Written by guest blogger Judge McGahey
As I’ve stated on numerous occasions, I’m an Anglophile of huge proportions. For this month’s movies, I’ve picked three British films that have divorce as a driving element of the plot.
We’ll start with 1932’s A Bill of Divorcement. This is the second movie based on a British play of the same name. The play was inspired by a law passed in England in the ‘20’s that allowed a woman to divorce her husband if he were found insane. In this movie, Billie Burke plays Meg Fairfield and Katherine Hepburn stars as her daughter, Kit. Meg has obtained a divorce from her psychotic husband, Hilary, with the assistance of Gray (Paul Cavanaugh) the man she now intends to marry. Kit, too, is engaged to be married, to concert pianist Sydney (David Manners.) This happy quartet is thrown completely out of kilter by the shocking Christmas Eve arrival of Hilary, played by the ineffable John Barrymore Hilary has escaped from the asylum, and thinking he’s cured, expects to resume married life with Meg. How his desire plays out affects not just Meg, Gray and Hilary, but Kit and Sydney as well.
We’ll next turn to The Divorce of Lady X, from 1938. This comedy of mistaken identities has a seriously all-star British cast: Laurence Olivier, Merle Oberon, and Ralph Richardson. Olivier plays an uptight lawyer, who because of an exception London fog and a shortage of rooms, ends up a chastely sharing his hotel room with Oberon for a night. Fascinated by the lady, the lawyer tries to connect with her. When she avoids him, he convinces himself that the lady must be married. The lawyer then is hired by Richardson’s blustery husband to represent him in a divorce – and you know who the lawyer decides the wife must be. Don’t worry, it all works out in the end.
We’ll finish with Morgan! from 1966. A true artifact of the “swinging 60’s,” this film stars David Warner as a man trying to keep his ex-wife (Vanessa Redgrave) from remarrying. The film is full of references to English class differences: Morgan is an artist, the son of working-class parents, while his ex is seriously upper crust. Morgan’s efforts become more and more bizarre, and he eventually goes completely bonkers, ending up in the loony bin. But in the end, he’s actually the winner in his quest to reunite with his ex-wife – maybe. The film is a great deal of fun, notable for showing us Morgan’s internal fantasy life, which includes references to King Kong.
I know everyone doesn’t share my devotion to things English, but trust me, you’ll enjoy all of these movies!