Movie Review By Monica Sullivan
There was something about Oswald Mosley, known to his friends & family as Tom, that kept Great Britain chained to his every move for his entire adult life. Born to the aristocracy in 1896, he was wounded in what was then known as the Great War, still coming home with looks and charm intact, determined to Do Something as a member of Parliament to better the lives of the working class chaps who fought beside him in the trenches. First, he must make a splendid marriage & he did so in 1920 at the Chapel Royal in St. James Palace. Missing from the 1997 film about his life starring Jonathan Cake is the fact that he was still enjoying a leisurely lunch at the Ritz five minutes into the announced arrival time. Alerted to that reality, he ran down the street to the ceremony and into the arms of his rich bride, Cimmie, Lady Cynthia Curzon.
As played by Jemma Redgrave, Cimmie is the most intriguing character in the “Mosley” story. She WOULD be to her son Nick (played by William Boscaven) who tried to understand his father in two books, “Rules Of The Game & Beyond The Pale”, & who was deprived of Cimmie’s lovely presence forever in 1933. Screenwriters Laurence Marks & Maurice Gran based “Mosley” on these two books, every scene of which has the implicit question WHY stamped on it like an invisible subtitle. For Mosley, the bright & brilliant young thing of 1920 who womanized his way through London society before, during & after his marriage, the descent from lunch at the Ritz in l920 to prison fare at Brixton in 1940 was steady & sure. Cake and Redgrave portray a couple who reveal everything that is wrong about the aristocratic British marriage. It only looks glittering from a distance. He is her first lover, he introduces her to what she believes is politics at its most idealistic, she gives him beautiful children & a respectable sheen. He deserves neither, but uses her ruthlessly throughout the last wretched thirteen years of her life. At various points throughout the story, Mosley announces that he has to go & no one asks why. The audience knows why: Mosley’s about to jump into the arms of his latest married mistress, who always has a useful political tidbit for him to exploit to the hilt.
With every aristocrat in London apparently looking the other way, Sir Oswald and Lady Cynthia Mosley, who visited Benito Mussolini in 1932, formed the British Union of Fascists the following year. Then two things happened. In April, Diana Mitford Guinness (played here by Emma Davies) left her husband Bryan because she’d fallen head over heels in love both with Mosley and his fascism. Within six weeks, the miserable, misguided Cimmie was dead after an appendicitis operation, not long after her husband recited a litany of the names of most of his mistresses. Director Robert Knights, who examines Mosley’s first marriage in intricate detail, skims through the second, except for the wedding. Diana & her sister Unity (Anouschka Menzies), both portrayed as lovely ice queens, orchestrate the bizarre occasion which takes place in Berlin at the home of Dr. and Frau Goebbels, with Adolf Hitler as a star guest. Mosley & Hitler are snippy with each other, which did not quite happen in real life, as Mosley seems to have adored Hitler.
“Mosley” is a surreal, scary, amazing story, not widely available in the U.S., where Mosley is known, if at all, for the humorless impression he makes in 1933 newsreels addressing the British Union of Fascists. The Channel Four production is worth a search: I finally found a copy at “Tower Video.”
© 2000 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 8/31/00
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