Lydia Bailey (1952) 

 

 

 

 

Director:     Jean Negulesco.

Starring:     Dale Robertson (Albion Hamlin),  Anne Francis (Lydia Bailey),  Charles Korvin (Col. Gabriel D'autremont),  William Marshall (King Dick),  Luis Van Rooten (General Charles LeClerc),  Adeline De Walt Reynolds (Mme. Antoinette d'Autremont),  Angos Perez (Paul d'Autremont),  Robert Evans (Soldier)Roy Glenn (Mirabeau),   Bill Walker (General LaPlume)Rosalind Hayes (Aspodelle).

love story set in Haiti, 1802, Toussaing L'Overture, the black president versus the French trying to retake possession of the country

 

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film:

"In the year 1802 the infant Republic of Haiti, barely a year old, found itself tottering.  It had won its freedom from the French while Napoleon was engaged elsewhere, but now the master of Europe had turned his eye and his might against them and all that opposed Napoleon was an ex-slave, Toussaint L'Ouverture, with a tiny nation wracked by factions and keyed to hysteria by the constant beat of jungle drums."

On board ship a white man brings Albion Hamlin his landing papers courtesy of Captain Francoise.  A black man comes over to a blind drummer and tells him to play another tune.  He is sending a message as part of a sort of "drum line" from drum player to drum player.  Soon enough everyone in the area on Haiti hears the beat of the drums. 

Hamlin asks another white fellow if he can read the drums.  The fellow says no, but Hamlin should get his business ashore done quickly and get back on the ship pronto.  Hamlin says he doesn't want to be quick.  He adds that he's from Baltimore and that city can be rather dull.  The captain says he will sure hate to lose a paying passenger. 

Hamlin goes ashore and attracts attention wherever he goes.  He asks a hustling child where is the American consulate?  The boy takes him over to the consulate.  Meanwhile word has reached a man of apparently some gravitas.  He gets up and starts walking.  Other men are also very interested in Hamlin. 

Hamlin goes into speak to the consul.  His advice to Hamlin is to get back on his ship and leave.  Hamlin ignores that suggestion and says he is a lawyer who has been sent by this clients to get a signature on a legal document.  And the matter affects the United States government.  The consul explains that Napoleon is sending a fleet to Haiti to take back the one-time colony.  War is headed their way and the consul is busy closing up the consulate and getting off Haiti.  He is going to stay aboard an American gunboat until things settle down and he can come back.  Any other questions?  Yes, Hamlin wants to know where he can find Miss Lydia Bailey?  Her signature is why Hamlin came to Haiti.  Her father's estate has been willed to the United States government and he needs to clear up a few things with Miss Bailey.  She is a ward of one Colonel Gabriel D'autremont.  The consul says Miss Bailey is now the fiancé of the colonel. 

Hamlin asks if the colonel is going to be leaving Haiti too?  The consul tells him that the colonel is the largest land owner in Haiti.  Hamlin insists on seeing Miss Bailey.  The consul tells Hamlin that within an hour his head will be all busted up.  Miss Bailey is at 22 Napoleon Street.

Hamlin and the boy start walking to the address.  A man stops Hamlin on the street asking questions about him.  Hamlin hears the screams of the boy.  The boy is fighting with a man trying to take Hamlin's suitcase from him.  The boy gets away from the man and starts running with the suitcase, but the fellow throws a knife into the boy's back.  Down he goes.  The knife wielder goes to pick up the suitcase and is knocked down by Hamlin.  Then Hamlin socks the fellow in the face and the thief goes down and out.  Another man arrives, but the boy warns Hamlin and Hamlin is able to knock that man down too.  The two men start getting up and the situation looks bleak.  But the man of gravitas arrives on the scene and he uses his huge walking cane to knock the first man out and the second man takes off after missing the rescuer with a knife throw.  The boy dies. 

Hamlin knocks on the door of 22 Napoleon Street.  A maid tells him that Miss Bailey is at a party at the Chateau D'autremont.  The maid closes the door on him and he knocks at the door again.  Someone knocks Hamlin out from behind.  The fellow also takes Hamlin's suitcase. 

