WCW: Greta Scacchi

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Seeing Greta Scacchi pop up in a small part in series 2 of Versailles reminded me how much I love her as an actress. She’s beautiful, sure, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE that she is aging naturally. But more importantly, she’s talented and has done a ton of historical films… Okay so yes, her portrayal of Maria Cosway in Jefferson in Paris is responsible for about 90% of my love for her. But let’s look at her whole oeuvre, shall we? (Because who doesn’t like using the word “oeuvre” now and then?)

 

Heat and Dust (1983)

An early Merchant-Ivory film, set in 1920s India.

1983 Heat and Dust 1983 Heat and Dust

 

Camille (1984)

I haven’t seen this adaptation of the famous 1852 Alexandre Dumas novel (previously adapted in 1936), but I feel like it could be highly entertaining, both for young Colin Firth and for possibly snarkable hair and costumes…

1984 Camille

Yummy Colin!

1984 Camille

Not too sure about that snood…

1984 Camille

BANGS.

 

Burke & Wills (1985)

IMDB says: “two explorers on a doomed journey trying to cross Australia on foot in the 19th century.” Based on Mr. Eggbeard below, I’m not excited.

1985 Burke & Wills

 

Good Morning Babilonia (1987)

Two Italian immigrants move to the U.S. and work in Hollywood.

GOOD MORNING BABYLONE ( GOOD MORNING BABILONIA

This is supposed to be 1920s I think, but I just see 1980s like whoa.

 

White Mischief (1987)

This is high on my list after watching Out of Africa — it’s about the very druggy/promiscuous English set in 1940s Kenya.

1987 White Mischief 1987 White Mischief

 

Country Life (1994)

An adaptation of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya set in rural Australia in the 1920s.

COUNTRY LIFE 1994

She does do 1920s SO well…

COUNTRY LIFE 1994

 

Jefferson in Paris (1995)

LURVE! Scacchi plays Maria Cosway, married Italian/Englishwoman who hooks up with Thomas Jefferson while he’s visiting Paris in the 1780s. Scacchi is my platonic ideal of late 18th-century fashion in this.

1995 Jefferson in Paris

The hair!!! (And Simon Cowell, rowr)

1995 Jefferson in Paris

 

Emma (1996)

Sadly, the Gwyneth Paltrow version of the classic Jane Austen story, not the much-better Kate Beckinsale version … She plays Emma’s former governess, Mrs. Weston.

1996 Emma

I do think Scacchi was one of the better parts of this film!

1996 Emma

 

Rasputin (1996)

As Tsariana Alexandra, wife of Nicholas II of Russia, in a story about the “mad monk.”

1996 Rasputin

 

The Serpent’s Kiss (1996)

Love and gardening in 17th-century England, with Ewan McGregor and Richard E. Grant.

1996 The Serpent's Kiss

 

The Odyssey (1997)

The classic Ancient Greek story by Homer. Scacchi plays Penelope, Odysseus’s faithful wife.

1997 The Odyssey

 

Love & Rage (1999)

Scacchi is a late 19th-century divorcée shocking her Irish neighbors, Daniel Craig is the potentially scary guy she gets involved with.

1999 Love & Rage

 

One of the Hollywood Ten (2000)

The Hollywood Ten were the filmmakers accused of communism in the 1950s and who refused to testify in Joseph McCarthy’s hearings. Scacchi plays Gale Sondergaard, the wife of one of the accused filmmakers.

ONE OF THE HOLLYWOOD TEN, 2000

 

Daniel Deronda (2002)

Based on the George Eliot novel, this faaaabulous miniseries is set in the 1870s (SUCH AMAZING BUSTLE GOWNS), and it’s about abusive marriages and Zionism. As one does. Scacchi plays Lydia, discarded mistress of Henleigh Grandcourt.

2002 Daniel Deronda 2002 Daniel Deronda

 

Broken Trail (2006)

A TV miniseries about a 19th-century cowboy who tries to save five Chinese girls from prostitution.

Broken Trails

 

Miss Marple: By the Pricking of My Thumbs (2006)

One of the many Miss Marple murder mysteries.

2006 Marple By the Pricking of My Thumbs

 

Brideshead Revisited (2008)

The remake of the classic 1920s story of class and nostalgia. Scacchi plays the small part of Cara, the Italian mistress of an English lord.

