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UK 1994
Directed by
Nicholas Hytner
104 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

The Madness Of King George

Based on a hit stage play by Alan Bennett who also wrote the script, The Madness of King George deals with an episode of dementia (now believed to be the result of porphyria, a blood disorder) experienced by King George III in 1788 some five years after England lost her North American colonies.  As George becomes increasingly unstable and quacks are called in, a power struggle breaks out in Parliament between the Tory (conservative) Prime Minister Pitt (Julian Wadham) and the Whig (reformist) Leader of the Opposition  Charles Fox (Jim Carter). The latter backs George’s eldest son and heir, the Prince of Wales (Rupert Everett) to be declared Regent. Their plan looks like succeeding until the King’s equerry (Rupert Graves) sends for Dr. Willis (Ian Holm), a minister-turned-doctor with a reputation for curing disturbances of the mind.

Whilst not a film that aspires to great dramatic depth The Madness Of King George will be a pleasure for history buffs particularly in its depiction of court and political life of the time. The production design including art direction, costume design and make-up are superb with close study clearly having been made of contemporary painting. Bennett’s literate dialogue sparkles with wit and Hytner does a fine job giving it a screen life.

Nigel Hawthorne, who had played the mad king in the stage production, carries off the part with a spirited yet touching performance and is ably supported by a cast of experienced character actors.  Unfortunately Helen Mirren has little to do as Queen Charlotte although as her French accent is none too convincing this may not be such bad thing, I also found Rupert Graves a tad too modern as a member of the Georgian court. On the other hand modern though she may be Amanda Donohoe is fetching as Lady Pembroke, Mistress of the Queen’s Robes.

FYI: Bennett takes some liberties with the historical facts as George III was not restored to good health as the film suggests. In fact after multiple relapses a regency was established in 1810 and the Prince of Wales ruled as Prince Regent becoming George IV on his father's death in 1820. 




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