The Mudlark Film Details
Overview: In 1875 London, young Wheeler (who lives by scavenging) finds a cameo of Queen Victoria, which he thinks so beautiful, he risks his life to save it. Possessed of a desire to see the Queen, …
Tagline: At last it’s here!
Review: Security at royal residences in the 19th century does not seem to have been very efficient. Although the story told in “The Mudlark” is fictitious, it is based upon a novel, which was in turn based upon a real-life incident in 1838 which a teenage boy named Edward Jones broke into Buckingham Palace Victoria herself was still only a teenager in 1838, and Jones’s exploit appears to have been motivated by a sexual obsession with the young Queen. (He was caught trying to steal her underwear). Theodore Bonnet, the author of the novel, transfers the story to much later in Victoria’s reign, around 1876, and the break-in takes place at Windsor Castle rather than Buckingham Palace. The intruder is rather younger than Edward Jones and his motive for breaking into the Castle is more innocent. The “mudlark” of Bonnet’s title is not a species of bird. In Victorian London, “mudlarks” were scavengers who made a meagre living selling whatever they could find on the banks of the River Thames. The one featured in this film is a homeless young orphan boy named Wheeler. After finding a picture of Victoria and being told that she is the “mother of all England”, he makes a journey along the river to Windsor Castle to see her, entering the castle after evading the guards. The film tells of how the Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, uses this incident to further his programme of social reforms and to persuade the Queen to end her self-imposed seclusion, which he sees as damaging to the monarchy. (The Queen had been living as a recluse since her husband, Prince Albert, had died more than a decade earlier). A sub-plot deals with a romance between Lady Emily, one of the Queen’s Ladies-in-Waiting, and a handsome young Guards officer. The film was a big box-office success in Britain when first released in 1950. Perhaps in the years of post-war authority it was comforting to be reminded that there was a time in the not-too-far-distant past when life had been even tougher, at least for Wheeler and those like him. The references to Disraeli’s social reforms may have been intended as a reference to the similar reformist agenda of Attlee’s Labour government, although if the film-makers had been accused of political partisanship they could have pointed out that Disraeli was in fact a Conservative. “The Mudlark” is not particularly well-known today and only rarely turns up on television. Ever since the golden days of Merchant-Ivory and their imitators in the seventies, eighties and nineties, we have had a preconceived idea of what period dramas should look like- they should be made in sumptuous colour and preferably deal with the lives of the wealthy, or at least the prosperous middle classes. Black-and-white dramas about the mudlarks of this world do not really fit in with that idea. Even the Windsor Castle scenes are not particularly elaborate by the standards of modern heritage cinema. There is, however, a lot to enjoy about the film. Young Andrew Ray is delightful as the irrepressible Wheeler. Unlike some child-actors called upon to play street urchins or guttersnipes (think, for example, of Mark Lester’s impeccably middle-class workhouse boy in “Oliver!”), he really does look and sound like an authentic Cockney kid. There are also good performances from Alec Guinness as Disraeli and Irene Dunne as Queen Victoria. You wouldn’t guess Dunne was American- her English even has the slight Germanic accent with which Victoria apparently spoke. This, perhaps, is not how Victoria actually was, but it is how we would like to imagine her. This is a charming little tale. 7/10
Country: UK, USA
Duration: 99 min
Also known as: Жаворонок в грязи,The Mudlark,Un monello alla corte d’Inghilterra,Kadun kasvatti,El diablillo y la reina,Der Dreckspatz und die Königin,Trashanken,Le moineau de la Tamise,Dronningen og gadedrengen,Клошарчето и кралицата,O Garoto e a Rainha,To hamini kai i vasilissa,A Rainha e o Vagabundo,De zwerveling