Hamlin wakes up on the ground wearing only his pants and shoes.  He realizes that two men are guarding him.  He sees his legal papers spread out on a nearby table and goes over to examine them.  Now the rescuer comes over to Hamlin and tells him to relax and consider himself the guest of King Dick.  Hamlin refuses to sit down, so King uses his cane to push the man down into a seat.  King says that Lydia Bailey lives with D'autremont and D'autremont conspires with Napoleon.  Miss Bailey shares her fiancé's sympathies.  He then warns Hamlin if he leaves from here on his own within 24 hours King will find him being eaten by Haitian flesh-eating ants. 

Now King tells Hamlin to come and eat with him.  Over food and cigars, King tells Hamlin that the D'autremont castle takes two days to get to and one has to travel through dense jungle.  It is also the territory of a man named Mirabeau and his renegade blacks that they call maroons.  King assures Hamlin that he will make sure that the American will get back aboard his ship.  He adds that his papers are hardly worth getting killed for.  Drums are heard in the background.  King listens to them and then changes his mind.  He will take Hamlin to the castle if Hamlin will introduce him to the D'autremonts as Hamlin's personal servant.  Hamlin agrees to the deal. 

King now calls his many wives in to meet Hamlin.   There are eight of them.  Hamlin says it's an honor to meet them.  King introduces each wife individually.  Hamlin is amazed at so many wives.  King now tells Hamlin that the ladies will prepare him for the journey into Mireabeau country.  Hamlin asks what are the wives going to do to him?  King says they are going to undress him.  Now the eight women just swamp Hamlin and start taking off his clothes.  He protests but it doesn't make any difference. 

King goes outside and calls for his children.  There are around 15 children.  He asks them to get him some old clothes and get two horses ready. 

Now King goes in with a can of light grease and has the women put it all over the naked Hamlin.  They are going to get through Mirabeau territory as two black men.  King says that Hamlin will play the role of a field mulatto.  The two men get on their horses and ride out after saying goodbye to the wives.  They ride along narrow paths through thick jungles.  Drums sound and King says he doesn't like it.  He also tells Hamlin that he once saved Mirabeau's life and that was a big mistake. 

The men are being shadowed wherever they go.  Mirabeau sees the two men coming and that one of them is King Dick.  Mirabeau calls King the "running dog for Toussaint."   A pistol shot is the signal for Mirabeau's men to surround the two riders.  They do so and then Mirabeau comes over to get a close look at the field hand who is said to have a snake in his head.  Mirabeau is way too suspicious of Hamlin, so Hamlin takes off on his horse.  The renegades shoot at the field hand, but don't hit him. 

A snake scares his horse and Hamlin is thrown to the ground.  The horse then run away.  Mirabeau comes over to King and slaps him.  He says King's servant is a white man.  And Mirabeau had wanted all the whites killed on Haiti before the French arrived. 

Hamlin makes his way north headed for the castle.  He stops to put some more bronzer on his face.   Hamlin reaches the land of D'autremont.  He sees two men fighting each other with everyone else encouraging both fighters.  Lydia rides her black horse with her dogs  trailing behind her.  She goes over to the fight and watches for awhile.  When the victor is going to kill the loser with a large rock to the head, Lydia tells the slave to stop it and get back to work.  With the dogs chasing them, everyone skedaddles out of there. 

Now Lydia tells Hamlin to get to work.  Hamlin doesn't move.  She calls her dogs over, but they seem to like Hamlin.  Now Lydia realizes that the man before her is a white man.  She asks him what is he doing going around disguised as a field hand?  He says he is looking for the D'autremont plantation.  Lydia says:  "You found it."  He asks for a Lydia Bailey and she says that's her.   So Hamlin tells her he has a message for her.  He is here on behalf of her father's estate.  She tells him that she is not interested, but he says that's "neither here or there".  So she tells her slave Cesar to take the white man to the castle.  Make sure he bathes and dresses in some good clothes and then the white man can deliver his message to her.

A male slave helps dress Hamlin.  Now D'autremont comes in to see Hamlin.  He wants to know the nature of Hamlin's visit, but Hamlin says that's a matter between Miss Bailey and him.  D'autremont says he handles all the legal dealings of Miss Bailey.  Hamlin asks if he is her husband?  No.  Then he has to speak with Miss Bailey because he needs her signature on a document.  So now D'autremont becomes pleasant and says he will see the lady of the house. 

