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Effie Gray (2014)


Peter T Chattaway
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Saoirse Ronan Takes Title Role In ‘Effie,’ Joins Orlando Bloom, Imelda Staunton & Emma Thompson
At 16 years old, Saoirse Ronan has landed what may be her most adult and potentially controversial role to date.
Production Weekly has tweeted that Ronan will take on the titular character of “Effie” in the upcoming film written by Emma Thompson. The intriguing material will center on the wedding night between Victorian artist, architect, poet and political thinker John Ruskin and his wife, Effie Gray. Ruskin was long infatuated with Gray and married her when she was 17. However, when it came time to consummate their marriage, something so reviled Ruskin that Gray remained a virgin until after they divorced and she remarried his protege, painter, John Everett Millais. . . .
Thompson’s husband and producer Greg Wise, who will play the part of Ruskin in the film, told the Guardian earlier in the year that, “We have tried to stick to what Effie wrote about the incident but you never really know if Ruskin had set her up for it in some way. She had to go to the ecclesiastical court to get a divorce, so if nothing else you have to admire the strength of character of this girl.” . . .
The Playlist, November 3

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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From what I've read, the historical material for this story seems pretty rich. John Ruskin is one of those characters whose work and writing is often questioned, not necessarily on the grounds of what he actually says, but on the grounds that something was wrong with him based on his personal life. This guy was a staunch defender of naturalism (and J.M.W. Turner, who was a fantastic painter btw), a philanthropist and financial supporter for a whole number of famous artists, the philosopher or brains behind the Pre-Raphaelites, and a good personal friend of Thomas Carlyle, Lewis Carroll, and George MacDonald. Then of course, something obviously was wrong with Ruskin - he rejects/ is disgusted by an apparently beautiful girl on their wedding night (who seems like she must have been herself quite normal, because she later has a long happy marriage and 8 children with Millais).

Also:

- the fairy tale Ruskin wrote for his future wife when she was only twelve years old (The King of the Golden River) was to be a big influence on the fairy tales later written by his friends George MacDonald and Lewis Carroll

- Effie prevents Ruskin from getting married a second time by telling the girl's parents that Ruskin was an oppressive husband.

- Ruskin got involved in politics later in his life and essentially became a socialist, or "Christian socialist" - a good different 4-5 communities or "colonies" started up trying to live in communes following Ruskin's ideals in his writing (kind of like they did for Leo Tolstoy, who also personally praised Ruskin's work)

- Two quite hilarious trials in court could both be in this story. First, while filing for divorce because she was already with Millais, the grounds Effie gave were that Ruskin refused to have sex with her for their entire six-year marriage and was therefore impotent. Ruskin's family hired a barrister to counter-attack that he didn't have "relations" with her because she was mentally insane. Second, Ruskin's art criticism gets James Whistler to sue him in court for libel - a long drawn-out trial that also has a funny conclusion.

- Gotta like the paintings of John Everett Millais. I still remember "The Boyhood of Raleigh" hanging up in my room growing up as a child. Apparently, as soon as Millais marries Effie, he leaves the Pre-Raphelites and significantly changes his painting style.

- I'm just guessing, but isn't Emma Thompson probably far more educated than your average scriptwriter? I'm curious how many famous characters she'll put in the script.

Edited by Persiflage
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  • 3 months later...

Emma Thompson Battles Playwright Over 'Effie' Film (Exclusive)

EXCLUSIVE: Academy Award-winning actress/screenwriter Emma Thompson is locked in a row over who authored her latest film project Effie. Whether the film gets made or not could depend on the outcome.

The film's producers have gone to a New York federal court to get a declaration that Thompson's script doesn't infringe the copyright of playwright Gregory Murphy's play called The Countess. Both works are reportedly about a love triangle involving celebrated art critic John Ruskin, his teenage wife Effie Gray, and pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais, a sexual scandal that rocked 19th Century England. . . .

Hollywood Reporter, February 7

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Good on you, Persiflage, for noting the George MacDonald connection. MacDonald eventually became very much Ruskin's mentor / confidante / pastor, just as Ruskin was an important benefactor to the MacDonalds. Though from my notes it looks like the GMD-Ruskin friendship didn't flower until after the marriage with Effie was annulled.

