|The Bad Lord Byron|
|Directed by||David MacDonald|
|Written by|| Paul Holt |
|Produced by|| Aubrey Baring |
|Starring|| Dennis Price |
|Edited by||James Needs|
|Music by||Cedric Thorpe Davie|
Triton Films (Sydney Box Productions)
|Distributed by|| GFD (UK)|
International Releasing Organisation (US)
|18 April 1949 (UK)|
|Budget||£200,000 or £223,900|
|Box office||£75,000 (by 1953)|
The Bad Lord Byron is a 1949 British historical drama film about the life of Lord Byron. It was directed by David MacDonald and starred Dennis Price as Byron with Mai Zetterling, Linden Travers and Joan Greenwood.
The film sees life from the perspective of Lord Byron, seriously wounded in Greece where he is fighting for Greek independence. From his deathbed, Byron remembers his life and many loves, imagining that he's pleading his case before a celestial court.
The first witness called is Lady Caroline Lamb who recalls their relationship. She met Byron after a ball and they began an affair. He writes the poem She Walks in Beauty about another woman, causing Lady Caroline to stab herself with a broken glass. He breaks things off and Lady Caroline is sent to Ireland.
The next witness is Annabella Milbanke who talks about her romance and marriage to Byron, including the birth of their child.
The third witness is Augusta Leigh, with whom Annabelle thought Byron was having an affair, although Augusta denies it.
John Hobhouse, 1st Baron Broughton is the fourth witness. He talks about Byron's political career and how he became famous overnight through his poetry and meeting Teresa, Contessa Guiccioli.
Teresa is the fifth witness. She talks of their love affair while she was married and his involvement in the Carbonari in Italy. Byron leaves her to go fight for Greek independence. The celestial judge (played by Dennis Price) tells the viewer it is up to them to decide whether Byron was good or bad.
The film was announced in 1945 by Two Cities with Eric Portman to play the title role (Portman had played Byron on stage).Stewart Granger was mentioned as another possibility. The film was to be written, produced and directed by Terence Young based on the books by Peter Quennell, The Years of Fame and Byron in Italy.
The project was not made but was re-activated when Sydney Box took over Gainsborough Studios in 1946. Box had been considering a film based on Percy Shelley but was also enthusiastic about making one on Byron, who Box greatly admired. He assigned the project to producer Aubrey Baring and director David MacDonald. They greatly reduced Young's script by a half but Box was still dissatisfied with it.
Working with Gainsborough script adviser Paul Holt, Box reconfigured the film to consist of a series of flashbacks about episodes in Byron's life. Box ultimately decided this approach was too derivative of Citizen Kane and made Byron's presence in the film too insubstantial. He then decided to focus the script on Byron's relationship with Teresa Guiccioli but changed his mind with Mai Zetterling who was playing that part was not available.
The lead role was given to Dennis Price, who said during shooting he felt Portman should play the role.
Location filming began in Italy in October 1947.They returned in December. It was followed by shooting in Shepherd's Bush studio. Filming was done by April.
A Nottingham City librarian refused permission for the filmmakers to shoot at Newstead Abbey because of Byron's reputation.Sydney Box called it "an example of bureaucracy at its worst."
Great effort and much money was spent to ensure the film was as historically accurate as possible in terms of sets and costumes. It was not shot in colour as to do so would have increased its budget by a third, and also as colour cameras were being used on the film The Blue Lagoon .A huge set was built at Shepherds Bush. Filming took eleven weeks.
Before the film was released, the US announced they would not allow the film to be screened there because of the relationship between Byron and his half-sister, even though it was not featured in the film.
Sydney Box later heard a radio play about Byron, The Trial of Lord Byron by Laurence Kitchin which he thought would tie up some loose ends of the film. It consisted of Byron being hauled before a celestial court and forced to justify his actions. Box bought the rights to the radio play and had David MacDonald shoot 22 minutes of retakes in two days.
The movie received bad reviews. Dennis Price later said "One day I hope to have enough money to make another Byron film — the real story. And if I could get hold of all the scenes we shot and which never appeared in the film, two-thirds of the job would be done."
A critic for Time Out has written of the film:
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).
The film was a box-office disaster. By the end of its theatrical first-run release, in 1953, it had earned £75,000, recording a loss of £179,200.
Sydney Box and Vivian Cox wrote a book on the making of the film which was published in 1949.
Dennistoun Franklyn John Rose Price was an English actor, best remembered for his role as Louis Mazzini in the film Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) and for his portrayal of the omniscient valet Jeeves in 1960s television adaptations of P. G. Wodehouse's stories.
