Bequest to the Nation (film)

Bequest to the Nation is a 1973 British historical drama film directed by James Cellan Jones and starring Glenda Jackson, Peter Finch, Michael Jayston and Margaret Leighton.[1] It is based on the 1970 Terence Rattigan play A Bequest to the Nation.[2] The film depicts the relationship between Admiral Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton during the Napoleonic Wars plus others they would meet, including Nelson's nephew: the story takes place before Nelson's heading out to sea for the battle of Trafalgar. In the United States, it was released as The Nelson Affair.[2]

Bequest to the Nation
Directed byJames Cellan Jones
Produced byHal B. Wallis
Written byTerence Rattigan
StarringGlenda Jackson
Peter Finch
Michael Jayston
Anthony Quayle
Music byMichel Legrand
CinematographyGerry Fisher
Edited byAnne V. Coates
Hal Wallis Productions
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • 18 April 1973 (1973-04-18) (New York City)

  • 25 April 1973 (1973-04-25) (London, UK)
Running time
118 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom


Critical reception

The New York Times found the film "so thoroughly genteel that it is perhaps best seen before having afternoon tea...Mr. Rattigan ("The Winslow Boy," "Separate Tables") writes period dialogue in the manner of someone regurgitating the cadences of a 19th-century schoolgirl's diary...Peter Finch plays Lord Nelson with a reserved passion that seems intelligently thought out but is not terribly interesting to watch, while Glenda Jackson seems to go at Lady Hamilton from the opposite direction"[2] though Sky Cinema found the film "remarkable for the handsome Technicolor photography of Gerry Fisher and the brilliant production design of Carmen Dillon. There are some touching moments, notably those involving Margaret Leighton as Lady Nelson, and vivid climactic battle scenes. However, the two principals are not very well cast, and while Peter Finch struggles gamely to erase memories of Olivier's version of the role, Miss Jackson responds by stridently over-playing her hand as a sluttish Emma";[3] and Time Out wrote, "Histrionics apart, you come out wondering whether it really matters."[4]


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