The Gorgeous Hussy


1h 43m 1936
The Gorgeous Hussy

Brief Synopsis

President Andrew Jackson's friendship with an innkeeper's daughter spells trouble for them both.

Photos & Videos

Film Details

Genre
Romance
Drama
Historical
Biography
Political
Release Date
Aug 28, 1936
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Gorgeous Hussy by Samuel Hopkins Adams (Boston, 1934).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 43m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
10 reels

Synopsis

In 1823 Washington, Major O'Neal and his daughter Margaret run an inn that is frequented by politicians. Peggy's outspoken and astute opinions have earned the admiration of men such as Andrew Jackson and Daniel Webster. Virginia senator John Randolph, with whom Peggy is secretly in love, seems only to regard her as a child. When new inn resident "Bow" Timberlake refers to Peggy as a "tavern girl," however, John slaps him. Bow soon falls in love with Peggy himself and proposes, but she refuses, then goes to John's room one night to confess her love for him. He sends her away, thinking that she is too young and does not really mean it, but begins to have a change of heart. When he finally realizes that they are both in love, however, he learns from Bow that Peggy has finally consented to marry him. Peggy again talks to John about their future, but John again rejects her, thinking that the younger Bow would be a more suitable husband. Because he is an officer on the U.S.S. Constitution , Bow must leave for a three month tour of duty shortly after their wedding. When the Constitution returns to Washington, Peggy learns that Bow has died. In 1828, Jackson is elected president amid a campaign of mud slinging aimed at his beloved Rachel, whom he inadvertently married before her divorce from her first husband was final. Soon after the election, Rachel dies after asking Peggy to look after Jackson. Peggy then becomes the president's official hostess and confidant, causing many of the Washington political wives to gossip and snub her. At the same time, Jackson comes under political fire from Southerners such as Randolph, who feels he has turned against them by his stand on state rights. At a ball, Peggy is excited to see John after his five-year absence from Washington and asks him to dance with her before dinner. When her childhood friend, "Rowdy" Dow, wants to fight Southern Senator John C. Calhoun because of an insulting remark about Peggy, however, she interrupts and asks him to dance instead. Seeing Rowdy and Peggy dancing, John returns home, but is followed by Peggy, who once again professes her love. This time, John admits his own love and the two plan to marry. Soon after telling Jackson what has happened, however, Peggy realizes that differing political views will never allow her and John to be happy, and they part. A short time later, Secretary of War John Eaton, who has loved Peggy for years, proposes. She is fond of him, and believes, like Jackson, that marriage will bring her respectability. A year later, Rowdy comes to visit and tells Peggy that John Randolph has been shot and is near death. She asks Rowdy to take her to see her John, who was shot by Sunderland, a Southerner trying to prevent him from revealing to Jackson a proposed violent rebellion. John dies contentedly after Peggy's visit. On the way back to Washington, Peggy and Rowdy's coach is accosted by Sunderland, who demands safe passage to Washington in exchange for not revealing that he has seen them. Rowdy throws him out, but soon Jackson's cabinet members and their wives come to him to demand that Peggy be sent away from Washington. When Peggy arrives at the meeting, Jackson lies by saying she was sent to see John Randolph by him and that Rowdy was asked by John Eaton to accompany her. Jackson then demands the resignation of his entire cabinet, except for John. Finally, Peggy, who knows that even Jackson's kind lie will not lead to her acceptance in Washington, asks him to send John as the special envoy to Spain where she knows that they will find contentment.

Film Details

Genre
Romance
Drama
Historical
Biography
Political
Release Date
Aug 28, 1936
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Gorgeous Hussy by Samuel Hopkins Adams (Boston, 1934).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 43m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
10 reels

Award Nominations

Best Cinematography

1936

Best Supporting Actress

1936
Beulah Bondi

Articles

The Gorgeous Hussy


Whether playing a flapper in the 1920s, a proletarian working girl in the 1930s, or a broad-shouldered businesswoman in the 1940s, Joan Crawford was the quintessential modern woman. In only one of her talking films did she venture into period pantaloons, and that film, The Gorgeous Hussy (1936), was not a financial or critical success. "I was so totally miscast," Crawford later admitted.