Frank Sydney Box was a British film producer and screenwriter, and brother of British film producer Betty Box. In 1940, he founded the documentary film company Verity Films with Jay Lewis.
Phyllis Hannah Murray-Hill, known professionally as Phyllis Calvert, was an English film, stage and television actress. She was one of the leading stars of the Gainsborough melodramas of the 1940s such as The Man in Grey (1943) and was one of the most popular movie stars in Britain in the 1940s. She continued her acting career for another 50 years.
Eric Harold Portman was an English stage and film actor. He is probably best remembered for his roles in several films for Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger during the 1940s.
Leslie Arliss was an English screenwriter and director. He is best known for his work on the Gainsborough melodramas directing films such as The Man in Grey and The Wicked Lady during the 1940s.
Saraband for Dead Lovers 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.
Christopher Columbus is a 1949 British biographical film starring Fredric March as Christopher Columbus and Florence Eldridge as Queen Isabella. It is loosely based on the 1941 novel Columbus by Rafael Sabatini with much of the screenplay rewritten by Sydney and Muriel Box.
Patricia Roc was an English film actress, popular in the Gainsborough melodramas such as Madonna of the Seven Moons (1945) and The Wicked Lady (1945), though she only made one film in Hollywood, Canyon Passage (1946). She also appeared in Millions Like Us (1943), Jassy (1945), The Brothers (1947) and When the Bough Breaks (1947).
Jassy is a 1947 British colour film historical melodrama set in the early 19th century, based on a novel by Norah Lofts. It is a Gainsborough melodrama, the only one to be made in Technicolor. It was the last "official" Gainsborough melodrama.
David MacDonald was a Scottish film director, writer and producer.
Caravan is a 1946 British black-and-white drama film directed by Arthur Crabtree. It was one of the Gainsborough melodramas and is based on the 1942 novel Caravan by Eleanor Smith.
The Gainsborough melodramas were a sequence of films produced by the British film studio Gainsborough Pictures between 1943 and 1947 which conformed to a melodramatic style. The melodramas were not a film series but an unrelated sequence of films which had similar themes that were usually developed by the same film crew and frequently recurring actors who played similar characters in each. They were mostly based on popular books by female novelists and they encompassed costume, such as The Man in Grey (1943) and The Wicked Lady (1945) and modern-dress, such as Love Story (1944) and They Were Sisters (1945) settings. The popularity of the films with audiences peaked mid-1940s when most of the cinema audiences consisted of mainly women. The influence of the films led to other British producers releasing similarly themed works, such as The Seventh Veil (1945), Pink String and Sealing Wax (1945), Hungry Hill (1947), The White Unicorn (1947), Idol of Paris (1948), and The Reluctant Widow (1950) and often with the talent that made Gainsborough melodramas successful.
The Magic Bow is a 1946 British musical film based on the life and loves of the Italian violinist and composer Niccolò Paganini. It was directed by Bernard Knowles. The film was entered into the 1946 Cannes Film Festival.
Diamond City is a 1949 British drama film directed by David MacDonald and starring David Farrar, Honor Blackman, Diana Dors and Niall MacGinnis.
Portrait from Life is a 1948 British drama film directed by Terence Fisher and starring Mai Zetterling, Robert Beatty and Guy Rolfe.
The Calendar is a black and white 1948 British drama film directed by Arthur Crabtree and starring Greta Gynt, John McCallum, Raymond Lovell and Leslie Dwyer. It is based on the 1929 play The Calendar and subsequent novel by Edgar Wallace. A previous version had been released in 1931.
Madness of the Heart is a 1949 British drama film directed by Charles Bennett and starring Margaret Lockwood, Paul Dupuis and Kathleen Byron.
Dear Murderer is a 1947 British film noir crime, drama, thriller, directed by Arthur Crabtree for Gainsborough Pictures, and starring Eric Portman and Greta Gynt.
The Blind Goddess is a 1948 British courtroom drama film directed by Harold French and starring Eric Portman, Anne Crawford and Hugh Williams. The screenplay concerns a secretary who sets out to expose his boss, Lord Brasted, for embezzlement. It was based on a popular play of the same title by noted barrister Patrick Hastings.
A Boy, a Girl and a Bike is a 1949 British romantic comedy film directed by Ralph Smart and starring John McCallum, Honor Blackman and Patrick Holt. The film's art direction was by George Provis. The film concerns the romantic escapades and adventures of a Yorkshire cycling club.