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Saraband for Dead Lovers

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Saraband for Dead Lovers
Directed byBasil Dearden
Written by
Based onnovel by Helen Simpson
Produced by
CinematographyDouglas Slocombe
Edited byMichael Truman
Music byAlan Rawsthorne
Distributed byGeneral Film Distributors
Release date
  • 4 October 1948 (1948-10-04) (general release)
Running time
96 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office1,315,516 admissions (France)[2]
£87,338 (UK)[1]

Saraband for Dead Lovers (released in the United States as Saraband) is a 1948 British adventure historical drama film directed by Basil Dearden and starring Stewart Granger and Joan Greenwood. It is based on the 1935 novel by Helen Simpson. Set in 17th-century Hanover, it depicts the doomed romance between Philip Christoph von Königsmarck and Sophia Dorothea of Celle, the wife of the elector of Hanover. The saraband mentioned in the title is a type of Spanish dance.

Jim Morahan, William Kellner and Michael Relph were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Art Direction.[3] It was the first Ealing Studios film shot in colour.

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In 1682, 16-year-old Sophie Dorothea has an arranged marriage to Prince George Louis of Hanover, and she and the prince are both unhappy with the alliance.

She seeks solace from the dashing Count Philip Konigsmark when her husband, later to become King George I of Great Britain, pays her no attention. The lovers are exposed by the jealous Countess Platen, Philip's previous lover.



The novel, by Australian author Helen Simpson, was first published in 1935.[4][5] It was the "book of the month" for the Evening Standard.[6][7][8] Simpson adapted the novel into a play but died in 1940 before any production took place.[9]


Film rights were bought by Ealing Studios, which announced in 1946 its plan to produce the film over the following year, with Basil Dearden to direct.[10] The film was Ealing's first colour production.

Mai Zetterling was originally announced for the lead role,[11][12] but she asked to be excused "on account of a domestic incident" (she was pregnant) and Lilli Palmer was selected to play the role in her place.[13] However, Palmer could not travel to England in time, so Joan Greenwood was given the role.[14][15]

Filming took place in June 1947, with exterior sequences shot in Prague[16] and Blenheim Palace.[17]

Stewart Granger later said:

Saraband was a sweet film... and it's one I'm quite proud of. But whereas Gainsborough loved stars, Ealing didn't like them; the production was the star. Saraband was their first big color film. I said I would do it, but I wanted Marlene Dietrich, whom I loved, for Clara. I felt I couldn't be brutal to Flora Robson. Flora was a great actress, but she'd never been beautiful and it was hard to be cruel to a woman who was never beautiful. That's why I wanted Dietrich for the part. The opening sequence was planned in great detail. Francoise Dosney wanted to rehearse... but in the end this wasn't used. You see, Koenigsmark, whom I played, was introduced as penniless, and this was cut out because it involved Jewish moneylenders.[18]

In August 1947, Variety reported that the script was being rewritten in order to comply with the American production code.[19]

Peter Bull recalled: "They made me shave my head for that one in order that, as King George I of England, I could frighten the daylights out of my wife (the delectable Miss Joan Greenwood). They (the director and producer) assured me that my hair would grow ever so quickly and ever so much stronger after the shaving operation. This was not, I fear, strictly true and actually absolute rubbish."[20]

Filming was completed in October 1947.[21]



In 1988, George MacDonald Fraser, wrote: "As a screen entertainment it has never been judged remarkable; as an example of what a historical movie should be - a faithful dramatisation of fact - it is near-perfect." He added it "tells the story... with complete fidelity, and only the smallest of romantic touches, and makes an enthralling film of it. Stewart Granger (Konigsmark) was born for this kind of costume picture, and Joan Greenwood is an appealing Sophia. ... Best of all, the film conveys in a few brief scenes, the stifling monotony of court life in a pretentious little German state; in this too, Saraband is good history."[22]

Box office

The film was a box-office disappointment. It earned distributor's gross receipts of £87,338 in the UK, of which £59,034 went to the film's producer.[1]

