Stage Beauty (2004) ranks up there as one of my all-time favorites in terms of eye-candy, and yet it’s fairly overlooked amongst the historical costume flick aficionados. It’s visually gorgeous, the script deals artfully with notoriously easy-to-fuck-up topics like bisexuality, gender fluidity, and sexual objectification. It’s got Claire Danes, Billy Crudup, Rupert Everett, and a young Zoë Tapper.
Based on the play Compleat Female Stage Beauty, it does play a little fast and loose with history, switching up things like Nell Gwyn‘s stage debut (in the film, she doesn’t begin performing publicly until after she’s the King’s mistress, whereas in real life, Charles II “discovered” her while she was working as an actress); the timeline of when Charles II made it legal for women to act in public (in the film, this doesn’t happen until after Claire Danes’ character makes a sensational debut in a public staging of “Othello” and Chaz is delighted with the novelty of a woman playing a woman’s role on stage); and credits Ned with creating the innovative “natural acting” style that, in real life, wasn’t even a thing for another 250 years. But whatever, it’s a great story regardless! And the costumes, designed by Tony-award-winning costumer Tim Hatley, are fabulous!
The centerpiece of the story is the relationship between Maria and Ned… She has a major crush on him, and he’s mostly oblivious to her because he’s a star, baby!
If I were Maria, I would have probably lived off of that hand-kiss for a month…
The portrait engravings around the mirror are a nice touch.
As modernized historical portraits go, this one isn’t terrible.
And you wonder why I love this film so much…
Physically, I think Billy Crudup was a poor choice for the role of Ned, but he nails the character beautifully.
This bodice is awful. To be fair, she’s meant to look dowdy, but still.
Maria borrows Ned’s orange gown to meed the King. Samuel Pepys is her date.
Maria is having her portrait painted by Lely, looking pretty unhappy about it. Extra points for the posing gown, though! It’s a style not often seen on film.
The gown and general arrangement of the gown looks a lot like this portrait by Lely of Nell Gwyn | Portrait of Nell Gwyn (1650-1687) by Peter Lely, c. 1675, National Portrait Gallery.
My one quibble with this costume is that the skirts aren’t full enough. Otherwise, it’s got gorgeous hand-stitching all over.
Note the hand-stitching and what looks like a pinned center front. <3
Maria’s gowns get fabulous as she gets more famous.
It’s hard not to love a green taffeta dress.
I love this gown, except for the X-lacing in the front. Should be spiral laced. Also, it should lace up the back, but since she’s having to get dressed herself, I’ll let it slide.
Rupert Everett as a most affable Charles II.
Words cannot describe how much I love this costume. And Rupert Everett.
These bitches, pt. 1.
These bitches, pt. 2.
Zoë Tapper as Nell Gwyn. Gotta point out that Nelly was a red head… But other than that, this dress is my favorite one in the film.
She makes one hell of a cute guy, too.
Another fabulous gown for Nell.
I WANT HIS CAP.
What did you think about Stage Beauty? Tell us in the comments!