TV film review: Miss Marie Lloyd (2007), directed by James Hawes
Miss Marie Lloyd: Queen of the Music Hall follows Marie Lloyd (Jessie Wallace), or Matilda Alice Victoria Wood (1870-1922) as her real name was, from obscurity to stardom and eventual demise. She rose to fame by adding “lewdness to the most innocent of lyrics” in the music halls at the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries (late 1800s/early 1900s).
The film doesn’t make her out to be a very sympathetic character. I found her quite obnoxious and dislikable. Before being famous she gets an admirer with some wealth, Percy Courtney (Richard Armitage), whom she ends up marrying. He’s the one helping her career take off. Once she’s famous hubris takes over and she’s suddenly too good for him. His response isn’t particularly charming either, I have to say, with mistresses and gambling and drinking and whatnot. I felt sorry for Percy, but I think that might have been down to the actor than the character itself. Not quite sure.
First time I saw this film was on BBC4 a month and a half or so ago, when I switched the TV on late one night and had missed the first half-hour. So all I saw was the marriage starting to break apart and Marie Lloyd, the larger-than-life character, being unsympathetic. Later I got the DVD with birthday money and watched it. Now I know where she came from and how she rose to fame. The things I missed! (Her shagging Percy, there’s one. Haha!)
I don’t know if Jessie Wallace sung the songs herself, but if she did, she’s sung very well! The songs were probably the real Marie Lloyd’s actual repertoire, and it’s fun to see/hear the kind of songs that got her into trouble. Not saucy by today’s (fairly non-existent) standards, but back then, oooh, controversial. I’m unfamiliar with the actress, but I thought she did a really good job even though I didn’t like her character and thought she was vulgar and, as already mentioned, obnoxious. Ridiculous, in parts. But that’s the thing – it’s the character getting on my nerves, not the actress.
There wasn’t a lot of Richard Armitage in this production when it comes to screen time, and as soon as Marie and Percy divorced, he was out completely. Still, the bits that he is in are good, and he does a great job with the part. Wouldn’t have expected anything less, but it’s nice to find he lived up to expectations nonetheless. Lots of emotional range, from admiration, love, passion – to sadness, anger, vengefulness and disgust.
Miss Marie Lloyd is entertaining and a look into the past is always interesting. A lot of singing, some tunes are quite catchy (even I have heard of My Old Man (“don’t dilly-dally on the way”) – and I’m a foreigner in this country!) and the singing is good. Definitely not a movie where you feel you’ve wasted time. It’s engaging enough, and while not being the bestest film EVER, it’s one I certainly won’t mind watching again.