Recently married to New York actor and upper-class intellectual Franchot Tone, Crawford had acquired intellectual pretensions of her own. Essaying an historical character may have been part of that. The Gorgeous Hussy was based on a popular historical novel about Peggy O'Neal Eaton, a sassy innkeeper's daughter who gained political power in the 1830s because of her friendship with President Andrew Jackson, but was ostracized by Washington society. MGM executive David Selznick tried to talk Crawford out of tackling the role of Peggy Eaton by telling her "you can't do a costume picture, you're too modern." When she would not be dissuaded, Selznick decided to surround her with not one, but five strong leading men, and assigned producing duties to Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who had recently been working with Crawford and understood her strengths and weaknesses.

The Gorgeous Hussy certainly looked great, with Adrian's lavish period costumes, George Folsey's stunning cinematography, and Cedric Gibbons' elegant art direction. And the men surrounding Crawford ranged from adequate to magnificent. As Peggy's first husband, Robert Taylor looked handsome, which was all that was required for his brief role. Newcomer James Stewart, conspicuously out of place in the period wardrobe and silly sideburns, had the grace not to look embarrassed. Melvyn Douglas was more at ease in the costumes, and gave some complexity to his character. Franchot Tone, Crawford's husband at the time and playing her second husband in the film, was miserable with his nothing role, plus being reduced to his wife's coat-holder hit a little too close to home. Working together in The Gorgeous Hussy definitely put a strain on the marriage, especially when Tone began drinking and arriving late on the set, sins that the always professional Crawford would not tolerate.

The film's greatest asset, however, was Lionel Barrymore's splendid performance as Andrew Jackson. Despite the elaborate makeup which gave him a startling resemblance to the real Jackson, Barrymore's talent and humanity shone through. The actor was already suffering from the illness that would cripple him ¿ a form of arthritis. He could barely walk anymore, but he could stand, and when the camera was rolling, he would push through the pain and do what was required. The part offered Barrymore the opportunity to display a broad emotional range, from thundering oratory to overwhelming grief at the loss of his beloved wife. The latter hit too close to home -- Barrymore's own wife was terminally ill with tuberculosis. She died on Christmas Eve of 1936.

In the end, though, not even terrific acting by a stellar cast could save The Gorgeous Hussy. Although the critics praised some of the performances (particularly Barrymore's, and even Crawford's), most of them found the film dull and stodgy. Frank Nugent in the New York Times sneered, "Miss Crawford's Peggy is a maligned Anne of Green Gables, a persecuted Pollyanna, a dismayed Dolly Dimple." The consensus seemed to be, "gorgeous, yes, but not enough hussy." The problem was that although the real Peggy, as portrayed in the book, was fascinating and complex, censorship of the era would not allow the filmmakers to deal with her alleged affairs and improprieties in a frank manner, so audiences couldn't understand what all the fuss was about. And MGM executives' fears were also confirmed: moviegoers wanted Crawford to be contemporary, and would not accept her in period costume, no matter how glamorous. Ever attuned to her public, Crawford never made that mistake again.

Director: Clarence Brown
Producer: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Screenplay: Ainsworth Morgan & Stephen Morehouse Avery, based on the book by Samuel Hopkins Adams
Cinematography: George Folsey
Editor: Blanche Sewell
Costume Design: Adrian
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Music: Herbert Stothart
Principal Cast: Joan Crawford (Peggy O'Neal Eaton), Robert Taylor (Bow Timberlake), Lionel Barrymore (Andrew Jackson), Melvyn Douglas (John Randolph), James Stewart ("Rowdy" Dow), Franchot Tone (John Eaton), Beulah Bondi (Rachel Jackson), Gene Lockhart (Major O'Neal).
BW-104m. Closed captioning.

