Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Lady Caroline and the Bad Lord Byron

LADY CAROLINE LAMB, A welcome tv outing for Robert Bolt’s neglected 1972 (it might have opened in 1973) labour of love for his wife Sarah Miles – as if RYAN’S DAUGHTER wasn’t enough! He directs this one as well as writing the story of the outrageous Lady Caroline who scandalises Regency society with her affairs, particularly with that rock star of the time, Lord Byron – whom Richard Chamberlain plays as to the manner born (as good as his Tchaikovsky for Ken Russell). 
That leading man of the era Jon Finch (who also toplined Polanski’s MACBETH and Hitch’s FRENZY those years) is her husband, prime minister William Lamb, who loves her unconditionally until she goes too far. Margaret Leighton (right) has another great role (after 1971’s THE GO-BETWEEN) as his mother, the formidable Lady Melbourne – who also had affairs of her own, but discreetly – who despises Caroline's indiscretions and tries to prevent their marriage, as The King (Ralph Richardson) puts it: "A statesman cannot have a notorious wife"!. She gets a great last line at the end – when told that Lady Caroline has died of a broken heart, she pauses, and retorts "wouldn't she"!
Add in Laurence Olivier enjoying himself as the powerful Duke of Wellington dispensing largesse (and good advice to Lady Caroline when they are in bed), Ralph Richardson as George IV, John Mills, Pamela Brown, Peter Bull, Sonia Dresdel and others and it’s another feast of English acting talent – I spotted Michael Wilding (Leighton’s husband) too. Bolt tells his story well as Lady Caroline falls for The Bad Lord Byron, even dressing topless as a blackamoor and following his carriage through the London streets, and finally has to separate from her husband so his career can progress. Richard Rodney Bennet provides a good score and it all looks great, shot in the real country houses and estates. 

The problem though is Lady Caroline herself – Sarah Miles is one of our favourites here, I have liked her in a lot of things, from THE SERVANT and TERM OF TRIAL to I WAS HAPPY HERE and BLOW-UP, as per labels, but she is so annoying here one feels like she deserves all she gets as she capriciously goes almost demented and tries the patience of everybody. 
Good to see it again though, 40 years later … its as fascinating a time-capsule costumer as Richardson’s CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE or Attenborough’s OH WHAT A LOVELY WAR. Costume dramas hardly get dottier or more fun ! -
 well apart from that '40s version of the story, THE BAD LORD BYRON as essayed by Dennis Price and Joan Greenwood (right), being delicious as usual as Lady Caroline. 
Sarah of course went on to more notoreity with her later '70s films like THE MAN WHO LOVED CAT DANCING and THE SAILOR WHO FELL FROM GRACE WITH THE SEA, as per label.

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