They go into a room where Bailey is playing solitaire and a little boy is being taught how to fence.  Also in the room is D'autremont's mother and a black slave.  The master of the castle introduces Hamlin to his mother.  Lydia is short with Hamlin again.  Hamlin now meets the little boy, Paul. 

Hamlin starts talking about Lydia's father's estate and Lydia is impatient with him.  So Hamlin says he's not just any old lawyer.  He tells her that her father helped him out so he could go to school.  He was from a dirt poor family in Cumberland.  He says he loved her father.   Why her father even set him up with his own lawyers to teach him the law.  He's very grateful to her father and wants to see his estate settled in the way her father would have wanted.  He also says that the government of the USA is very poor and it will help President Jefferson pay the bills.  As a matter of fact, they have not paid their border soldiers in three months and the soldiers are becoming restless. 

Now that Hamlin has told his story, Lydia will tell hers.  Her father was a bigot and send her mother and her back to France.  As a child, she grew up in France.  And she doesn't care about Mr. Jefferson and his problems.  She does not identify herself as an American, but as a French woman.  And she doesn't care about her deceased father. 

Now it's Hamlin's turn again.  He excuses himself to Mrs. D'autremont saying that he will speak bluntly to the lapsed American.  Hamlin says she's an American whether or not she admits it.  And as an American it's her duty to help her country.  She is being vindictive out of spite and if he had her back in Baltimore where he's from, he would "turn you over my lap and whack you from here to Christmas".  Lydia says she is not impressed by his crudeness and violent ways. 

Just then two guards bring King Dick to the castle.  Quickly Hamlin says that the man is his servant and he can vouch for him.  D'autremont says he thinks he has seen this man in the city.  King Dick plays dumb and says he probably has seen him before because he has been in the city many times and for long periods.  The two guards now take the servant to get a bath and be cleaned up.  D'autremont asks Hamlin where did he get this man?  Hamlin says the man told him he was a guide and he hired him.  After all, the man did get him through Mirabeau territory, which is no small feat.  Now Hamlin asks his host if he suspects the servant dissembles too much?  His host says that in these times they have to be suspicious of everyone.  He also says that he will hold Hamlin personally responsible for his servant's actions.  Hamlin agrees. 

The drums sound again and D'autremont explains that an import voodoo priest has come to pay a visit to his field hands.  He says Hamlin will enjoy the men and women dancing tonight for them.  It is very interesting, he says. 

At night the slaves give a dancing performance for the whites.  The drums sound, a man sings a song and the dancing and singing begins slowly.  It looks like they are going to sacrifice a goat and some chickens.  The dancers dance around a bonfire.  And now the tempo really speeds up.  Mother tells her son that the slaves have changed their performance.  They are now invoking the god of war.  Her son tells her not to worry because the slaves are always invoking one god or another.  Mom warns her son  -- don't underestimate the abilities of the slaves.  D'autremont now excuses himself and leaves.  Mother tells Lydia to take Paul and leave.  Lydia assures mother that Gabriel will not let any harm come to them.  Mom says:  "He will not be able to prevent it."  Now she says she is tired and excuses herself.  Her servant takes her back inside the castle. 

Now Albion and Lydia are alone together.  And sparks fly between them.  Meanwhile, Gabriel speaks to an acquaintance, who tells him that Gen. LaPlume is waiting for him.  Gabriel is a pit peeved and wants to know why was he not informed of the presence of this Mr. Hamlin?  The man says there was an accident.  Gabriel tells him to be more efficient from now on and keep him informed of everything that's going on.  He now turns and goes in to speak to the black general. 

Gabriel tells the officer that he has been informed that the general wants to leave immediately.  Yes.  Gabriel asks him what kind of arrangements has he made to turn over the ports and fortifications to General LeClerc?  The general says he will be withdrawing his troops away from the ports. 

The dancing continues.  A pretty slave is given a machete as part of the performance.  King Dick watches as Gabriel lets Gen. LaPlume let him out by a side door. 

