Elizabeth of Ladymead (1948)
Director: Herbert Wilcox.
Starring: Anna Neagle (Beth in 1854 / Elizabeth in 1903 / Betty in 1919 / Liz in 1946), Hugh Williams (John Beresford in 1946), Isabel Jeans (Mother in 1903), Michael Lawrence (John Beresford in 1919), Bernard Lee (John Beresford in 1903), Nicholas Phipps (John Beresford in 1854), Michael Shepley (Maj. Wrigley in 1903), Hilda Bayley (Mother in 1946), Henry Edwards, Jack Allen (Maj. Wrigley in 1946), Kenneth Warrington (Maj. Wrigley in 1919), Claude Bailey (Maj. Wrigley in 1854), Catherine Paul (Mother in 1854), Jean Anderson, Hamlyn Benson.
four women in four different wars: Crimean War, Boer War, WWI and post-WWII
Here -- across a century's span -- is the changing but ever unchanging tale of the girl he left behind him. The story of the soldier-husband coming home from the war expecting to find everything the same.
1946. This is Ladymead. Liz Beresford comes downstairs all dressed up. She tells her butler that she has butterflies in her stomach, because she's going to the airport to pick her husband John up from WWII. It's been an absence of some five years. Her husband comes home on a seaplane.
At home, Liz has a marvelous vacation plan of two days in London to celebrate his home coming, but John just wants to enjoy the beautiful weather from home. She drops her plans when she hears this, but has to be a bit upset too. John mentions that another thing he wants to do is go fishing. They sit down on the couch and kiss. Later they walk around the grounds with trees in bloom. He is disappointed at how much work he's going to have to do taking care of the plants. Liz explains that she couldn't get anybody to do anything during the war. She then mentions that John has changed. Before he left he wasn't very interested in the plants. He says he mostly wants to enjoy the little things of life now. He wants to feel that this place here is really his. And, he definitely is not in a hurry to get back into politics.
John's mother-in-law has been living at their place while John was gone and she is still here. John is not happy about that. Liz says that she tried to get her to move back home, but her mother wouldn't go. Later in the evening, they hug and kiss, until they are interrupted by mother-in-law. John stays hidden behind the bedroom door. They get to hug and kiss when mother leaves for the kitchen.
Liz tells her husband that when she took the boys to school, she put the house up for sale. She says the house reminds her of all the unpleasant things of the past six years. She says her life has been very monotonous over these years. They are interrupted by John's friend Tommy. Liz must have really had a hard time at home because when the men start talking about the war, she has a little fit, starts crying and runs up the stairs. Tommy feels bad and says he shouldn't have come here on John's first night home. John says it's not his fault. He excuses himself and goes to see Liz. Her husband does excuse her, but comments that Liz made him look a little bit of the fool. They forgive each other. Then they get into another fight, because Liz has told their political pals that John will be returning to the political world. John says she has no right to speak for him. He hates the very idea of returning to politics. Liz wants some excitement in her life and she doesn't believe that her husband is really attentive to her needs. She gets so upset that she goes to leave the room but walks into the wall instead. Then she faints.
Flashback. Liz starts dreaming that she is in another time period. Her husband John is coming home from the Crimean War, in which Russia lost to an alliance of France, the United Kingdom, the Ottoman Empire, and Sardinia (October 1853 – February 1856). This time Liz is called Beth and the family has a staff of servants that live in their large house. The couple go to a banquet in honor of John's service to his country. It's obvious that the lines between women and men are more rigid in the 1850's. The man is confident in his role as the master of his household. Beth says she wanted to join Florence Nightingale in the nursing service, but mother objected and John backs his mother saying that there's a man's world and a woman's world and the woman's world is far removed from the field of battle. There is tension between husband and wife over the matter, but Beth is less combative than Liz was.
