Where Everything is Beautiful and Everyone Dies:
The titular Blanche Fury and her lover Philip Thorn are outstandingly beautiful people. Their clothes are elegant and perfectly cut. The vast estate on which they live is richly appointed. It is full of expensive furniture and many servants. They are passionate, and very much in love with each other.
Unfortunately for them…
their lives are playing out in a Gothic genre film set in the Victorian era.
Too bad, beautiful people.
It was nice knowing you.
Blanche’s uncle dies. Her husband dies. Her step-daughter dies. Philip dies. Blanche dies. All five main characters die.
Dead, dead, dead.
Blanche Fury (1948) isn’t set in a just world, nor was it filmed in one. In the 19th century, unacknowledged bastard sons did not inherit their fathers’ estates. One hundred years later, movie censor boards made sure that murderous characters met nasty fates. In either case, immorality did not go unpunished.
With this in mind, does the plot even matter?
No, not really.
What are we left with, if everyone dies?
What are we left with, if everyone is unlikable?
What are we left with, if the plot is unremarkable?
The forceful coupling of actors Valerie Hobson and Stewart Granger as the literally cursed lovers is enough to keep one’s eyes on the screen for most of the film. They play well together, and are mighty believable as the calculating, passionate, and ultimately antagonistic partners-in-crime.
Blanche Fury is a highly stylized film that looks like a series of old, haunting paintings strung together. The shots are framed in an extraordinary manner. Indeed, its greatest value is in its visuals: sets, costumes, cinematography, and the actors’ wonderful expressiveness. Amidst this aesthetic banquet, words are almost unnecessary (Stewart Granger’s charmingly contemptuous voice notwithstanding).
Blanche Fury (1948)
Illicit Love is a Killing Thing:
[The film uses a framing device. We meet and leave Blanche as she is on her deathbed. The rest of the action is one prolonged flashback.]
This is our introduction to Clare Hall:
Blanche is clearly dying:
The doctor gives her drugs, because she is in labor:
A Recipe for Disaster in 5 Easy Steps:
Step #1-Start with two beautiful but disaffected people:
Blanche is a gentlewoman forced by the death of her parents into service as a lady’s companion. It’s not the best job for her, as she doesn’t like being bossed around. After being fired from yet another position, the woman at the employment bureau is not happy to see her. “So it’s you again, Miss Fuller. And you’ve lost another situation with your independent ways.” She receives one more chance, and it looks like this:
She gets a walloping sixteen pounds a year to look after this demanding old lady.
Fury Thorn is the bastard natural son of the late owner of Clare Hall, Adam Fury. Poor Philip had the ignominy of seeing his family home go to non-relatives whilst being kept on as the steward. They even took his father’s last name (in order, one presumes, to preserve it for future generations). It is hard taking orders from the new owners, since he looks just like dear old dead dad:
Step #2-Throw them together in close quarters:
Before she can off her employer, Blanche is invited to go live with her Uncle Simon (Walter Fitzgerald) and Cousin Laurence (Michael Gough). There was some kind of quarrel between her father and uncle, but we are not given any details. Whatever it was, it was bad enough for her father to take to the grave. All is well now, as Blanche shall be the governess to her cousin’s daughter! Off she goes:
Well, this isn’t scary at all:
Guess who she mistakes for her cousin?
Step #3- Give them common enemies:
For what it’s worth, only one of them hates the child!
Blanche and Philip come together due to equal parts passion for each other and loathing for Simon and Laurence. Blanche grows to dislike her newly found family for obvious reasons: they are tedious and stodgy, and hold all of the power. Philip, for his part, cannot abide these upstarts living in his ancestral home–a home that should very much be his.
Naturally, this doesn’t stop Blanche from marrying her cousin. After all, being lady of the manor is considerably better than working as the governess for 25 pounds a year + a clothing allowance.
Step #4-Sit back and watch their passion flame out of control:
Even though Blanche literally just married Laurence, she spends part of her wedding night with Philip. Granted, her sop of a husband is off engaging in stupid plot-forced nonsense when he’d be better off romancing his bride. And, of course, there is the undeniable fact that Philip Thorn looks like Stewart Granger. Things go from adultery to murder within a matter of days, such is their passion! So long Simon, so long Laurence!
Step #5-If you’ve done steps 1-4 correctly, the lovebirds will naturally turn on each other:
Even the deepest of passions can be undone by a heart full of vengeance.
One of our villains is more villainous than the other, but they have their reasons for doing what they do. Neither Blanche nor Philip is inherently evil: they’ve both endured a lifetime of injustice and heartache. Unfortunately, in the end, degrees do not matter. In their world, fate is fate and immorality is always met with death.
In order to preserve your viewing pleasure, I’ve omitted a couple of huge plot threads.
Blanche Fury (1948):
- Starring: Valerie Hobson; Stewart Granger; Michael Gough; Walter Fitzgerald; Susanne Gibbs; Maurice Denham; Sybille Binder; Ernest Jay; Cherry London
- Directed by: Marc Allégret
- Written by: Audrey Erskine-Lindop and Cecil McGivern (screenplay); Hugh Mills (dialogue); Joseph Shearing (novel) (uncredited)
- Music by: Clifton Parker
- Cinematography by: Guy Green (photographed by); Geoffrey Unsworth (exteriors)
- Production Design by: John Bryan
- Art Direction by: Wilfred Shingleton
- Costume Design by: Sophie Devine (Sophia Harris of Motley)
90 minutes (Technicolor)
The casting is superb, from the top down. Especially touching in her few scenes is young Susanne Gibbs as Lavinia Fury.
Blanche Fury was adapted from the 1939 novel written by Joseph Shearing, aka Marjorie Bowen. She was an incredibly prolific writer, under her own name as well as a few male pseudonyms.
Blanche Fury is loosely based on a true story.
In all fairness, the young Michael Gough was better looking in real life than he is in this movie. See:
Michael Gough, of course, went on to play Alfred Pennyworth in the Batman movies. He actually had a long and wonderful career. His turn as Laurence Fury came extremely early: it was his third role.
If you look deep into the credits for this film on IMDB, you will see an even younger Roger Vadim listed as an (uncredited) assistant director.
Blanche Fury was partly filmed at Wootton Lodge.
◊Effie is our Film correspondent. She (shockingly) prefers House Peters’ profile to John Barrymore’s.