The story of courtesan and dance-hall girl Emma Hamilton, including her relationships with Sir William Hamilton and Admiral Horatio Nelson and her rise and fall, set during the Napoleonic Wars.
Vivien Leigh is wonderfully purposeful, yet flighty, in this depiction of the life and love of Lady Emma Hamilton. Brought to Naples under false pretences by the British Ambassador to the Kingdom of Naples - Sir William Hamilton (Alan Mowbray), she decides it is better to remain there as his fabulously wealthy trophy wife rather than to risk returning home with her mother to debt and ruin at home. Gradually she ingratiates herself with the court, becomes an intimate of the Queen and when Horatio Nelson (Laurence Olivier) arrives, she is well placed to ensure he has all the help he needs to fend off the Napoleonic forces. Their ensuing romance is the stuff of historical legend and Alexander Korda manages to keep that story progressing tenderly and intimately. Olivier isn't the best here - his performance is, I felt, overly stilted. Even at his most romantic, he falls to ignite any sense of passion, but Leigh carries it all well with good support from Sara Allgood as her mother and Mowbray as her charming but sterile husband. The writing is strong - the script provides us with plenty to develop the characterisations - even some humour too; the look of the film is sumptuous and the ever reliable Miklós Rózsa provides a score that is both rousing and dreamy.