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The working title of this film was The Life and Times of Beau Brummell. The onscreen credits include the following written prologue: "In the day of Napoleon, Nelson, and Wellington, of Pitt, Burke, and Fox there lived a man called Beau Brummell. Lord Byron said he was the greatest man in Europe. Brummell agreed-and he very nearly proved it." The opening credits also state that the film was "based on the play written for Richard Mansfield by Clyde Fitch." Mansfield, one of the leading American actor-producers of the late 19th century, commissioned Beau Brummell from Fitch, a highly prolific playwright, in 1889 as a starring vehicle for himself. The play was a great success for both Mansfield and Fitch. Although Fitch's play is credited onscreen, a note attached to the Screen Achievements Bulletin from studio executive Rudi Monta states: "The Clyde Fitch play was used by Karl Tunberg only as a mere springboard...as a matter of fact, the similarities between the Tunberg screenplay and the Fitch play stem from common historical sources."
George Bryan "Beau" Brummell (1778-1840) was educated at Eton and Oxford, and became a close friend of the Prince of Wales (later George IV) while he was a teenager. Gifted with an impeccable sense of style, Brummell achieved renown in high society both as a wit and as an arbiter of fashion. In 1816 he fled to France to escape his creditors, and served time in debtor's prison before dying in a lunatic asylum in Caen. George IV (1762-1830) was appointed prince regent in 1811 after his father, King George III, was found mentally incompetent to rule, and reigned as king of Great Britain from 1820-1830. In 1785, George secretly married Mrs. Maria Anne Fitzherbert, a widow and Roman Catholic; however, the marriage was later declared illegal by Parliament.
According to Hollywood Reporter, M-G-M was planning to make a version of the film, with Robert Donat in the title role, as early as 1938. According to May 1953 studio publicity material contained in the film's production file at the AMPAS Library, Eleanor Parker was originally cast opposite Stewart Granger. Beau Brummell was filmed entirely in England. On November 15, 1954, the film was given a Royal Command performance in London that was attended by Queen Elizabeth, the Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Margaret. According to a November 17, 1954 article in Variety, the screening was preceded by a stage show directed by Peter Ustinov, and the event raised money for the Cinematograph Trades Benevolent Fund. Critical reaction to the special screening was quite negative. According to a November 24, 1954 Variety news item, Sir Alexander Korda promptly published a letter in the Daily Telegraph recommending that the selection process for Royal Command performances be revised. A January 1986 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that recently declassified government papers revealed that Queen Elizabeth was offended by the film's portrayal of her ancestors. According to a memo from Winston Churchill included in the papers, the queen told him "what a bad film it was."
Fitch's play was first adapted for the screen by Warner Bros. in 1924. The silent film was directed by Harry Beaumont and starred John Barrymore and Mary Astor (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30). The life of George IV was the subject of the 1978 British television mini-series Prince Regent, which starred Peter Egan as the prince and Nigel Davenport as the king. George III's decline into mental illness was depicted in the 1994 British film The Madness of King George, which was directed by Nicholas Hytner and starred Nigel Hawthorne as the king and Rupert Everett as Prince George.