The Divine Lady
The Divine Lady is a 1929 American Vitaphone sound film with a synchronized musical score, sound effects, and some synchronized singing, but no spoken dialogue. It stars Corinne Griffith and tells the story of the love affair between Horatio Nelson and Emma Hamilton. It featured the theme song "Lady Divine", with lyrics by Richard Kountz and music by Nathaniel Shilkret, which became a popular hit in 1929 and was recorded by numerous artists, such as Shilkret, Frank Munn, Ben Selvin (as the Cavaliers), Smith Ballew, Adrian Schubert, Sam Lanin, and Bob Haring.
|The Divine Lady|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Frank Lloyd|
|Produced by||Frank Lloyd|
Richard A. Rowland
|Written by||Forrest Halsey|
Harry Carr (intertitles)
|Based on||The Divine Lady: a Romance of Nelson and Emma Hamilton|
by E. Barrington
|Music by||Cecil Copping|
|Cinematography||John F. Seitz|
|Edited by||Hugh Bennett|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
The film was adapted by Harry Carr, Forrest Halsey, Agnes Christine Johnston, and Edwin Justus Mayer from the novel The Divine Lady: A Romance of Nelson and Emma Hamilton by E. Barrington. It was directed by Frank Lloyd.
The film won the Academy Award for Best Director and was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Corinne Griffith) and Best Cinematography. It is the only film to be awarded Best Director without a Best Picture nomination (one year earlier, Two Arabian Knights was awarded for Best Director of a Comedy Picture without being nominated for Best Picture).
In the late eighteenth century, Lady Hamilton has had a somewhat turbulent relationship with the British people, especially the aristocracy. Born Emma Hart from a very humble background (she being the daughter of a cook), she was seen as being vulgar by the rich, but equally captivating for her beauty. In a move to protect his inheritance, Honorable Charles Greville, Emma's then lover and her mother's employer, sent Emma to Naples under false pretenses to live with his uncle, Sir William Hamilton, where she would study to become a lady. Surprisingly to Greville whose deception Emma would eventually discover, Emma ended up becoming Hamilton's wife in a marriage of convenience. But it is Emma's eventual relationship with Horatio Nelson of the British navy that would cause the largest issue. A move by Lady Hamilton helped Nelson's armada defeat Napoleon's fleet in naval battles, which Nelson would have ultimately lost without Lady Hamilton's help. Beyond the dangers of war, Lady Hamilton and Nelson's relationship is ultimately threatened by the court of public opinion as both are married to other people.
- Corinne Griffith as Emma Hart
- Victor Varconi as Horatio Nelson
- H. B. Warner as Sir William Hamilton
- Ian Keith as Honorable Charles Greville
- Marie Dressler as Mrs. Hart
- Montagu Love as Captain Hardy
- William Conklin as Romney
- Dorothy Cumming as Queen Maria Carolina
- Michael Vavitch as King Ferdinand
- Evelyn Hall as Duchess of Devonshire
- Helen Jerome Eddy as Lady Nelson
The film still survives intact along with its Vitaphone soundtrack. This film was a joint preservation project of the UCLA Film and Television Archive and the Museum of Modern Art Department of Film in cooperation with the Czechoslovak Film Archive. It was restored in conjunction with the project American Moviemakers: The Dawn of Sound.
In 2009, the film was released on manufactured-on-demand DVD by the Warner Archive Collection.