Nell Gwyn (1934)

Nell Gwyn (1934)

“How should I know what… pleases your majesty?”

In 17th century England, dance hall performer Nell Gwyn (Anna Neagle) becomes a beloved confidante and lover of King Charles II, quickly butting heads with his arrogant French mistress (Jeanne De Casalis).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Actors and Actresses
  • Biopics
  • Cross-Class Romance
  • Historical Drama
  • Royalty and Nobility

Anna Neagle shines in the title role of this historical biopic-comedy which tells the satisfying (albeit bittersweet) tale of a bawdy performer who authentically won the heart of the king while showing up the shallowness of her snooty formal rival, the Duchess of Portsmouth (De Casalis):

It’s easy to see why the king would fall for Nell, with her infectious laugh:

… and ability to effectively skewer all pretentions — as in the amusing scene where she appears on stage dressed in an outlandish version of an outfit the Duchess had been so excited to show off to society:

Freddie Young’s cinematography and fine sets make the entire affair a pleasing one to sit through. While it’s not must-see viewing, it’s recommended.

Note: This film is listed on IMDb and Wikipedia as 85 minutes long, but the version I saw was only 71 minutes; I wonder if I missed some of the censored scenes?

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Anna Neagle as Nell
  • Cedric Hardwicke as King Charles II
  • Fine cinematography and sets

Must See?
No, though it’s recommended. Listed as a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book.


One thought on “Nell Gwyn (1934)

  1. First viewing. Not must-see.

    It’s (sort of) amusing to discover some of the titles that Peary made a point of including in his lists. Oh, like this curio, for instance. It’s easy-enough to pass the time with, I suppose, but it’s not particularly memorable. It will mostly please fans of the period it takes place in, though its historical accuracy may be another matter and its length doesn’t really allow for enough depth. (I also saw the 71-minute version.)

    Wikipedia tells us: “The film flopped in the US but was a big success in the rest of the world.”

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