Brummell TV Bio a Bust

I was bitterly disappointed in the Beau Brummell movie! I watched it with my “Writers Group” and afterward my friend Helen said, “This makes the Stewart Granger version look like a documentary.”

To say the movie was shallow is an understatement. The BBC website makes it appear that it is based on Ian Kelly’s biography of the Beau, but, if so, the BBC read a different Kelly biography than I did. Kelly’s biography explored a complex man, one who, by the end, I thoroughly cared about, but this Beau Brummell has no redeeming features, except perhaps being depicted by the thoroughly handsome James Purefoy, who does a nice acting job with what is given him to do.

Purefoy doesn’t quite share as much of himself as he did in Rome, but he does show off the clothes very well–and what is underneath the clothes, too; however, the show does not begin to do justice to the dressing ritual for which Brummell was renowned. And the very first scene is wrong wrong wrong. It shows Brummell donning a white shirt–one that clearly opens all the way in the front. (That’s wrong, isn’t it, Kalen? Men’s shirts did not open all the way). You’d think they’d get the clothes right for a show about the man who transformed gentlemen’s dress and whose influence is still felt today.

There were other things that struck me as wrong. The Prince Regent, Beau Brummell, and Byron all calling each other by their first names. That just was not done! Schoolboy friends might use first names, or one’s siblings, but the Prince Regent?

Furthermore, Brummell, according to Kelly’s biography, had faithful friends who understood his problems and really did stick by him even after his exile. The TV movie makes Brummell seem like everyone turned against him. The TV show makes a big deal about the waltz–and the Regent’s supposed objection to it. It is hard to believe that the Patronesses at Almack’s would have approved the waltz if the Regent opposed it. Additionally, the biography says there is little evidence Brummell even danced it, although he did stand with the patronesses and tell them who danced well and who did not

The show was so busy chronicling Brummell’s fall that it never got around to showing the vast extent of his celebrity. It was Brummell’s celebrity that paid the bills at his tailors, all of whom were thrilled for him to wear their clothes. If Brummell wore their clothes, other men flocked to their shops. It is like Johnny Depp wearing Armani on the red carpet–walking advertisement. Mystifyingly, the movie never showed Robinson, Brummell’s renowned valet, assisting him in his dress. Instead Robinson acted more like an officer’s batman.

But the worst part of the movie was the angle involving Byron. The show makes a somewhat tantalizing relationship with Byron the reason for Brummell’s falling out with the Prince Regent, yet the book does not connect the two in this way. In fact, Kelly makes a good case against Brummell having an affair with Byron at all, even though the men apparently admired each other. Kelly indicates that there is no strong evidence that the Beau had a preference for men except in that adolescent, pack of pals kind of way.

What really is a shame is that there was a story here that would have been fascinating and emotionally wrenching. James Purefoy certainly would have been equal to the task of depicting a more complicated, more likeable, more tragic Brummell. I’ll suggest you all read Kelly’s book to discover it, though.

Here’s the Boston Globe‘s take on the show.

Did you see the show? What did you think? Did you spot any other errors?
Have you ever looked forward to a movie only to be bitterly disappointed?

On a happier note, take a trip over to the Romance Vagabonds. Their guest blogger all week is Joanne Carr, an editor for Harlequin Historical and Mills & Boon Historical. This should be helpful if you are interested in writing for the Historical lines or if you are just curious about the workings of publishing behind the scenes.

*Purefoy’s photo is from the Boston Globe site.

About diane

Diane Gaston is the RITA award-winning author of Historical Romance for Harlequin Historical and Mills and Boon, with books that feature the darker side of the Regency. Formerly a mental health social worker, she is happiest now when deep in the psyches of soldiers, rakes and women who don’t always act like ladies.
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14 Responses to Brummell TV Bio a Bust

  1. Kalen Hughes says:

    It was history salad.

    Yes, the shirt was wrong. So were the braces (they used the Y-style Victorain ones, not the correct X-style ones), but the clothes were otherwise quite nice.

    There was also some really demented stuff going on with the time line, or perhaps I just couldn’t follow it.

    When Brummell stood for the Price at his wedding, he was a twenty year-old man who had not yet come in to control of his fortune, and who was not yet the toast of London (though he was the toast of his regiment). They made it look like everything took place at once, or very near anyway. I didn’t get the feel that they were showing a nearly 20 year spread of his life. Did you?

