Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA, 1928. First National Pictures. Story by E. Barrington, Adaptation by Forrest Halsey, titles by Harry Carr, Edwin Justus Mayer. Cinematography by John F. Seitz. Produced by Walter Morosco. Music by Cecil Copping. Production Design by Horace Jackson. Costume Design by Max Ree. Film Editing by Hugh Bennett. Academy Awards 1928/1929.
Frank Lloyd won the Best Director Oscar for this elegant romance that predates the later Alexander Korda film on the same subject, That Hamilton Woman. Corinne Griffith is excellent as Emma Hart, the daughter of a cook who can never get on the right side of public opinion, first being romanced by her mother’s boss the Honorable Charles Greville (Ian Keith), then being shipped off by him to Naples where she is married off to the dull, older Sir William Hamilton (H.B. Warner). She enjoys the titled life for some time before meeting Horatio Nelson (Victor Varconi), an Admiral in the British Navy, whom she assists in getting him through the city’s ports and it leads to a victory against Napoleon; this then leads to the two of them doing something so much more explosive than defeating an Armada, as Emma and Horatio fall madly in love and condemn themselves to their doom. Lloyd coaxes terrific performances out of everyone but most especially from Griffith, who would only remain in movies for a few more years after this triumph (she would go on to become a very wealthy real estate tycoon and died one of the richest women in the world, plus her memoir Papa’s Delicate Condition was turned into a hit comedy in 1963). Despite the danger of the proceedings turning into cheesy melodrama, Griffith’s performance gives the character a real and sympathetic anguish that is performed beautifully in scenes that emphasize intense close-ups for maximum narrative effect.