15 June 2007 | bkoganbing
If Forever Amber were being made today the results would have been quite different. Without The Code and the Catholic Legion of Decency inspecting all the product that came from Hollywood, Amber St. Clair's sexual escapades during Restoration Great Britain would have been a far better film. Still it's not bad as it is.
Another reviewer compared it to Gone With the Wind. You can look at that in two ways, the interaction between Linda Darnell and Cornel Wilde and compare it to Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable. Lots of similarities there. But also the book itself was a blockbuster best seller in the Forties as Gone With the Wind was in the previous decade and brought in a built-in audience.
Kathleen Winsor when she wrote the novel was married to her first husband a football player who was a history student. For his honor's thesis he was writing about the Stuart Restoration. From his research material, Winsor became fascinated with the period and created her novel.
20th Century Fox and Otto Preminger got the rights and did a fine job in recreating the United Kingdom of the 1660s. Linda Darnell got one of her best roles in her career as Amber, a high spirited and vivacious girl like Scarlett O'Hara, who finds true love, but sacrifices it for ambition.
In class conscious times as those were there were few venues for people to rise, even less if you were a woman. Darnell rises from Newgate Prison to the court of Charles II where she becomes one of Charles's numerous mistresses. Along the way she uses many men, like highwayman John Russell, army captain Glenn Langan, nobleman Richard Haydn and even her own true love nobleman Cornel Wilde with whom she has a son out of wedlock.
Presiding over it all is a world weary and cynical George Sanders who plays Charles II. Sanders would play The Merry Monarch in another and vastly inferior film called The King's Thief. He does capture the jaded cynicism of Charles II so very well, it's one of his top five career parts.
If the title role in the film were about the male lead Bruce Carlton, I'm sure Darryl Zanuck would have cast Tyrone Power in the part as he appeared in several films opposite Linda Darnell. Instead Cornel Wilde steps in and he's a most dashing Restoration nobleman and seeker of fortune in the New World.
The most spellbinding performance and so against type is that of Richard Haydn as the elderly rake, Lord Radcliff. He's a widower who's looking for a 17th century trophy wife and finds one in Linda who at the point in time he first meets her is an actress. He's a coldblooded person of mystery and menace and really registers it well on the screen. He marries Linda and she inherits his title when he dies.
Haydn is killed in a thrilling scene involving the great fire of London which occurred in 1666. It's the highlight of the film and I can't say any more about how and why he's killed, but trust me it was one deserved end.
Though Forever Amber is a good film, it could have been far better, but for censorship problems. Still it provides Darnell, Sanders, and Haydn with some of their best career parts and is worth seeing.