Blanche Fury

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Blanche Fury
Blanche Fury FilmPoster.jpeg
Directed by Marc Allégret
Produced by Anthony Havelock-Allan
Written by Audrey Erskine Lindop
Cecil McGivern
Joseph Shearing (novel) (uncredited)
Hugh Mills (dialogue)
Starring Valerie Hobson
Stewart Granger
Michael Gough
Music by Clifton Parker
Cinematography Guy Green
Geoffrey Unsworth
Edited by Jack Harris
Release dates
  • 19 February 1948 (1948-02-19)
Running time
90 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $1.5 million[1]
Box office 1,547,740 admissions (France)[2]

Blanche Fury is a 1948 British Technicolor drama film directed by Marc Allégret and starring Valerie Hobson, Stewart Granger and Michael Gough. It was adapted from a novel by Joseph Shearing. In Victorian era England, two schemers will stop at nothing to acquire the Fury estate, even murder.

Plot[edit]

The plot is based on an actual homicide case from Victorian England. Blanche Fury (Valerie Hobson) is a beautiful and genteel woman, forced into menial domestic service after the death of her parents. After a succession of failed positions, she receives an invitation to become governess for the granddaughter of her rich uncle Simon, whom she has never previously met due to an unspecified dispute between him and her father.

On arriving at the impressive country estate she first encounters Philip Thorn (Stewart Granger), whom she mistakes for her cousin Laurence. In fact, he is the illegitimate and only son of the former owner of the estate, Adam Fury. Thorn tells her the legend of the founder of the Fury family, killed in battle, his body defended by the ghost of his pet Barbary ape. The ape of the Furies is said to protect the family and wreak vengeance on anyone who crosses them.

Desiring position and security she marries her weak and insipid cousin Laurence. Dissatisfied with her marriage, she and Thorn begin a love affair. They conceive a plan for Thorn to murder her husband and uncle, leaving evidence to blame gypsies, whom her uncle had antagonised in the past.

After the inquest Thorn becomes increasingly possessive, and she fears he will murder the child Lavinia, heir to the estate and final obstacle to his ambition, by encouraging the child to make a lethal jump with her pony. Blanche intervenes, and fearing for the child's life, goes to the police, implicating Thorn in the murder. She confesses to their love in court, and he is executed for the double murder. As the day of his execution arrives, Lavinia goes out alone to try the jump she'd been denied, and is killed.

Months later Blanche gives birth to a son, whom she names Philip Fury, after his father, Thorn. She dies, leaving her infant son, a true-blooded Fury, as sole heir to the estate. So the curse of the Furies is fulfilled.

Shearing brought in many controversial items to the original story, particularly the stereotyped portrayal of gypsies as thieves and vagabonds. Gypsies were not involved in the original case.

Cast[edit]

Real-life inspiration[edit]

In 1848, Isaac Jermy and his son Isaac Jermy Jermy were shot and killed on the porch and in the hallway of their mansion, Stanfield Hall, Norwich, by James Blomfield Rush, a troublemaking tenant farmer of theirs. Rush had been their tenant for nearly a decade, and he had mortgaged and remortgaged his farm to raise money for improvements (so he said), but without improving the farm's output. The deadline to pay off the mortgages was approaching; otherwise foreclosure and eviction would follow (adversely affecting both his children and his pregnant mistress, their governess Emily Sandford). The Jermys had problems with the title to their estate, with relatives who claimed it was theirs. However, Isaac Jermy was the Recorder of Norwich, so he was a prominent local man with legal connections, thus it was unlikely that he would lose the property. Rush's plan was to kill both Jermys, their servant, and the younger Jermy's pregnant wife while disguised, and blame the massacre on the rival claimants to the estate.[3][4][5]

Rush planned that Emily Sandford would provide an alibi, by stating that he was at the farm during the hour or so that the crime was committed. Rush wore a false wig and whiskers, but failed to hide his body sufficiently so that the wounded Mrs Jermy and the servant Elizabeth Chestney survived to identify him. Emily Sandford also refused to support his alibi. Tried in 1849, Rush defended himself (badly) and was convicted. He was subsequently hanged.[3][4][5]

Filming[edit]

Star Valerie Hobson was married to the producer Anthony Havelock-Allen. She later recalled "I had just had our son, who was born mentally handicapped, and he meant the film as a sort of 'loving gift', making me back into a leading lady, which was a wonderful idea. The film didn't work completely."[6]

The courtroom scenes were filmed in the Shire Hall at Stafford.[7]

The location scenes for the film were shot at Wootton Lodge (which stood in for the Clare Hall of the story), a magnificent three-storey Georgian mansion at Upper Ellastone on the Derbyshire – Staffordshire border and on the surrounding Weaver Hills, as well as on Dunstable Downs in Bedfordshire.

Stewart Granger later said the film "was a silly story, too grim and melodramatic, but its a wonderful looking film... I enjoyed working with Valerie Hobson, but the film didn't work."[8]

Antony Havelock-Allen later said he felt the most exciting aspect of the story was the murder being committed by a "gypsy woman" who was actually man. However he says "Stewart Granger refused to play it dressed as a woman, even though you would only have seen a falsh of him, so it lost that high point scene."[9]

This film marks the first film appearance of Gough, probably best known for portraying Batman's butler Alfred Pennyworth in Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever and Batman & Robin.

The stately home used in the exterior shots is Wootton Lodge in Staffordshire.

Reception[edit]

Trade papers called the film a "notable box office attraction" in British cinemas in 1948.[10] However Anthony Havelock Allen later admitted the film was a disappointment:

We took far too long over Blanche Fury, it cost too much money and it didn't 'work' and never attracted any great audience. David and Ronnie didn't like what I was trying to do with Blanche Fury, which was along the lines of the very successful costume films from Gainsborough. I wanted to make a serious one with a better story and I thought it would make a lot of money. I found out what I was making was a 'hard' film, not a 'soft' film which the others were. There was a real hatred in it as well as love, and the public didn't want it. Cineguild more or less broke up over that.[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Review of film at Variety
  2. ^ Box office information for Stewart Granger films in France at Box Office Story
  3. ^ a b Murders at Stanfield hall by John Millman
  4. ^ a b The Stanfield Hall Murders by Orfield Sutherland
  5. ^ a b The Stanfield hall Assassinations. An authentic report of the Trial, Conviction and Extraordinary defence of James Bloomfield Rush. (Contemporary account)
  6. ^ Brian MacFarlane, An Autobiography of British Cinema, Methuen 1997 p 305
  7. ^ Anon. The Shire Hall Gallery Guide. Staffordshire County Council. 
  8. ^ Brian MacFarlane, An Autobiography of British Cinema, Methuen 1997 p 231
  9. ^ Brian MacFarlane, An Autobiography of British Cinema, Methuen 1997 p 292
  10. ^ Robert Murphy, Realism and Tinsel: Cinema and Society in Britain 1939-48 2003 p211
  11. ^ Brian MacFarlane, An Autobiography of British Cinema, Methuen 1997 p 292-293

External links[edit]