Michael Relph later said: "it was a magnificent looking film, but it wasn't a success at the time. We were trying to get away from the Gainsborough-type romantic costume picture, which was totally unreal, and to do a serious historical epic. I think the public probably wasn't ready for it and also it ended up being a bit heavy."[23]

The film became one of Ealing's most successful in Germany.[24]


The acclaimed production design and art direction (nominated for an Academy Award) was complemented by the cinematography of Douglas Slocombe, who employed a muted style of colour filming that was drew widely mixed opinions. Some described the approach as unusual and different while others found it pretentiously symbolic and with exterior and interior shots poorly matched.[25]

In popular culture


  1. ^ a b c Chapman, J. (2022). The Money Behind the Screen: A History of British Film Finance, 1945-1985. Edinburgh University Press p 355. Gross is distributor's gross receipts.
  2. ^ Box office information for Stewart Granger films in France at Box Office Story
  3. ^ "NY Times: Saraband for Dead Lovers". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. 2009. Archived from the original on 24 February 2009. Retrieved 20 December 2008.
  4. ^ NEW NOVELS: People--Royal, Ordinary, and Odd The Scotsman 7 February 1935: 15.
  5. ^ Wallace, M. (5 May 1935). Intrigue at court. New York Times
  6. ^ "A WOMAN'S JEW SUSS". The Telegraph. Queensland, Australia. 8 February 1935. p. 1 (LATE CITY). Retrieved 2 June 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  7. ^ "NEW BOOKS". The Australian Women's Weekly. Vol. II, no. 44. Australia. 6 April 1935. p. 14. Retrieved 2 June 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  8. ^ "AN AUSTRALIAN NOVELIST OF MANY TALENTS. Helen Simpson— Cook, Lecturer, and Musician". The Sydney Morning Herald. No. 31, 017. New South Wales, Australia. 1 June 1937. p. 21 (Women's Supplement). Retrieved 2 June 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  9. ^ "HELEN SIMPSON'S DEATH". The Newcastle Sun. No. 7124. New South Wales, Australia. 16 October 1940. p. 2. Retrieved 2 June 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  10. ^ "Britain To Double Film Production". The Advertiser (Adelaide). Vol. 89, no. 27526. South Australia. 26 December 1946. p. 4. Retrieved 2 June 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  11. ^ Helen de Guerry Simpson
  12. ^ LONDON HAILS A LADY OF 'GREAT EXPECTATIONS' By C.A. LEJEUNE.. New York Times 2 February 1947: X5.
  13. ^ LONDON CHEERS PAULETTE GODDARD By C.A. LEJEUNE. New York Times 30 March 1947: X5.
  14. ^ "British Film Briefs". Variety. May 1947. p. 19.
  15. ^ "Film News". The Sun. No. 11, 651. New South Wales, Australia. 29 May 1947. p. 18 (LATE FINAL EXTRA). Retrieved 2 June 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  16. ^ Slocombe at Ealing: the early years | Watershed
  17. ^ Saraband For Dead Lovers | Film Locations
  18. ^ Brian MacFarlane, An Autobiography of British Cinema, Methuen 1997 p 231
  19. ^ "What Benjamin Needs is a Good 26 Hour Day". Variety. 6 August 1947. p. 3.
  20. ^ Bull, Peter (1973). Life is a cucumber; some not frightfully "belles lettres". p. 122.
  21. ^ London Film Letter, Bentley, Kay. The Times of India 12 Oct 1947: 5.
  22. ^ Fraser, George MacDonald (1988). The Hollywood History of the World. London: Michael Joseph Limited. p. 118. ISBN 0-7181-2997-0.
  23. ^ Brian MacFarlane, An Autobiography of British Cinema, Methuen 1997 p 482
  24. ^ "Germany's Profit Possibilities". Variety. 7 July 1954. p. 4.
  25. ^ Alan Burton; Tim O'Sullivan (2009). The Cinema of Basil Dearden and Michael Relph. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 39–41. ISBN 978-0-7486-3289-3.


External links

This page was last edited on 8 August 2023, at 11:56
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