2008 Brideshead Revisited

 

Miss Austen Regrets (2008)

Jane Austen looks back on her life while in her 40s. Scacchi plays her older sister, Cassandra — GENIUS casting against Olivia Williams as Jane, as the two actresses look separated at birth.

2008 Miss Austen Regrets

That’s Olivia Williams in the center, and Sccachi on the right.

2008 Miss Austen Regrets

 

Hindenburg: The Last Flight (2011)

About the 1937 explosion of the zeppelin; Scacchi plays “Helen van Zandt.”

2011 Hindenburg- The Last Flight

 

Poirot: Elephants Can Remember (2013)

Another 1930s murder mystery!

2013 Poiroit Elephants Can Remember 2013 Poiroit Elephants Can Remember

 

A.D. The Bible Continues (2015)

Yes, I am a completionist. She plays “Mother Mary.”

A.D. THE BIBLE CONTINUES

 

War & Peace (2016)

As Countess Natalya Rostova, mother to Historical Manic Pixie Russian 1800s Dream Girl, Natasha. I SO enjoyed snarking this TV miniseries!

2016 War & Peace 2016 War & Peace

 

Versailles, Season 2 (2017)

As the matriarch of a noble yet debt-ridden family.

2017 Versailles 2017 Versailles

 

What’s your favorite of Greta Scacchi’s historical costume performances?

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About the author

Kendra

Website

Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

16 Responses

  1. Susan Pola Staples

    Gosh, so many FrockFlicks, but gotta go with her portrayal of Maria Cosway in Jefferson in Paris and Alexandra Feodorovna opposite Gandalf as Nicky. Even though Alix was a strawberry blonde.

    Reply
  2. Nit-Picking Badger

    Jefferson in Paris! A film which I cheerfully maintain is made considerably better by fast forwarding through all the Jefferson bits. 1780s is my favourite decade of all time and Greta Scacchi as Maria Cosway playing a (period correct, squeal!) single-action harp is my aim in (costuming) life! For reference, she’s playing and singing one of Maria Cosway’s own compositions.
    Also Jefferson in Paris has one of my favourite quips to say at the opera house (Rameau’s Dardanus I seem to remember): ‘Come and talk to me while we yawn our way through the ballet’…..

    Reply
  3. Shannon Russell

    I’m just glad that there is someone else who prefers the Kate Beckinsale Emma over the Paltrow version!

    Reply
    • Lady St. Columb

      Yes! Forever it did seem that my mum, my sister, and I were the only ones that strongly supported the Kate Beckinsale version of Emma.

      As for my fav Scacchi film? Probably The Odyssey, for she seems to take shoddy written and directed material (through no fault of hers) and turn it into something palatable for watching – becoming the silver lining in productions – I felt this also in Brideshead and War & Peace.

      Reply
  4. Jill

    I have always been a huge fan of Broken Trail. It, and Greta, portray women as they really were in the American West. They’re often frumpy, ethnic, and clearly not the cream of society. Admittedly, costumes aren’t the focal point in this film, but, well, there it is.

    Reply
  5. Donna

    Not a Greta comment … but if you are interested in debauched colonial Kenya, I recommend In the Heat of the Sun … a short (3 episode) series that Mystery did several years ago.

    Reply
    • Susan Pola Staples

      I loved Heat of the Sun. The cast was super. Trevor Eve, Susannah Harker, Julian Rhind-Tutt And I suppose you could call it a running gag how the ‘super’ kept forgetting the name of the very competent Kenya policeman, Jonah Karendi. Even the Governor remember it.

      Reply
  6. ctrent29

    Sadly, the Gwyneth Paltrow version of the classic Jane Austen story, not the much-better Kate Beckinsale version … She plays Emma’s former governess, Mrs. Weston.

    You liked the Kate Beckinsale version better? I don’t know. I like the Beckinsale version, but I could never really warm up to it. There was always something off about it, to me. However, I did enjoy Ms. Scacchi as Mrs. Weston.

    However, I loved her performance in “War & Peace”.

    Reply
  7. Fran in NYC

    She was also in “The Red Violin” playing the crazy, tempestuous lover of a crazy, tempestuous violinist. Not my favorite segment of that movie because its tone was so over-the-top and different from the other segments.

    Reply
  8. SarahV

    White Mischief is such a great movie! It’s just so very sexy. And it features Charles Dance at peak hotness.

    Reply

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