Lydia tells Albion that she will sign his document if he will agree to bring a loving couple back together.  The man had to flee to the United States and she wants Albion to take the woman back to America with him and unite the couple.  The woman in question is her black servant Marie.  Albion is a bit shocked.  He says he will ask her to excuse him for the bad thoughts he has been entertaining about his hostess.  Lydia just tells him that D'autremont is not to know of any of this.  Albion agrees to take Marie to the United States. 

As Gen. LaPlume walks down a path on the estate, King Dick jumps out and stabs him in the chest.  The general screams and the dancing and singing abruptly stop.  One of the guards runs to the sound of the scream and fires at a now retreating King Dick.  Gabriel and many of the guards run to see what happened.  King Dick's hat is found at the scene of the murder.  Gabriel tells his men to let the dogs get a good smell of the hat.  A guard whispers to him that he things the culprit was Hamlin's servant.  Gabriel mentions this to Hamlin.  He also reminds Hamlin that he is holding him responsible for his servant's behavior. 

Gabriel, Albion and the guards let loose the dogs and soon King Dick is trying to use his cane to get two large white German shepherds off him.  He eventually knocks them out of action.  A guard sees King Dick and is going to shoot him, when Albion knocks the guard's hand away and then pushes the guard off his horse.  King Dick gets on his horse and he and Hamlin ride away.  The guards on horseback give chase. 

Gabriel returns to the castle and tells mother and fiancé that the assassin has escaped.  He tells them that he has to go now to Cap Francoise.  He says goodbye and tells Lydia that Napoleon's sister and brother-in-law will be witnesses at their wedding.  He also tells her that the American helped the assassin escape.  If he shows up on the estate, she is to have him shot.  Gabriel says he's convinced that Hamlin is one of Toussaint's spies.  Now Gabriel leaves.

"On February 6th of the year 1802 Napoleon's fleet under the command of General LeClerc sailed into Cap Francois, and after months of rumblings, the volcano that was Haiti finally erupted."

Mirabeau and his men help the French.  They kill Haitian fighters and burn down important buildings. 

Hamlin and King Dick watch as a town below them goes up in smoke.  Hamlin asks King Dick what the drums are saying?  King Dicks says the drums issue an order to withdraw because of the overwhelming numbers of the enemy.  Hamlin asks if this Toussaint knows what he's doing?  Oh, he knows alright.  The drums now say that the renegades are withdrawing to the south to the lands of D'autremont.  Hamlin says he's going back to the castle.  King Dick asks if he is going after the girl?  Hamlin replies that only in so far as the girl's signature is concerned.  The men part.

Hamlin jiggles the lock on a window to try and get it open.  This sound alarms Lydia who gets a loaded pistol out of the weapons cabinet.  When Hamlin comes in, she fires at him.  He identifies himself and says he has come to help them escape.  Albion tells Lydia to go get Paul and met them in mother's room.  While Lydia runs to get Paul, Hamlin loads himself up with pistols.  Lydia and Hamlin try to get mother to go with them, but she refuses saying she is going to die right here in her own bed.  So the two of them with Paul and Lydia's servant will leave the castle.

A couple of renegades try to grab Lydia but Hamlin eliminates them as a threat with his machete.  Now bronzer is applied to Paul and Lydia.  The small group now flees the castle.  Mirabeau's men find evidence that Lydia and Paul escaped.  He sends some men after them. 

Refugees come through the area and Albion and Lydia study them.  One of the women tells them that Mirabeau's men are close behind them.  So Albion tells his group that they will mix in with the refugees.

At night the refugees settle down and fix themselves something to eat.  Paul says he is thirsty and Albion has to tell them that they don't have any water.  A Haitian woman gives Paul some water in a bowl.  All of a sudden there is a piercing scream.  Mirabeau and his men have caught up with them.  Albion tells his group that they have to separate, because they will be looking for three whites together.  Lydia and Albion hide in the woods a little ways from the larger group. 

The renegades don't realize that Paul is white and they pass by him and the black servant.  After the immediate threat is gone Albion gets Paul and the servant and they move on headed for Cap Francois.  Lydia is tired and worn out and starts to drown while trying to cross a stream.  Albion saves her.  They stop for awhile and reapply the bronzer.  Lydia sees the renegades again.  Paul cries out in his sleep which alerts the renegades.  They start running toward the sound they heard.  The group of four does their best to get out of the area.  They go uphill. 

