Wednesday, June 04, 2008


Another one of George Arliss's somewhat stagy but spirited historical impersonations; these films may not be the absolute truth but Arliss is always fun to watch. The film begins in 1783 with George Washington's farewell to his troops; Hamilton notes that with the unifying factor of the war over, the states will begin squabbling and he talks Washington into taking on the job of President in 1789. Hamilton himself becomes Secretary of the Treasury; he realizes that many American troops still have not been paid and that the government owes heavy foreign debts, so he pushes for a strong centralized government to assume the war debts of the States. He is opposed by Thomas Jefferson and others who fear the threat of monarchy. In the midst of various political conflicts, the married Hamilton is set up to be seduced by Mariah Reynolds, who fakes a fainting spell at his house and takes money from Hamilton, supposedly to leave her husband. The two do indeed have an affair (though the movie is discreet about it, it seems to be at least a one-night stand), and Reynolds' husband than tries to blackmail Hamilton out of pushing through his "assumption of debts" bill. However, Hamilton bravely goes public, believing that his private affairs are no one else's business. His wife forgives him, Washington arrives to express his continuing confidence, and his bill gets passed. The film is based on a play which was a Broadway vehicle for Arliss (and which he co-wrote) and while it may not be terribly accurate, it has been opened up and has just the right mix of political intrigue and personal melodrama. Arliss was apparently way too old to be playing Hamilton (the actor was in his 60's, while Hamilton was in his 30's), but has the necessary gravitas for the part, though he is less credible as a dallying lover. Familiar faces in the cast include Alan Mowbray as Washington, Montagu Love as Jefferson, and Dudley Digges as a skirmishing senator. I'm sure it's asking too much for a George Arliss DVD boxed set, but maybe when the well runs dry, Warners will look into it. [TCM]

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