This is the first in a series of movie/TV recommendations for period pieces set in the 19th century by decade. I conceived this idea on behalf of my classmates in Costume History, for whom my professor has recommended selections such as Bright Star and Age of Innocence. As a lover of 19th-century clothes and an avid watcher of television, I have watched a large quantity of period pieces, and as an asexual skeptic who hates love stories, my taste in period pieces tends to veer off the beaten path of Austens, Brontës, romantic epics, and bodice-rippers to some lesser-known selections. I’m going by decade to try to keep pace with what we’re talking about in class, and to show the range, variety, and evolution of 19th century styles. And these are all pieces that I love love love, and I want to tell people about them!
My selection for the first decade of the 19th century is BBC’s 2006 made-for-TV movie Beau Brummell: This Charming Man. Based on Ian Kelly’s biography Beau Brummell: The Ultimate Dandy, the movie tells the story of Brummell’s reign over London’s fashionable set at the beginning of the 19th century, including his friendship and later falling-out with the Prince of Wales (the future King George IV), his passionate fascination with Lord Byron, and the rise of the Dandy as the new paragon of masculinity. Though deeply in debt, Brummell’s seemingly limitless street cred gets him anything and everything that he wants…until it doesn’t. If you enjoy unwritten social rules, acerbic wit, and perfect tailoring, you will absolutely love this movie.
The movie stars James Purefoy as the indomitable Brummell, Hugh Bonneville as the Prince Regent, Philip Davis as Brummell’s valet Robinson, and all five other British actors as various background aristocratic gentlemen (including the guy who played Sherlock Holmes in Young Sherlock Holmes, which is also a great movie!). It also stars James Purefoy’s butt in several dressing scenes which can only be described as textile porn.
This movie used to stream on Netflix, I don’t remember if it does anymore, but you can watch the whole movie on Youtube.
Tune in next week for the 1810s! Here’s a sneak peak…