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Christabel Movie Review

hurley story code peter

Elizabeth Hurley is famous today for her boyfriend, her cleavage, her clothes, her commercials, and her delightful comedy performance in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. She also made quite a splash in England as the title character in Christabel, based on a true life story set in World War II. When I was looking for something else on the British Drama shelf at Le Video, I discovered Christabel, brought it home, and despite its length, couldn't stop watching. Adapted by Dennis Potter from The Past Is Myself, Christabel Bielenberg's memoir, the story opens in the early 1930s when the very English Christabel becomes the bride of Peter (Stephen Dillane), a German attorney. After war breaks out, Christabel retreats to the mountains with her little boys. She learns that Peter is in prison for taking part in an assassination plot against Hitler and she's determined to free him. Two sequences in particular require considerable skill from Hurley. In one, she must relay information via code in a story she tells to her imprisoned husband. She mouths the words “There's a microphone” and communicates the entire sad tale in code between sobs. In another, she must secure her husband's release from captivity by playing the role of a rich and influential friend of Winston Churchill in order to intimidate his captors. One false emotion or faulty line delivery in either sequence would have destroyed the point of the film, but newcomer Hurley does a remarkable job for any actress, much less a beginner. The lovely Ruth Etting standard from the year 1927, “Wherever You Go, Whatever You Do, I'm Following You,” is used to haunting effect.

1989 148m/C GB Elizabeth Hurley, Stephen Dillane, Nigel le Vaillant, Geoffrey Palmer, Ann Bell, Ralph Brown, John Burgess, Suzan Crowley, Eileen Maciejewska, Hugh Simon, Nicola Wright; D: Adrian Shergold; W: Dennis Potter; C: Remi Adefarasin; M: Stanley Myers. VHS, Closed Caption

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