The Madness of King George

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This article is about the 1994 film. For the play by Alan Bennett, see The Madness of George III. For the 2004 political satire, see The Madness of King George (book).
The Madness of King George
Madness of king george-715444.jpeg
Original theatrical release poster
Directed by Nicholas Hytner
Produced by
Written by Alan Bennett
Based on The Madness of George III
by Alan Bennett
Starring
Music by
Cinematography Andrew Dunn
Edited by Tariq Anwar
Distributed by The Samuel Goldwyn Company
Release dates
  • 28 December 1994 (1994-12-28) (United States)
  • 24 March 1995 (1995-03-24) (United Kingdom)
Running time
110 minutes[1]
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Box office $15.2 million[2]

The Madness of King George is a 1994 British biographical historical comedy-drama film directed by Nicholas Hytner and adapted by Alan Bennett from his own play, The Madness of George III. It tells the true story of George III of Great Britain's deteriorating mental health, and his equally declining relationship with his eldest son, the Prince of Wales, particularly focusing on the period around the Regency Crisis of 1788–89. Modern medicine has suggested that the King's symptoms were the result of acute intermittent porphyria, although this theory has more recently been vigorously challenged, most notably by a research project based at St George's, University of London, which concluded that George III did actually suffer from mental illness after all.[3]

Plot[edit]

The film depicts the ordeal of King George III whose bout of madness in 1788 touched off the Regency Crisis, triggering a power struggle between factions of parliament under the conservative William Pitt the Younger and the reform-minded Charles James Fox.

At first, the King's habits appear mildly eccentric, and are purposely ignored for reasons of state. The King is seen as being highly concerned with the wellbeing and productivity of England, and continually exhibits an encyclopedic knowledge of the families of even the most obscure royal appointments. In fact, the King is growing more unsettled, largely over the loss of America. George, his oldest son, aggravates the situation, knowing that he would be named regent in the event the King was found incapacitated. George chafes under his father's repeated criticism, but also hopes for regency to allow him greater freedom to marry his Catholic mistress. George also knows that he has the moral support of Charles Fox, who is eager to put across an agenda unlikely to pass under the current administration, including abolition of the slave trade and friendlier relations with America. Knowing that the King’s behavior is exacerbated in public, the Prince arranges for a concert playing the music of Handel. The King reacts as expected, interrupting the musicians, acting inappropriately towards Lady Pembroke, attendant to the Queen, and finally assaulting his son.

The King's madness is treated using the relatively primitive medical practices of the time, which include blistering and purges, led on particularly by the Prince of Wales' personal physician, Dr. Warren. Eventually, Lady Pembroke recommends Dr. Willis, an ex-minister who attempts to cure the insane through new procedures, and who begins his restoration of the King's mental state by enforcing a strict regime of strapping the King into a waistcoat and restraining him whenever he shows signs of his insanity or otherwise resists recovery.

Meanwhile, the opposition led by Charles James Fox, confronts Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger's increasingly unpopular government with a bill that would give the Prince powers of regency. Meanwhile, Baron Thurlow, the Chancellor, discovers that the Prince was secretly and illegally married to his Catholic mistress. Thurlow pays the minister to keep his mouth shut, and himself tears out a record of the marriage from church rolls.

The King soon shows signs of recovery, becoming less eccentric and arrives in Parliament in time to thwart passage of the Regency bill. Restored, the King asserts control over his family, forces the Prince to “put away” his mistress. With the crisis averted, those who had been closest to the king are summarily dismissed from service, including Dr. Willis. During conversations with Pitt, the King appears more at ease and in control of himself. He is less antagonized by America, but also shows signs that his insanity remains.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Title change[edit]

In adapting the play to film, the title was changed from The Madness of George III to The Madness of King George. One commonly stated explanation for the title change, that American audiences would think the film was a sequel because of the use of Roman numerals in the title, is an urban legend[citation needed].

Filming locations[edit]

Principal photography took place from 11 July to 9 September 1994. The film was shot at Shepperton Studios and on location at:

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

The Madness of King George debuted strongly at the box office.[4] The film grossed $15,238,689 from 464 North American venues.[2]

Critical response[edit]

The film received largely positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 93% "Certified Fresh" score based on 43 reviews, with an average rating of 7.8/10. The site's consensus states: "Thanks largely to stellar all-around performances from a talented cast, The Madness of King George is a funny, entertaining, and immensely likable adaptation of the eponymous stage production."[5]

Reviewing the film for Variety, Emanuel Levy praised the film highly, writing: "Under Hytner's guidance, the cast, composed of some of the best actors in British cinema, rises to the occasion... Boasting a rich period look, almost every shot is filled with handsome, emotionally charged compositon."[6]

Awards and honours[edit]

Academy Awards
BAFTA Awards

Other awards and nominations

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]