gold is a 1950 British drama film directed by Basil Dearden, and starring Jean Simmons, David Farrar, and James Donald.

<i>I Believe in You</i> (film) 1952 film

I Believe in You is a 1952 British drama film directed by Michael Relph and Basil Dearden, starring Celia Johnson and Cecil Parker and is based on the book Court Circular by Sewell Stokes. Inspired by the recently successful The Blue Lamp (1950), Relph and Dearden used a semi-documentary approach in telling the story of the lives of probation officers and their charges.