12 thoughts on “18th-c. Historical Biographies and the Movies Adapted From Them

  1. What about Antonia Fraser’s bio of Mary Queen of Scotland and the Vanessa Redgrave film? Costumes, if my memory is correct were good and they got Mary’s height correct by casting Redgrave as MQoS and even Glenda Jackson cameo of Elizabeth I was nice. The film did suffer from 1970s Bobby Pin War as lots of hair was down. Tried to find it recently to re-watch, but was unsuccessful.

    1. Fraser wasn’t as big into the Boswell love story as that (& most) movies is — her bio makes it seem more like MQoS was kidnapped & raped by Boswell, which hasn’t been portrayed on screen. Probably bec. it’s not a pretty romance that fits w/the romantic fantasy of the tragic queen. Also, that movie shows MQoS & Queen Elizabeth meeting twice, which NEVER happened. I’m still waiting for an accurate MQoS movie — & looking at the advance pix from the 2018 one starring Saoirse Ronan, I’ll be waiting a long while.

      1. I know MQoS & ERI never met, but I was trying to make a case for casting: excellent actress who was tall and although MS Redgrave didn’t wear a wig of the appropriate hair colour, she had the height.

        It’s been years since I read the bio and movie. But I remember liking it bc Mary was portrayed as a person with brains.
        I also want a historically accurate MQoS miniseries along lines of The Crown, Wolf Hall. They could use two or three actresses for Mary. Helen McCrory might make a good Mary from 1580-death.

  2. I agree and disagree about The Duchess. I think the filmmakers did a really good job of portraying how she might have felt after learning her best friend and husband were carrying on together, as anything containing her initial reaction to learning of the affair was destroyed by Bess after Georgiana’s death, so all we can do is speculate. That being said, they softened Bess’ character to the point where she was unrecognizable compared to the real accounts of Bess Hervey-Foster-Cavendish, and while I understand why, for example, they condensed the story so it would be easier to follow, it’s really a shame they only alluded to her extreme gambling and substance abuse. I think they could have done a better job at portraying the world Georgiana lived in, that the Duke’s behavior was in few ways out of the ordinary for an 18th century Aristo, and included some pretty damn interesting characters, like Lady Jersey. The costumes are incredible, though, and the reason why I can watch the film over and over again.

    1. I only recently read Amanda Foreman’s book and I was actually shocked at how much was altered/omitted, especially in regards to the duke’s characterization. My impression based on the book was that he and Georgiana simply weren’t emotionally compatible but nevertheless cared for one another, which I suppose was common for aristocratic marriages in that time. But he wasn’t the creepy, psychologically stunted rapist who was old enough to be her father as they made him out to be in the movie. And I really didn’t care for how much they sanitized Bess’s character as you said, nor for them all but eliminating her gambling addiction as well as her political career, both of which were such huge facets of her life, in favor of portraying the distorted depiction of her personal life. I think it’s a story that would be much better suited to a miniseries format where they could really delve into the personalities and politics of the era.

      1. Same here, as far as finally reading the book goes (It had been on my list since 2008!). I think it was sanitized to appeal to a wider audience-those who don’t really know or might not believe the more lurid aspects of the 18th century. It seems it was similar, but achieved in the opposite way, with Ralph Fiennes-they made his character more malicious to try and make it more compelling, rather than that they were just a very ill-suited couple and he was a rather dull person. On one hand I would love to see it remade, but (potentially unpopular opinion here) I thought Keira was perfect for the description given of Georgiana (tall, not considered an ideal beauty for the late 18th century but attractive and arresting), and I don’t know who else would suit it.

  3. I read, I don’t remember where, that the film script and PR drew heavily on the Georgiana/ lady Di “similitude”, probably to draw in the Diana fans.
    And well, between historical accuracy and the potential for mucho dinero, I guess it was not really a contest.
    And something we seem to forget all the time: People didn’t marry for love. Like, ever. It was not even the bourgeois thing to do.
    Love was known as a fleeting, and not important. Certainly NOT the basis for something as permanent as mariage! What was important was making alliances, gain money and/or prestige.
    The important thing was having and heir, and for the lucky ones, to make a good team.
    But I also guess that frame of mind is not very palatable to our Romance brainwashed minds, so….

  4. “Aristocrats” by Stella Tillyard about the 18th-century (well, 19th as well) Lennox sisters, based on their letters to one another, is very entertaining, and I thought the 1999 telly series a good job as well.



    You can find it on youtube and some libraries and perhaps Netflix. Lovely costumes (am not sure how accurate), sets, and performances. Geraldine Somervllle’s Emily, who married the richest peer and foot fetishist in Ireland, is especially fun.

  5. Didn’t know where else to ask but I’m wondering if you’re going to make post about the costumes in Godless (2017)? Its mostly simple Western clothing and nothing fancy but I really liked the show and would love to see it here :D

      1. I disliked that they made it out to be this show about a women-only town in the trailers, only to basically have it be about three guys instead, but overall I really liked it and the acting was A++ :)

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