The Wings of the Dove (1997 film)

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The Wings of the Dove
Wings of the dove ver1.jpg
Original poster
Directed by Iain Softley
Produced by Bob Weinstein
Harvey Weinstein
Screenplay by Hossein Amini
Starring Helena Bonham Carter
Alison Elliott
Linus Roache
Music by Ed Shearmur
Cinematography Eduardo Serra
Edited by Tariq Anwar
Distributed by Miramax Films
Release dates
  • November 7, 1997 (1997-11-07) (United States)
  • January 2, 1998 (1998-01-02) (United Kingdom)
Running time
103 minutes
Country United Kingdom
United States
Language English
Box office $13,692,848

The Wings of the Dove is a 1997 U.S.-British drama film directed by Iain Softley and starring Helena Bonham Carter, Linus Roache, and Alison Elliott. The screenplay by Hossein Amini is based on the 1902 novel of the same name by Henry James. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards and five BAFTAs, recognizing Bonham Carter's performance, the screenplay, costume design and the cinematography.


In 1910 London, England, Kate Croy (Helena Bonham Carter) lives under the careful watch of her domineering Aunt Maude (Charlotte Rampling), who is determined that the young woman does not follow in the path of her recently deceased mother, whose dissolute husband, Lionel (Michael Gambon), squandered her wealth in order to support his opium addiction. Maude wants Kate to marry the well-off Lord Mark (Alex Jennings), who has a title and estates, despite the fact that Kate does not love him. Kate is dependent on her wealthy aunt's goodwill but abandons her plans to defy her aunt when she is reminded that her father is at Maude's mercy as well. Kate's boyfriend, the financially struggling muckraking journalist Merton Densher (Linus Roache), wants to marry her, but is skeptical of Kate's intentions. Despite her pleas for him to wait as she tries to find a way out of her dilemma.

One day, Kate is introduced by Lord Mark to the wealthy and outgoing American orphan and heiress Milly Theale (Alison Elliott), who is on an extended trip through Europe with her best friend Susan Stringham (Elizabeth McGovern), and the cynical Kate is captivated by Milly's beauty, openness, and amusement at the conventions of society. Milly invites Kate to accompany her and Susan to Venice. Prior to their departure, Milly meets Merton, with whom she is smitten, and she asks him to join them as well.

Lord Mark secretly reveals to Kate that Milly is terminally ill and that he desires Kate but has to marry Milly to avoid losing his estates. Knowing Milly is repulsed by Lord Mark's crudity, she decides to emulate his scheme and persuade Merton to woo Milly; she fully expects Milly's generous nature will lead her to include Merton in her will, making him wealthy enough to satisfy her aunt and allow them to marry. He despises her scheme but can't resist the opportunity to be in Venice with Kate. Kate becomes so jealous of the genuine affection growing between Merton and Milly that she lures him away one night, abandoning Milly in a crowd. Milly confronts her the next morning and Kate realizes she must leave, without warning Merton, if her scheme is to succeed. What neither she nor Merton anticipate is how things will change when she is gone.

Some months later, following Milly's death in Venice, Kate comes to Merton's flat. She asks why he has not come to see her and finds a letter, telling Merton that Milly did indeed bequeath a sizable portion of her estate to him. He tells Kate that he will not take the money, and she must marry him without it, if she will. She agrees, and they make love. But afterwards, Kate asks him to tell her that he is not still in love with Milly, or his memory of her, and he cannot. So Merton returns to Venice, alone.

Production notes[edit]

London exterior locations include Brompton Cemetery in Fulham Road; Carlton House Terrace in St. James's; Freemasons' Hall in Great Queen Street; Kensington Gardens; the National Liberal Club in Whitehall; the Richmond Fellowship; and the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich. Knebworth House in Hertfordshire, Luton Hoo in Bedfordshire, Syon House in London, and Painshill Park in Surrey also were used for outdoor settings. Interiors were filmed at Debenham House in Addison Road, London and at Shepperton Studios, including mock-ups of a platform tunnel and passageways representing both Dover Street and Knightsbridge tube stations.

Locations in Venice include St. Mark's Square and the Palazzo Barbaro.[1]

The film grossed $13,718,385 in the US.[2]


Critical reception[edit]

In his review in the New York Times, Stephen Holden called the film a "spellbinding screen adaptation [that] succeeds where virtually every other film translation of a James novel has stumbled . . . This magnificent film conveys an intimation of what values count the most, of what really matters, but it is also far too intelligent and sympathetic to human frailty to spell them out. You feel them most of all in the characters' unbridgeable silences." [3]

Edward Guthmann of the San Francisco Chronicle said, "The Wings of the Dove was a minor literary work that manages on screen to upstage both Washington Square and The Portrait of a Lady, two superior Henry James novels that came across as stiff and deliberate in recent film translations. This is a breakthrough for Softley, whose earlier films Backbeat and Hackers only hinted at the style and complexity he displays here, and a wonderful showcase for Roache, Elliott and Bonham Carter, who gives her best performance yet." [4]

