Darlings of the Gods (1989)

They were, as the opening newsreel of this biopic informs us, acting royalty. He was the foremost knight of the theatre, and she was the star of Gone with the Wind. Eight years into their marriage however they were respectively overworked and overwrought. Olivier was acting and directing his film version of Hamlet, while Leigh’s co-star in Anna Karenina feared she was becoming consumed by her character. A goodwill tour of Australia seemed the ideal means to allow themselves, and their relationship, a chance to recuperate. Yet their sea of troubles followed them across the oceans.


What could have been a heart-rending tale depicting the beginning of the end of one of filmdom’s greatest love stories instead becomes a rather dull, flat affair. Even when the characters are far removed from the stage, this biopic still looks and feels like a filmed play. 


In this role Mel Martin certainly looks the part, and mostly succeed in conveying Leigh’s torment, only becoming tiresome towards the film’s long overdue conclusion. Her male co-stars, however, fail to convince in their portrayals. Wheras Peter Finch had a certain roguish charm Ehlers suggests a shallow cad, and Higgins doesn’t remotely approach the presence of an actor who was widely considered the greatest of his time.


Olivier would later tell Leigh that he felt he lost her in Australia. This biopic leaves the impression that he wouldn’t have bothered looking.


No mention is made of the New Zealand leg of the tour, which is where Leigh first became interested in A Streetcar Named Desire.

Biopic recreates the famous shot from Hamlet where Olivier jumps from a high tower onto Claudius. Also recreates the coach scene from Anna Karenina, though the dialogue seems more faithful to the original novel.

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