Saraband for Dead Lovers

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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
Release dates
  • 4 October 1948 (1948-10-04)
  • 1949 (1949)(US)
Running time
96 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office1,315,516 admissions (France) [1]

Saraband for Dead Lovers (released in the United States as Saraband) is a 1948 British 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 seventeenth-century Hanover, it depicts the doomed romance between Philip Christoph von Königsmarck and Sophia Dorothea of Celle, the wife of the Elector 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 - Set Decoration, Color. [2] It was the first Ealing Studios film shot in colour.

Plot summary

In 1682, Sophie Dorothea (Joan Greenwood) has an arranged marriage at age sixteen to Prince George Louis of Hanover and both parties are very unhappy with this political tryst.

She seeks solace from dashing Count Philip Konigsmark (Stewart Granger) when her husband Prince George Louis (Peter Bull), later to become King George I of Great Britain, wants nothing to do with her. The lovers are brought down by a jealous Countess Platen (Flora Robson), Philip's previous lover.


Original novel

The novel, by Australian author Helen Simpson, was first published in 1935. [3] [4] It was the "book of the month" for the Evening Standard. [5] [6] [7] Simpson adapted the novel into a play but died in 1940 before any production took place. [8]


Film rights were bought by Ealing Studios who announced in 1946 that they would make the film over the following year with Basil Dearden to direct. [9] Stewart Granger signed to star and Ealing elected to make the movie in colour, their first such film.

Mai Zetterling was originally announced for the lead role. [10] [11] She then asked to be excused "on account of a domestic incident" (she fell pregnant) and Lilli Palmer was going to play the role instead. [12] She was unable to make it to England in time so eventually Joan Greenwood played it. [13] [14]

Filming took place in June 1947 with exterior sequences shot in Prague [15] and Blenheim Palace. [16]

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 Dosney 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. [17]

(In August 1947 Variety reported that the script was being rewritten in order to comply with American censorship. [18] )

Filming finished in October 1947. [19] Anthony Steel has a small role; it was his first film. [20]



George MacDonald Fraser, writing in 1988, said of the film,"Saraband tells the story [of Sophia and Konigsmark] 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." [21]

Box Office

The film was a box office disappointment. 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." [22]


The acclaimed production design and art direction (nominated for an Academy Award) was complemented by the cinematography by Douglas Slocombe. Slocombe and the production team chose a muted style of colour filming, which was not universally praised: opinions variously described it as unusual and different, or pretentiously symbolic and leaving exterior and interior shots poorly matched. [23]


  1. Box office information for Stewart Granger films in France at Box Office Story
  2. "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.
  3. NEW NOVELS: People--Royal, Ordinary, and Odd The Scotsman 7 February 1935: 15.
  4. Wallace, M. (5 May 1935). Intrigue at court. New York Times
  5. "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.
  6. "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.
  7. "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.
  8. "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.
  9. "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.
  10. Helen de Guerry Simpson
  11. LONDON HAILS A LADY OF 'GREAT EXPECTATIONS' By C.A. LEJEUNE.. New York Times 2 February 1947: X5.
  12. LONDON CHEERS PAULETTE GODDARD By C.A. LEJEUNE. New York Times 30 March 1947: X5.
  13. "British Film Briefs". Variety. May 1947. p. 19.
  14. "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.
  15. Slocombe at Ealing: the early years | Watershed
  16. Saraband For Dead Lovers | Film Locations
  17. Brian MacFarlane, An Autobiography of British Cinema, Methuen 1997 p 231
  18. "What Benjamin Needs is a Good 26 Hour Day". Variety. 6 August 1947. p. 3.
  19. London Film Letter, Bentley, Kay. The Times of India 12 Oct 1947: 5.
  20. Vagg, Stephen (23 September 2020). "The Emasculation of Anthony Steel: A Cold Streak Saga". Filmink.
  21. Fraser, George MacDonald (1988). The Hollywood History of the World. London: Michael Joseph Limited. p. 118. ISBN   0-7181-2997-0.
  22. Brian MacFarlane, An Autobiography of British Cinema, Methuen 1997 p 482
  23. 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.

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