French troops in the area hear the sound of gun fire from the renegades.  They head toward the sound of the fighting.  Albion gets everyone across a swing bridge and then he chops the ropes of the bridge on his side of the ravine.  Now the renegades can't get at three of the escapees, but Albion is still in trouble.  As the renegades get close, Albion jumps into the river below. 

The other escapees reach the road and the French soldiers see them.  Gabriel is leading the troops and he recognizes his son Paul almost immediately.  He rushes to him and picks him up in his arms.  He then picks up an unconscious Lydia.  They are saved.

The Haitian army sets up a camp in the woods.  With them is King Dick.  A messenger rides in and hands a message to the officers.  It's good news.  The French have been driven back.  Toussaint is quickly told about the news.  The officers want to attack the French in a town they took.  Toussaint says no because the casualties for the Haitians will be too high.  He insists that the land and buildings in the area be burned in a scorched earth defense of Haiti. 

A Haitian soldier comes over to King Dick and tells him that they found an amulet on a white man who is almost dead.  King Dick rushes over to see Hamlin.  He sees Hamlin and tells the men to do everything they can for him.  The white man is a friend. 

"In the weeks that followed Toussaint and his men withdrew into the mountains, wetting the scorched fields of their homeland with the blood of the Emperor's army.  But while their troops sought a deadly and elusive enemy, glamorous Pauline, the sister of Napoleon and her Consort, LeClerc, strove to create a new Paris in Cap Francois."

Gabriel and Lydia attend a fancy ball.  There is a happy feeling in the ballroom because the French have just taken Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  Pauline is introduced to Lydia.  She says she has heard so much about Lydia's beauty and her exploits.  She asks if it's true that she painted her face black and wandered through the jungles with an attractive American?  Lydia says yes and that Mr. Hamlin gave his life to make sure they were safe. 

The French general in charge of the campaign to take Haiti, LeClerc, tells Gabriel and Lydia that Napoleon asked him to take Haiti in three parts:  the first was to land troops and cultivate the friendship of Toussaint; the second was to move inland and disarm the peasants; and to then arrest Toussaint and send him to France.  Lydia doesn't like this plan.  She sees her servant with the other black servants.  She tells Gabriel that she doesn't feel well and wants to leave.  Gabriel warns her that Pauline will take great offense if Lydia leaves. 

King Dick asks Toussaint about the LeClerc plan for peace?  Will the French retire from Haiti?  King answers his own questions by saying that LeClerc is lying to them.  Hamlin is there also and he agrees with King Dick that if Toussaint parlays with the French, he is as good as dead.  Albion urges Toussaint to sent an emissary in his place.  Toussaint says if LeClerc kills him, he will only be killing one man.  The fight will go on.  Hamlin disagrees saying Toussaint is a leader that unites his people.  If he is lost, his people will feel lost and the French will win.  Toussaint respects what King Dick and Albion Hamlin told him, but he says he will put his faith in God and go talk with the French. 

Toussaint leaves by coach.  The servant Marie comes with a message for Toussaint.  Since he is not here, she tells the message to King Dick and Hamlin.  LeClerc will have Toussaint arrested tonight.  The two men jump into action.  Hamlin goes to get the horses. 

Toussaint's coach arrives, but it's not Toussaint who arrives but Hamlin.  Hamlin tells LeClerc that he is an American citizen acting as a representative of Toussaint.  Gabriel speaks up and says that the American is one of the renegades.  Pauline laughs and says that s he thinks that Gabriel is jealous of the American.  LeClerc says he will only talk with Toussaint. So Hamlin says then LeClerc can talk with Toussaint at his headquarters. 

Toussaint will come in to talk if the French agree to withdraw their armies from the field, abandon the cities and set sail for France.  If the French accept, Toussaint is willing to plead his case to Napoleon himself.  Hamlin says if the French stay in Haiti they will only face fire and death from the Haitians.  If Hamlin is not freed within the next ten minutes, the city will be set afire and destroyed.  LeClerc decides to have the American gunboat send a row boat for Hamlin.  A French group of soldiers is to make sure Hamlin gets on that rowboat and then onto the American gunboat.  Gabriel will be in charge. 

