Nell Gwyn (1926 film)

Nell Gwyn is a 1926 British romance film directed by Herbert Wilcox and starring Dorothy Gish, Randle Ayrton and Juliette Compton.[3] It was based on the 1926 novel Mistress Nell Gwyn by Marjorie Bowen[4] and follows the life of Nell Gwynne, the mistress of Charles II. Wilcox later made a second version of the film in 1934, Nell Gwynn which starred Anna Neagle.[5]

Nell Gwyn
Directed byHerbert Wilcox
Produced byHerbert Wilcox
Written byMarjorie Bowen (novel)
Herbert Wilcox
StarringDorothy Gish
Randle Ayrton
Juliette Compton
Sydney Fairbrother
CinematographyRoy F. Overbaugh
Edited byWilliam Hamilton
British National Pictures
Distributed byFirst National Film Distributors
Paramount Pictures (US)
Release date
18 July 1926 (US)
Running time
80 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget£20,000[1] or £22,000[2]
Box officeover £100,000[2]



Wilcox said he got the idea to make the film after making The Only Way. He saw a theatre bill headlined by "Dolly Elswrothy" and remembered a sketch he saw where Elsworthy played Nell Gwyn. He cabled to see if Dorothy Gish was available and she accepted.[6]

Dorothy Gish was paid £7,000 (£1,000 a week plus expenses[7]). Wilcox arranged to finance the film with an accountant, everyone contributing half. Wilcox says the accountant reneged and he had to finance the film entirely himself. To save money he edited the fim himself[8]

One report says the film was made for £20,000 and Wilcox sold it outright for £35,000.[1] Wilcox says it was made for £14,000 and he sold it for £20,000.[9] The company that bought it was British National Pictures.[10]



The New York Times wrote, "Whatever may be the shortcomings of English motion picture producers. If they can put together other pictures as simply and with as much dramatic effect as this story of Nell Gwyn they should have no difficulty obtaining a showing for them anywhere. The story moves quickly and surely, with nothing to strain one's credulity, and the acting of Miss Gish and Randie Ayrton, who takes the part of Charles, is excellent. So is that of Juliette Compton as Lady Castlemaine. The immorality of the period is suggested without being offensive, and for the second time this Summer a good picture has not been spoiled by prudery. The titles are unusually good and frequently amusing, that dear old gossip Pepys being resorted to for purposes of verisimilitude." [11]

Box office

Wilcox says the film "was a riotous success throughout the world."[12] It was sold to the US for £28,000.[13]

It did so well that British National Films signed Wilcox and Gish to make three more films together, which would be financed by Paramount.[14]


  1. "Anna Neagle's Herbert Takes On A New Star". Truth (2756). Brisbane. 18 January 1953. p. 22. Retrieved 17 August 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  2. "THE MAN WHO MADE "DAWN."". Daily Examiner. 21 (28497). New South Wales. 24 April 1928. p. 7. Retrieved 19 August 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  3. "Nell Gwyn A Character Study (1925)". BFI.
  4. Nell Gwyn: A Decoration, by Marjorie Bowen, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1926. This book was not written under the pen name, Joseph Shearing
  5. "Nell Gwyn (1926) - Herbert Wilcox - Synopsis, Characteristics, Moods, Themes and Related - AllMovie". AllMovie.
  6. Wilcox p 65
  7. "Dorothy Gish Made £41,000 from Three British Films". The Sun (5408). Sydney. 8 March 1928. p. 1 (FINAL EXTRA). Retrieved 19 August 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  8. Wilcox p 66
  9. Wilcox p 67
  10. "BRITISH-MADE FILMS". Daily Mercury. 59 (1120). Queensland. 9 February 1926. p. 9. Retrieved 19 August 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  12. Wilcox p 68
  13. "WRONGFUL DISMISSAL". Daily Standard (4729) (3 p.m. ed.). Queensland. 8 March 1928. p. 7. Retrieved 19 August 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  14. "THREE HEW BRITISH PICTURES". The Daily News. XLV (16, 039) (HOME (FINAL) ed.). Western Australia. 22 September 1926. p. 5. Retrieved 19 August 2017 via National Library of Australia.


  • Street, Sarah. Transatlantic crossings: British feature films in the United States. Continuum International Publishing, 2002.
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