Coming home from the banquet, John asks Beth to play a song for him and she obliges him. John tells her that she is more womanly now than before he left. A servant comes in to announce the arrival of John' superior officer. This upsets Beth and she protests to John. John's superior officer starts talking about the war, so Beth makes a comment about how nice that the nursing service was at hand. John disagrees with Beth saying that's a bunch of fiddle-fattle. The men should not be molly-coddled by a lot of female nurses. Beth gets angry and goes upstairs. The higher ranked officer says he really didn't realize that this was John's first night home with his wife, but John reassures him that it was really nothing and he doe not hurry after Beth.
Mother comes to see Beth and tells her to be calmer or she will have an attack of the vapors. Mother sides with John in this situation saying that Beth should resign herself to man's dominance. Beth replies that she will not. Instead, she goes down and complains to the two military men. Major Wrigley decides to leave. Beth says she sorry that she chased the major away, so John is less angry with Beth, but he does say that she put him on the spot. A man is supposed to control his wife. Beth is a woman of her own opinion and objects to this situation, saying that women should rise up against it. John now says that they shouldn't quarrel, and especially so on the first night back together. They kiss. Beth goes upstairs and John says he will join her later. He takes two drinks of liquor.
When he comes upstairs, Beth starts a fight when she tells John that ". . . I refuse to have any relationship with you whatever." He shall sleep in his dressing room. John laughs at the very idea and Beth protests that he's treating her like a child. So John says let's discuss the matter. Now Beth says that she wants John to leave the army. She wants him to manage their estate and be home more. John doesn't like the idea. She protests that she wants to do something meaningful for a change. John refuses her absolutely. He says he is appalled at her lack of gratitude. So he decides to sleep in the dressing room. Beth cries saying she only wanted to be of some use in the world.
Continuing her dreaming, Liz, now known as Elizabeth, welcomes her husband home from the Boer War. [The Second Anglo-Boer War, was fought from 11 October 1899 until 31 May 1902 between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on the one hand, and the South African Republic (Transvaal Republic) and the Orange Free State on the other. The British won and both republics were incorporated into the Union of South Africa in 1910.] Elizabeth too is an independent, strong woman and she wants to do something of importance. She's a bit worried about how her husband John might react to her plans.
A carriage drops John at the mansion and Elizabeth runs to greet him. John happily greets Elizabeth. Later John decides to take a tour with the overseer Franklin of the farm. John has to admit that his wife turned the farm into a profitable adventure. He never was concerned about profitability, but he does have to admit that Elizabeth did an outstanding job while he was at war. When he speaks with Elizabeth, he tells her she did very well, but Ladymead was never intended to be run as a business. Elizabeth replies that she believes John is jealous. John says that's rubbish to think he is jealous of her. They kiss.
At dinner, Elizabeth scolds mother for talking about war so much. She wants to talk about more peaceful things.
John and Elizabeth have two girls. John and the girls, along with mother, listen to Elizabeth play the piano and sing. Later mother takes the two girls upstairs in order to let John and Elizabeth have some private time together. Unfortunately, a friend of John comes in for a visit to the couple. Elizabeth immediately leaves the room and John calls out to her. John apologizes to Chubby for his wife's sudden disappearance. Chubby stays about a minute. Just enough time to invite John for some early morning hunting.
The next morning mother tells Elizabeth that last night she and John had words. Mother couldn't help but overhear. A maid tells the cook that the row between Mr. and Mrs. was all about that suffragette business. Mother tells Elizabeth that her husband called her a crank because she is involved with politics. She says women shouldn't get messed up with politics.
Elizabeth is going to London for political purposes. John tells her that he asked her not to go to London. Well, Elizabeth is going anyway. John is angry that she is going anyway. Elizabeth leaves the table.
Later Elizabeth tries to soothe matters with John. John obviously doesn't care about the women's cause. When Elizabeth says that John should agree with the idea that every woman should be able to develop her talents if she really wants to. John says that brainy women are a damn nuisance. He prefers the beautiful women.
John and the major go on a fox hunt. The hunters get mad at John for putting up a barbed wire fence which the fox and dogs went under, but the horses had to stop.