by Margarita Landazuri
The Gorgeous Hussy

The Gorgeous Hussy

Whether playing a flapper in the 1920s, a proletarian working girl in the 1930s, or a broad-shouldered businesswoman in the 1940s, Joan Crawford was the quintessential modern woman. In only one of her talking films did she venture into period pantaloons, and that film, The Gorgeous Hussy (1936), was not a financial or critical success. "I was so totally miscast," Crawford later admitted. Recently married to New York actor and upper-class intellectual Franchot Tone, Crawford had acquired intellectual pretensions of her own. Essaying an historical character may have been part of that. The Gorgeous Hussy was based on a popular historical novel about Peggy O'Neal Eaton, a sassy innkeeper's daughter who gained political power in the 1830s because of her friendship with President Andrew Jackson, but was ostracized by Washington society. MGM executive David Selznick tried to talk Crawford out of tackling the role of Peggy Eaton by telling her "you can't do a costume picture, you're too modern." When she would not be dissuaded, Selznick decided to surround her with not one, but five strong leading men, and assigned producing duties to Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who had recently been working with Crawford and understood her strengths and weaknesses. The Gorgeous Hussy certainly looked great, with Adrian's lavish period costumes, George Folsey's stunning cinematography, and Cedric Gibbons' elegant art direction. And the men surrounding Crawford ranged from adequate to magnificent. As Peggy's first husband, Robert Taylor looked handsome, which was all that was required for his brief role. Newcomer James Stewart, conspicuously out of place in the period wardrobe and silly sideburns, had the grace not to look embarrassed. Melvyn Douglas was more at ease in the costumes, and gave some complexity to his character. Franchot Tone, Crawford's husband at the time and playing her second husband in the film, was miserable with his nothing role, plus being reduced to his wife's coat-holder hit a little too close to home. Working together in The Gorgeous Hussy definitely put a strain on the marriage, especially when Tone began drinking and arriving late on the set, sins that the always professional Crawford would not tolerate. The film's greatest asset, however, was Lionel Barrymore's splendid performance as Andrew Jackson. Despite the elaborate makeup which gave him a startling resemblance to the real Jackson, Barrymore's talent and humanity shone through. The actor was already suffering from the illness that would cripple him ¿ a form of arthritis. He could barely walk anymore, but he could stand, and when the camera was rolling, he would push through the pain and do what was required. The part offered Barrymore the opportunity to display a broad emotional range, from thundering oratory to overwhelming grief at the loss of his beloved wife. The latter hit too close to home -- Barrymore's own wife was terminally ill with tuberculosis. She died on Christmas Eve of 1936. In the end, though, not even terrific acting by a stellar cast could save The Gorgeous Hussy. Although the critics praised some of the performances (particularly Barrymore's, and even Crawford's), most of them found the film dull and stodgy. Frank Nugent in the New York Times sneered, "Miss Crawford's Peggy is a maligned Anne of Green Gables, a persecuted Pollyanna, a dismayed Dolly Dimple." The consensus seemed to be, "gorgeous, yes, but not enough hussy." The problem was that although the real Peggy, as portrayed in the book, was fascinating and complex, censorship of the era would not allow the filmmakers to deal with her alleged affairs and improprieties in a frank manner, so audiences couldn't understand what all the fuss was about. And MGM executives' fears were also confirmed: moviegoers wanted Crawford to be contemporary, and would not accept her in period costume, no matter how glamorous. Ever attuned to her public, Crawford never made that mistake again. Director: Clarence Brown Producer: Joseph L. Mankiewicz Screenplay: Ainsworth Morgan & Stephen Morehouse Avery, based on the book by Samuel Hopkins Adams Cinematography: George Folsey Editor: Blanche Sewell Costume Design: Adrian Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons Music: Herbert Stothart Principal Cast: Joan Crawford (Peggy O'Neal Eaton), Robert Taylor (Bow Timberlake), Lionel Barrymore (Andrew Jackson), Melvyn Douglas (John Randolph), James Stewart ("Rowdy" Dow), Franchot Tone (John Eaton), Beulah Bondi (Rachel Jackson), Gene Lockhart (Major O'Neal). BW-104m. Closed captioning. by Margarita Landazuri

Quotes

Trivia

This was the first film Joan Crawford and Franchot Tone made together after their marriage in 1935.

Notes

According to a news item in Hollywood Reporter, Jean Harlow was to have appeared in the title role of this film. According to contemporary news items, RKO originally planned to film Samuel Hopkins Adams' novel, starring Katharine Hepburn, in 1934. When M-G-M obtained the rights to the novel in 1935, it was announced that Jean Harlow would star and Brian Aherne would play one of the male leads. Information contained in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection in the AMPAS library, notes that the Hays Office raised serious objections about the profanity used by Andrew Jackson throughout the original script. All instances of the character saying "damn" or "hell" were subsequently removed from the script. Some reviews noted that although the film was loosely based on real characters and incidents, many historical inaccuracies were present. Modern sources note that Bow Timberlake actually committed suicide and that John Eaton was forced to resign from Jackson's cabinet. Although Joan Crawford and Franchot Tone had acted together previously on the screen, this was their first joint film appearence subsequent to their 1935 marriage, a fact prominently mentioned in studio publicity for the picture. Beulah Bondi received an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actress for her role as Rachel Jackson. Modern sources credit Henry Grace with set decoration.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1936

Released in United States on Video June 24, 1992

Released in United States 1936

Released in United States on Video June 24, 1992