Lydia pleads that they do not allow this.  She's afraid that he will never make it to the American gunboat.  Pauline dismisses the very idea saying that Hamlin is under her protection.  Gabriel tells her that if she tries to interfere again, he will have Hamlin shot.  Gabriel leaves the ball to make sure Hamlin gets on that gunboat.  Someone else, however, wants to go too.  And that's King Dick.  He knocks out the guard with his cane and follows the squad of soldiers and Gabriel. 

King Dick comes to the dock.  Hamlin sees him.  King Dick picks up a heavy sack on the dock and throws it onto two of the guards and they go splash into the water.  Hamlin starts struggling with four of the guards.  King Dick starts knocking out soldiers with his cane.  He tosses some other soldiers around.  Obviously, King Dick is a very large man.  Two soldiers try to knock him into the water by throwing a barrel at him.  He just catches it and throws it back to the two men, knocking them down.  More French soldiers arrive.  Dick and Albion jump into the water and hide themselves around one of the munitions boats.

A messenger tells Toussaint that the French have arrested the American.  So now the city will be destroyed.  Our heroes swim to land at another point.  Hamlin tells his friend that he's not leaving for the gunboat without Lydia.  King Dick says he will help Hamlin get her.  She is at D'auremont's town house.   The ball is brought to a quick end by the explosions of the munitions boats, sending fire balls into the ballroom. 

Hamlin runs to the town house.  Gabriel sees him go inside.  Hamlin is going to take the group of three with him: Lydia, Marie and Paul.  Gabriel goes and gets a pistol.  He fires the pistol as the four people come down the step, but ends up hitting his son.  Now Mr. Selfish has done it.  He cries over his child and Hamlin and the two women run out of the town house.  They run and get into the boat that King Dick has acquired for them.  Lydia urges King Dick to come with them, but he says he will stay.  Hamlin tells him when this is all over to come and visit with them in the United States.  King Dick says no, he wants Hamlin and Lydia to come visit Haiti again after it's all over.  He says:  "We won't have much, but we'll have our freedom."  He shakes hands with Hamlin.  Goodbye.  The three get into the boat with some other evacuees.  And off they go. 

Hamlin and Lydia hang onto each other as they watch the figure of King Dick grow smaller and smaller. 

 

 

It's nice to have a good film about Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.  The Haitians fought for their independence while Napoleon was busy fighting in Europe.  Napoleon later sends a fleet to recapture Haiti for France.  The Haitians obviously resist the French attempt to turn Haiti back into a colony.  An American lawyer goes down to Haiti on a legal matter dealing with Miss Lydia Bailey.   It's not long before the lawyer starts falling for Lydia.  But will either of them survive when the French land in Haiti and the battles begin?  This is an action packed film that has a good pace to it and it will keep your interest throughout.  Dale Robertson (as Albion Hamlin),  Anne Francis (as Lydia Bailey) and William Marshall (as King Dick) were all good in their roles. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

The ending of the film is a little too happy.  See below. 

 


Historical Background:

1802  --  in 1802, Napoleon Bonaparte sent a massive invasion force, under his brother-in-law Charles Leclerc, to increase French control.

Learning that the French were intent on "reconquest and re-enslavement of the colony's black population, the war became a bloody struggle of atrocity and attrition."

Leclerc was replaced by Donatien-Marie-Joseph de Vimeur, vicomte de Rochambeau.

The French decided to go brutal.  They ". . . burned alive, hanged, drowned, and tortured black prisoners, reviving such practices as burying blacks in piles of insects and boiling them in cauldrons of molasses."

1803 (April)  --  death of Toussaint.  Leclerc invited Toussaint to negotiate a settlement, but it was a trap.  Toussaint was seized and deported to France, where he died of pneumonia while imprisoned at Fort de Joux in the Jura Mountains.

1803 (November 18)  --  the Haitian army, now led by Dessalines, devastated Rochembeau and the French army at the Battle of Vertières.

1804 (January 1)  --  Dessalines declares for independence.

1804  --  Jean Jacques Dessalines becomes Haiti's first emperor.

 
 

 

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