The husband of a friend of Elizabeth gives her a mighty dirt look. Two boys use a sling shot to bloody Elizabeth's left cheek.
John asks Elizabeth why she put up a fence. She put it up to prevent the cows from getting over to their stream and eating the leaves of the tree plantings. John says the fellows got very angry with him and ordered him home. He says Elizabeth is a different person now, a bit of a stranger to him. And that's not all. He has learned that she was sympathetic to the Dutch settlers (the Boers) during the war. Elizabeth says those people deserved to have a chance to defend their homes and families from the British. She says since she was alone so much, she had to think for herself. He puts his foot down and says that he forbids her to go to the meeting. If she goes, he will send their children to boarding school and sell Ladymead. Elizabeth goes despite this warning. She is very upset with John.
New Year's Eve, 1920. The troops are coming home from WWI. John Beresford was expecting to be met at the railway station by his wife Betty. He sent her a telegraph, and either she ignored it or didn't see it. He comes home to a darkened house. He shouts out for Betty. Betty is at the New Year's Eve party. He fixes himself a drink and sits and waits on the stairway.
Betty comes home with a friend Tommy Wrigley. She acts as if missing his telegram was nothing important. She and Tommy talk about the party and not John. She puts on a record and dances around some more. She looks like a drunken floozy. John is obviously very angry at Tommy and Betty but those two are too drunk to notice. Betty tells her husband to fix her and Tommy a drink. He does so, but then he gets so angry that he takes the record off the phonograph and smashes it to the ground. Tommy and John get into a big argument and Tommy knocks John down. He then spritzes water on John to wake him up. Betty says Tommy must leave now. She walks him to the door.
Betty then tells John that she has a splitting headache and she is going to go to bed. John tries to convince her to talk with him and holds her back. She just doesn't care for him anymore. He lets her go upstairs. There she dances some more and puts on some more music. John gets out something from his case. He goes up stairs with his right hand in his pocket. Does he have a pistol?
Betty confirms that she got his telegram and just ignored it to go to the party. He asks her if Tommy is her lover and she says no, but John thinks that she's lying to him. Betty just doesn't care about his feelings at all. Finally, he walks out of the room, saying he shan't be back. She looks at herself in the mirror to see if she looks like a clown as John observed. As she looks, she hears a shot. She starts crying.
Back to the present. Liz now awakens from her dreams. She asks John what were they arguing about? She can't remember what she or he were saying.
John goes back into politics, jokingly saying his wife forced him to. And now Liz and John work together. He quotes her as saying that everyone has to be of some use in the world. With this remark, she remembers her dreams and what she and John were arguing about. She starts turning place and John mentions it to her. They go and dance and Liz tells John that she remembers it all now. She even tells him about her dreams. John tells her to forget about her "ghosts", but she says she doesn't want to forget them. John asks her if they have solved their problem. She says: "Yes, I think we have. I see that our past shapes our future, and what women have battled for is simply a right to sustain (?) that future." She sees that her generation of women aren't doing too badly. John asks her if it's okay to kiss her. She asks: "In public?" They kiss.
A tour through four war eras when the soldier husband returns home from the war. The story starts with the husband coming back from WWII. Liz gets very upset with her husband because he seems very changed and wants to quietly enjoy a peaceful life at home. She gets so upset that they quarrel and she ends up running into a door and quickly faints. Now Liz goes through three dreams of women welcoming their husbands back from three different wars: the Crimean War, the Boer War and WWI. The farther back in time the war was, the stricter the man's control over his wife. After seeing how tough things were for the women in the Crimean War ear to her own era, she sees that her own era of WWII was the least restrictive. It cheers Liz up greatly to realize that women have made progress over time and that Liz can join with others to make even more progress for more rights for women. She works on her husband and gets him to be more of a partner with her in their life, rather than just be the boss of her.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
Return To Main Page
Return to Home Page (Vernon Johns Society)