Ruskin was also closely involved with Octavia Hill, a social activist who worked with London's poor, was very close to the MacDonald family and became something of a mentor to Lilia, the eldest MacDonald daughter. Ruskin's erratic and cruel behaviour toward Octavia Hill was extremely destructive (1878)

Ruskin married Effie Gray in 1846. She was 18, he was 27. Their marriage was annulled in 1854.

What the heck. From my notes, more than you need to know about Ruskin and the MacDonalds, and Ruskin's subsequent tragic, bizarre romance with Rose La Touche...

"In 1858 ...Ruskin...abandoned his childhood faith (and) met a child (9 years old), Rose La Touche, who was to have disastrous consequences on his life." Raeper 217)

February 1863: "Young Rose (La Touche), whom her mother thought the most artistically gifted of all her children, was despatched to MacDonald's course of lectures on Shakespeare in February 1863. She was a studious girl, intense, pious and ethereal, with a talent for drawing, a thin, waifish elf, prone to mysterious bouts of brain sickness which sometimes seriously disturbed the timbre of her mind. Mrs La Touche in contrast was a healthy, full-blooded and generous woman... friendly with John Ruskin the art critic, a man whom MacDonald admired, and she was anxious for her two literary friends to meet..." Raeper 214/215

July 1863

"Ruskin and MacDonald took to each other and remained very firm friends..." Raeper 218

July 1865

Ruskin confesses to MacDonald his incresing preoccupation with the young Rose La Touche (about 16 yrs old)

Late July 1865

"It proved finally possible for MacDonald to lay his pen aside and journey abroad, the first time he had done so since his trip to Algiers nine years previously... Ruskin intervened... "The main thing is, you are NOT to disturb yourself about money, as long as I am to the fore.... Louisa (George's wife) retreated to her father at Elm Lodge in Hampstead with the children, and MacDonald set off with William Matheson and another friend for (European vacation)..."

February 1866

Ruskin proposes to Rose La Touche on her birthday. She asks him to wait three years until she is of age. Family scandalized.

1866

"In 1866 Ruskin lent my father a sum of money. A few months later it was returned, but Ruskin refused it, saying he did not need it, and that my father must accept it as a gift. Again my father writes claiming the necessity of his own conscience. But Ruskin, having ascertained that my mother and sisters were in need of a new piano, insists upon giving one to my eldest sister (Lilia, 14) and so gets his way." GMAW 330

“One piano had come from Ruskin. During a period of financial hardship in 1866, MacDonald had borrowed a sum of money from his friend. When he sought to repay the loan, Ruskin refused to receive it, saying simply that he did not need the money, whereas MacDonald did. But MacDonald insisted that Ruskin keep the check he had sent. A few days later a handsome grand piano was delivered to the MacDonald home. No other gift could possibly have delighted them so much.” GMVM 204 (see also Dec 1868)

"April 1872 brought a pressing concern before MacDonald, a letter from someone MacDonald had not heard from for a long time ... whose troubled spirits were more than she could bear. Rose La Touche." Raeper 272 / "When Rose's letter to MacDonald tumbled out of the sky in April 1872, it was a desperate bid for advice. She had read MacDonald's books and felt that he would understand her problem. It was so long since she had seen him last that she began 'I wonder if you remember me at all... Do you think God ever puts us in positions where we cannot do his will...?' She was tired out by the loneliness of life in Ireland, and the pressure of the unspoken mattes between herself and her parents. She wanted to be useful, and help alleviate the misery she saw around her, and was racked with guilt at seeing young peasant babies fed only on bread and water, while she went home to feast on strawberries and cream: 'I have nothing in the world to do from day to day but what I like. All my parents want from me is that I should be well and happy...For my daily life is simply hour after hour of spare time, bringing neither occupation, work or amusement except that I make for myself...I feel like a child tired out ater a long lonely holiday.' MacDonald was convinced that Rose was not quite in her right mind, and first of all sent his reply to be vetted by Georgina Cowper-Temple..." Raeper 278