In Entertainment Weekly, Owen Gleiberman graded the film A and observed it "has a lush yet aching beauty that seems to saturate you as you watch it. I'm not just talking about visual beauty. I'm speaking of dramatic beauty, the exquisite moment-to-moment tension of characters who reveal themselves layer by layer, flowing from thought to feeling and back again, until thought and feeling become drama. Director Iain Softley has made one of the rare movies that evokes not just the essence of a great novel but the experience of it . . . The Wings of the Dove is, I think, a great film . . . that confirms the arrival of major screen talents: director Softley, who works with sublime sensitivity to the intricacies of self-deception; Bonham Carter and Roache, who create a dazzlingly intimate chemistry within the propriety of Jamesian manners; and The Spitfire Grill's Alison Elliott, who, with her beatific charm and Mona Lisa smile, does one of the most difficult things an actress can — she brings goodness itself to life." [5]

David Stratton of Variety stated the film "gives Helena Bonham Carter one of her best opportunities in a while, one which she seizes with relish, looking vibrant and totally convincing in her pivotal role . . . The Wings of the Dove may be typical of the school of British literary cinema, but Softley's handling of several key elements, including an unusually frank love scene in the later stages, is always inventive. Production values are of the highest standard." [6]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award Date of ceremony Category Nominee Result
Academy Award March 23, 1998 Best Actress in a Leading Role Helena Bonham Carter Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Hossein Amini
Best Cinematography Eduardo Serra
Best Costume Design Sandy Powell
BAFTA Award April 18, 1998 Best Cinematography Eduardo Serra Won
Best Makeup and Hair Sallie Jaye & Jan Archibald
Best Actress in a Leading Role Helena Bonham Carter Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Hossein Amini
Best Costume Design Sandy Powell
Boston Society of Film Critics Award December 14, 1997 Best Actress Helena Bonham Carter Won
Best Supporting Actress Alison Elliott Nominated
British Society of Cinematographers November 29, 1997 Best Cinematography Eduardo Serra
Broadcast Film Critics Association Award January 20, 1998 Best Actress Helena Bonham Carter Won
Best Picture Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association Award March 1, 1998 Best Actress Helena Bonham Carter
Gold Hugo October 9–19, 1997 Best Film Iain Softley
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Award January 1998 Best Supporting Actress Allison Elliott
Best Actress Helena Bonham Carter
Golden Globe Award January 18, 1998 Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama Nominated
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award Best Actress Won
Sierra Award January 1998 Best Actress
Best Supporting Actress Allison Elliott
Critics' Circle Film Awards March 4, 1999 British Actress of the Year Helena Bonham Carter
LAFCA Award January 15, 1996 Best Actress
Golden Reel Award March 21, 1998 Best Sound Editing - Foreign Feature Nominated
NBR Award December 8, 1998 Best Actress Helena Bonham Carter Won
Top Ten Films
National Society of Film Critics Award January 3, 1998 Best Actress Helena Bonham Carter Nominated
New York Film Critics Circle Award January 4, 1998 Best Actress
Online Film Critics Society Award January 11, 1998 Best Actress
Satellite Award February 22, 1998 Best Screenplay: Adapted Hossein Amini
Best Actress in a Motion Picture Helena Bonham Carter
Best Art Direction and Production Design John Beard
Best Costume Design Sandy Powell
Society of Texas Film Critics Awards December 29, 1997 Best Actress Helena Bonham Carter Won
Screen Actors Guild Award March 8, 1998 Best Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role Nominated
Best Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role Allison Elliott
Southeastern Film Critics Association Award January 5, 1998 Best Actress Helena Bonham Carter Won
TFCA Award January 13, 1998 Best Actress
USC Scripter Award March 8, 1998 Henry James (author), Hossein Amini (screenwriter) Nominated
Writers Guild of America Award February 21, 1998 Best Adapted Screenplay Hossein Amini

See also[edit]


  1. ^ “The City of Falling Angels, John Berendt, Penguin Books, 2006, pg.147 [1], ISBN 1-59420-058-0
  2. ^ "''The Wings of the Dove'' at". Retrieved 2011-08-18. 
  3. ^ "''New York Times'' review". 1997-11-07. Retrieved 2011-08-18. 
  4. ^ Edward Guthmann (1997-11-14). "''San Francisco Chronicle'' review". Retrieved 2011-08-18. 
  5. ^ Owen Gleiberman (1997-11-07). "''Entertainment Weekly'' review". Retrieved 2011-08-18. 
  6. ^ Stratton, David (2000-06-14). "''Variety'' review". Retrieved 2011-08-18. 

External links[edit]