London, 1870. Young Fanny and Lucy are playing with a ball in the street when it falls into a cellar. Going to retrieve it, she discovers a wine-bar-cum-brothel called The Hopwood Shades in the basement of the house owned by her father, William Hopwood. This discovery causes her parents to send her away to boarding school, shortly after she receives a mysterious birthday present from one Clive Seymore.
Ten years later, Fanny returns home, but the happy atmosphere is shattered by an incident in which Lord Manderstoke forces his way into the Hopwood Shades and, when evicted, starts a brawl that ends with Hopwood fatally falling under the wheels of a horse-drawn carriage. At the inquest, Manderstoke is exonerated, and the Hopwood Shades is closed.
Close to death, Mrs Hopwood sends Fanny to stay with the mysterious Clive Seymore, who turns out to be a Cabinet minister – and Fanny’s real father. But since this revelation would lead to scandal, she has to take a lowly position as a maid. While working for Seymore, she meets his secretary Harry Somerford, and a mutual attraction develops, though he is under the impression that she is Seymour’s mistress, an understandable mistake given that they seem rather closer than master and servant would normally be.
Seymore’s wife Alicia is under the same impression, and decides to use this as leverage to secure a divorce from Seymore, as she is conducting a torrid affair with Lord Manderstoke. Under pressure, Seymore is forced to reveal his true relationship with Fanny, whereupon Alicia threatens to expose him for fathering an illegitimate child – a revelation that would end his political career. Caught in a vicious circle, Seymore kills himself and Fanny flees, taking a job in a rough working-class pub.
She is tracked down by Harry, and the two fall in love, despite the objections of Harry’s female relatives, who believe that there is an insurmountable class division between the two and that she will damage his social standing. He is prepared to ignore all this for love of Fanny, but Fanny decides that his career is more important than her, and she flees again.
Teaming up with her childhood friend Lucy and visiting a deceptively upmarket but in reality somewhat insalubrious dance establishment, Fanny encounters Lord Manderstoke again, but she is rescued by Harry before things turn nasty. They realise that they were meant for each other. —Screenonline.org.uk
For two decades, Anthony Asquith was — along with Alfred Hitchcock, David Lean, and Carol Reed — one of the most internationally successful filmmakers to come out of England. So much of his career was spent adapting plays to the screen, however, that his critical recognition was somewhat limited in his own lifetime and for many years after, and it was only in the 21st century that his movies began getting the respect they deserved. Born in 1902, Asquith was the youngest child of Herbert Henry Asquith (1852-1928), who served as British prime minister from 1908 to 1916. Anthony Asquith was known to friends by the nickname “Puffin,” given him by his mother. He had an avid interest in music as a boy, but conceded a severe lack of talent as a musician; in its place, he discovered the emerging new art of cinema, which fascinated him. As a young man, Asquith, in turn, played a pivotal but indirect role in the development of motion picture arts in England by co-founding the London Film Society… read more