July 1872

"Rose (La Touche) planned to go to Broadlands, but was diverted by William Cowper-Temple to their home in Curzon Street instead, and from there she came to stay at The Retreat (the MacDonald family home). For Rose, the roomy house lived up to its name, as she slumped into the red velvet armchair in MacDonald's study, and took in 'draughts of peace and kindness' from George and Louisa. At home with all the MacDonald brothers and sisters, she felt like a lost fledgling who had found her nest. There were suppers and breakfasts and rows on the river. In the evening, Greville would play wistful German *Lieder* for her on his violin, and she would stare outside at the noiseless river, trying to recapture a sense of peace. It was here that George and Louisa finally persuaded Rose to see Ruskin once again, to try and patch together two people who had made each other so unhappy.... Ruskin was in Venice... MacDonald sent a telegram (to him...) on the morning of 5 July... After another letter, Ruskin relented..." Raeper 279/280

August 1872

"Rose...came back to England to meet Ruskin at The Retreat some time at the beginning of August, a few days after his return on 27 July. All anguish, recrimination and fear dissolved, and there followed 'three days of heaven.' Greville MacDonald recalled:

"It is these days that bring back to me the great man and the fragile girl, as if in living presence. I recall clearly Ruskin's grandeur of face, his searching blue eyes, and his adorable smile - his ultramarine cravat also! Supreme was my joy in the grip of his hand, or in running to bring him a cab. I remember the frail Rose, so amazingly thin yet with such high colour and her great eyes, with the tenderest of smiles possessing so readily her exquisite lips. I was astonished at her being alive, seeing that, I well remember, her dinner once consisted of three green peas, and, the very next day, of one straberry and half an Osborne biscuit! She was too frail to sit at table, of course. But Ruskin would be left alone with her either in the drawing room or in the study." REMS 120

"There she would lie on the sofa, and she and Ruskin would murmur to one another as he stroked her hand. A few days later, Rose travelled to Broadlands to stay with the Cowper-Temples, and summoned Ruskin, who spent another day by her side... But Ruskin's precarious happiness was not to last. At Coniston in September...he received his letter to her unopened... plunged into anguish... 'It is finished.'" Raeper 280/281

May 26 1875

Rose La Touche dies. George MacDonald writes a letter of comfort to Ruskin.

December 1875

"Ruskin slipped back into spiritualism, eager to find Rose beckoning to him from the other world... In December 1875, both Ruskin and MacDonald were staying at Broadlands where they met a society medium called Mrs Ainsworth. Annie Munro, the sculptor's sister, was then working at Broadlands as governess to the Cowper-Temples adopted daughter:

"There is a Mrs Ainsworth here. I don't take to her much, but Ruskin is very interested in her..." Raeper 283

So there's a tangent for you.

I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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  • 6 months later...

Dakota Fanning And Emma Thompson Team For 1850s Victorian Drama 'Effie'

EXCLUSIVE: Dakota Fanning will star in the title role of Effie, the Emma Thompson-scripted period biopic about the unfortunate marriage between Euphemia Gray and the famed critic John Ruskin in 1850s London. Richard Laxton (An Englishman in New York) is directing. Though the teenager was gorgeous, Effie's husband never consummated the marriage over five years because Ruskin was for some reason disgusted by her body. After suffering through a loveless marriage and browbeating by her in-laws, Effie fell in love with Ruskin's protégé, painter John Everett Millais.

Greg Wise will play Ruskin, and Tom Sturridge will play Millais. Thompson plays Lady Eastlake, who takes Effie under her wing when it was clear the union was destroying the young woman. Julie Walters and Derek Jacobi play Ruskin’s parents, and Edward Fox is in talks to play Lady Eastlake's husband, Sir Charles Eastlake. He was the main patron of the Royal Academy, which held sway over what constituted fine art. He was already fed up with Ruskin and his radical ideas before that love triangle rocked the art community. . . .

Mike Fleming, Deadline.com, August 16

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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"Gentlemen, when two separate events occur simultaneously pertaining to the same object of inquiry, we must always pay strict attention!" - Special Agent Dale Cooper

And Moser! Didn't Barry Moser mention Ruskin from the Glen Workshop microphone too?

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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FWIW, a Ruskin quote I've used for years is this one:

The greatest thing a human soul ever does is to 'see something,' and to tell what he sees in a plain way. Hundreds of people can talk to one who can think; but thousands can think for one who can 'see.' To see clearly is poetry, prophecy, and religion -- all in one.

Like I say, I've used it for years, but the only time I seem to have quoted it within this community is in a message I posted to the old Chiafilm discussion board back in February 2002. I vaguely recall that a certain administrator at that time wasn't impressed by Ruskin, but I didn't keep copies of anybody else's posts to that thread, and web.archive.org turns up nothing. For whatever that's worth.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 1 month later...

