Becky Sharp

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This article is about the film. For the character from Vanity Fair, see Becky Sharp (character). For the band, see Becky Sharp (band).
Becky Sharp
Directed by Rouben Mamoulian
Produced by Kenneth Macgowan
Rouben Mamoulian
Robert Edmond Jones
Written by Story:
William Makepeace Thackeray
Langdon Mitchell
Francis Edward Faragoh
Starring Miriam Hopkins
Alan Mowbray
Frances Dee
Cedric Hardwicke
Music by Roy Webb
Cinematography Ray Rennahan
Edited by Archie Marshek
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release dates
June 13, 1935 (1935-06-13)[1]
Running time
84 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Becky Sharp (1935) is an American historical drama film directed by Rouben Mamoulian and starring Miriam Hopkins. Other supporting cast were Frances Dee, Cedric Hardwicke, Billie Burke, Alison Skipworth, Nigel Bruce, and Alan Mowbray. It is based on the play of the same name by Langdon Mitchell, which in turn is based on William Makepeace Thackeray's novel Vanity Fair. The screenplay was written by Francis Edward Faragoh. The film was considered a landmark in cinema as the first film to use the newly developed three-strip Technicolor production, opening the way for a growing number of color films to be made in Britain and the United States in the years leading up to World War II.

The film recounts the tale of a lower-class girl who insinuates herself into an upper-class family, only to see her life and the lives of those around her destroyed. The ruthless, self-willed and beautiful Becky is one of the most famous characters in English literature.

Color development[edit]

Becky Sharp was the first feature film to use the three-strip Technicolor process, which created a separate film register for each of the three primary colors.[2] Earlier live action films to use the new Technicolor process include the final musical number in the feature The Cat and the Fiddle released by MGM in February 1934, and in short sequences filmed for other movies made during 1934, including The House of Rothschild (20th Century Pictures/United Artists) with George Arliss and Kid Millions (Samuel Goldwyn/United Artists) with Eddie Cantor. Warner Brothers released two Leon Errol shorts, Service With a Smile (28 July 1934) and Good Morning, Eve! (22 September 1934), and RKO Pictures released the short La Cucaracha (31 August 1934).

Becky Sharp is now in the public domain.

Miriam Hopkins was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance.


Becky Sharp (Miriam Hopkins), a socially ambitious English young lady manages to survive during the years following Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo. In her efforts to advance herself, she manages to link up with a number of gentlemen: the Marquis of Steyne (Cedric Hardwicke), Joseph Sedley (Nigel Bruce), Rawdon Crawley (Alan Mowbray), and George Osborne (G. P. Huntley Jr).

She rises to the top of British society and becomes the scourge of the social circle, offending the other ladies such as Lady Bareacres (Billie Burke).

Finally, Sharp falls into the humiliation of singing for her meals in a beer hall. But Becky never stays down for long.



John Hay "Jock" Whitney and Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney formed Pioneer Pictures specifically to produce color films, and signed a contract to release Pioneer films through RKO Radio Pictures. After producing La Cucaracha, Becky Sharp, and Dancing Pirate (1936), the Whitneys and David O. Selznick formed Selznick International Pictures. Two Selznick International films, A Star Is Born and Nothing Sacred (both 1937), were produced by Selznick, copyrighted by Pioneer Pictures, and released through United Artists rather than RKO.

Lowell Sherman, the original director, developed pneumonia and died early in the filming of Becky Sharp. His replacement, Rouben Mamoulian, scrapped all of the original footage and started over. Sherman mostly filmed several pieces of test footage, which have survived.


For many years, the original three-color Technicolor version of the film was not available for viewing, though a 16 millimeter version was available. This version had been printed (poorly) on two-color Cinecolor stock which did not accurately reproduce the colors of the original film. The smaller film stock also resulted in a grainier, inferior image.

In the 1980's the UCLA Film and Television Archive restored the film, under the supervision of archivist Robert Gitt. Rouben Mamoulian appeared at the premiere of the restored print at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences theatre in Beverly Hills.




  • Academy Awards: Best Actress in a Leading Role, Miriam Hopkins; 1935.
  • Venice Film Festival: Mussolini Cup, Rouben Mamoulian; 1935.


Pat Nixon (then Pat Ryan), later the wife of Richard Nixon and First Lady of the United States from 1969 to 1974, worked as a movie extra at this time, and can be seen as a walk on during the ball scene.


  1. ^ Brown, Gene (1995). Movie Time: A Chronology of Hollywood and the Movie Industry from Its Beginnings to the Present. New York: Macmillan. p. 124. ISBN 0-02-860429-6.  In New York, the film premiered at Radio City Music Hall.
  2. ^ Technicolor's earlier processes did not include a blue register, just green and red.

External links[edit]