    I thought the casting was great, but that the script sucked.

  2. Manda says:

    Well, I do not feel so bad about missing it now! A friend called and by the time we were off the phone it was almost over.

    It is a shame that they didn’t mine the story for the emotional depth they could have.

  3. Hmmm. Do I see naked man discrimination going on here? If it was Gerard Butler, Diane, would any of the anachronisms, clothing mistakes, and the non-story line have mattered?

    I wonder if James Purefoy has a contractual obligation to drop his drawers in every role?

  4. Kalen Hughes says:

    I wonder if James Purefoy has a contractual obligation to drop his drawers in every role?

    LOL! Him and Ewan McGregor.

  5. History salad? LOL!

    I haven’t seen it yet (don’t get BBCA, so I’m dependent on kind friends to record things for me), but I’m very sorry to hear it wasn’t as good as it could have been. I thought James Purefoy seemed a good bit of casting. 🙂

    Thanks for the Romance Vagabond link, too, Diane! I was so excited she mentioned my book. Makes it seem more “real” or something!

  6. Janet said: Hmmm. Do I see naked man discrimination going on here? If it was Gerard Butler, Diane, would any of the anachronisms, clothing mistakes, and the non-story line have mattered?

    Well…….they wouldn’t matter as much…….

    James Purefoy dressed and undressed was the best thing about this movie. I so wanted it to be better.

    Kalen, I did think that they missed the whole point of who Brummell was and they did make it seem as if his “favor” was short-lived and his downfall swift. I just wish they’d do it all over again and make it the way I wanted it!!

    Manda, it’s worth watching but you are right not to feel bad that you missed it.

    Amanda! Yes, your book is much anticipated by the Vagabonds. I like them better and better all the time!!

  7. Kalen Hughes says:

    I just wish they’d do it all over again and make it the way I wanted it!!

    If I ruled the world . . .

  8. I taped this to watch later, so I think my girlfriend and I will watch it together and mock it roundly.

    Nothing a bottle of wine and some good snark can’t assist! Plus James Purefoy is some nice eye candy.

  9. Cara King says:

    I don’t know all that much about Brummell, so the inaccuracies didn’t bother me as much as they bothered some of you. Though of course I could tell that a lot of things were simplified and changed to make them palatable (and understandable) for “the masses.” 🙂

    Interesting that they made Byron pretty much the devil…tempting Brummell away from his true prince. 🙂


  10. Mina says:

    I was disappointed in the flick, but I didn’t know enough about Brummel’s real life to point out all the inaccuracies. I did think they played up the homosexual aspect more than I thought was likely – I’ve never heard that the Prince Regent had a bent for the fellas, and they insinuated strongly that there was something sexual between Brummel and Prinny.

    But, it was very pretty to watch. James Purefoy (thanks for the name, I didn’t know who he was before now) was well worth watching! Yum!

  11. Amanda: Yippee on the kudos the Vagabonds are heaping on your plate. Will your book be available for pre-order from eHarlequin in July? More importantly, will you be signing this book in Dallas???

    Manda: Hey, a Vagabond’s here. COOL!!

    Cara: Byron’s an easy target, especially since they wanted Brummell to come up smelling like roses. Pity. They should’ve stuck to the facts, minus the “creative license.”

    (Diane, I don’t feel as bad now. 🙂

  12. Lois says:

    Well, I guess it’s a good thing I don’t have the channel, huh? LOL You know something, just looking at the picture of him, I can’t see him playing a fop (whether or not they actually made him do it in the movie). . . unless he’s like Leslie Howard. When I saw Scarlet Pimpernel, he was really good at being a serious guy one second to that looney tunes fop the next. LOL 🙂 That was a great one. Alas, still have to get the book so I’m not sure how it is compared to the print. 🙂


  13. Todd says:

    I’m not all that familiar with Brummell’s life, except in its broad outlines. But I did know that the timescale was highly compressed. Near the end of the movie (which was 1816) they had one of the Prince’s brothers (I couldn’t quite figure out which one) still dressing in 18th century style. A bit like a 70s disco dancer showing up at a 90s hip-hop concert. (How’s that for a nice contemporary metaphor? 🙂


  14. Anonymous says:

    James is a wonderful bloke.

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