A 19th Century Threesome Becomes A Modern Day Copyright Triangle For Emma Thompson (Exclusive)

Academy Award-winning actress/screenwriter Emma Thompson is in the midst of preparing her latest film project, Effie, about a love triangle involving art critic John Ruskin, his teenage wife Effie Gray, and pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais. The real-life sexual scandal was the talk of the town in 19th Century England.

But before Thompson begins shooting her film set to star Greg Wise and Dakota Fanning, she’s locked in a copyright triangle that might not yet be the talk of the town in 21st century America, but could demonstrate the difficulty in making a film adaptation about a well-trodden historical subject without stepping on another artist’s toes.

In February, Effie Film LLC, the production company behind the coming new film, sued playwright Gregory Murphy. The company hoped to get a declaration that Thompson’s script didn’t infringe Murphy’s play entitled The Countess, which also covered the Effie affair.

Last Friday, Effie Film brought a second lawsuit – this time against another writer, Eve Pomerance, who in 1995, copyrighted a screenplay entitled The Secret Trials of Effie Gray.

Both Murphy and Pomerance are alleged to have threatened Thompson if she went ahead with plans to make her Effie. In the latest lawsuit, it's alleged that Pomerance’s lawyers asserted that Thompson’s screenplay is substantially similar to the 1995 registered screenplay. . . .

Hollywood Reporter, October 12

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 1 year later...

Emma Thompson Wins 'Effie' Lawsuit, Can Release 19th Century Love Triangle Movie (Exclusive)

New York District Court Judge J. Paul Oetken has issued a 61-page opinion clearly that is intended to be more than just a summary judgment ruling. The judge, seemingly inspired by the topic at hand, has delivered an opinion that functions as a quasi-legal journal scholarly thesis. He discusses the nature of creativity in pulling together historical facts and critiques how courts view original authorship on works of imagination that are built on the foundation of underlying facts.

The tale of Effie is the story of art, sex and public intrigue. It's a high-brow version of TMZ before the tabloid era, so it shouldn't be a surprise that Victorian England's most notorious sexual drama has served as a rich source of inspiration for historians, artists, dramatists and scholars.

As a result, the judge must wrestle with the idea of authors staking originality in a well-trodden topic. . . .

Hollywood Reporter, December 18

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 1 year later...

Effie was, in fact, the original title of this film (and that was the title of this thread until at least a few days ago, according to Google).

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 3 weeks later...

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 3 months later...

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 2 months later...

The Dissolve:

 

John Ruskin may be one of history’s most important, influential art critics, but he’s been taking a real beating at the movies lately. First came Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner, which portrayed Ruskin (played by Joshua McGuire), the greatest champion of painter J.M.W. Turner, as a pathetic, sniveling fop. But that’s nothing compared to the hatchet job performed by Effie Gray, a new biopic about Ruskin’s wife. Written by Emma Thompson—her first screenplay since she won the Oscar for Sense And Sensibility, if we all just agree to forget about the two Nanny McPhee movies—the film has boundless compassion for its title character, who’s trapped in a loveless, sexless marriage at a time when women had few tolerable options for correcting such an error. But Thompson makes Ruskin such a cardboard villain, playing on stereotypes of the cold, stuffy intellectual, that she turns Gray’s story into a tastefully dreary domestic-prison saga.

 

[snip]

 

Effie Gray’s biggest problem, though, is that it doesn’t bother to explore the question of why Ruskin has no sexual interest in Gray whatsoever. (Her medically established virginity becomes her “get out of jail free” card.) Possibly he was gay, but there’s no suggestion of that in the movie, nor any evidence of it in the historical record. Ruskin stated, during the annulment proceedings, that “though her face was beautiful, her person was not formed to excite passion,” the meaning of which has never been firmly established; Laxton shoots Gray’s nude scene from the neck up, leaving her body unseen, which creates more ambiguity than was likely intended. (This is why films shouldn’t hire actors who won’t do nudity for projects that absolutely require it. Here, it’s crucial that Effie Gray be seen as a perfectly normal young woman. Not showing her body when she deliberately exposes it creates the impression that there’s something to hide, accidentally giving Ruskin’s nutty assertion implicit merit.)

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