Reader Request Review: Joseph Andrews (1977) – That’s a Lot of Look


Apparently a couple of you have requested a review of Joseph Andrews, an adaptation of the 1742 Henry Fielding novel made in 1977 (EEK) starring Ann-Margret (DOUBLE EEK). Trystan said, “it sounds ludicrous, w/Ann-Margaret playing ‘Lady Booby’ & one review saying she ‘lovingly swallows the full length of an asparagus dipped in oil'” and told me I should watch it. YEAH, WELL YOU JUST GO ON AHEAD AND WATCH IT, I’LL HANG OUT OVER HERE WITH MY QUALITY, TASTEFULLY DESIGNED ENTERTAINMENT. Harumph.

So I fired it up, and yeeeaaaagggg, that’s a lot of look!

Okay, so first I must confess that I don’t much care for “period romps,” à la Fielding’s other main work, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling. The plots are always ludicrous (babies switched at birth! almost shagging your sister!), and EVERYONE overacts. I know, it’s supposed to be big and broad, but I like my humor witty! Oh, and usually the music is all “ooom pa pa” and drives me crazy.

Welp, Joseph Andrews has your switched orphans, your possibly incestuous relationships, your older characters in ratty wigs and piles of spackle — oh and gypsies to boot! It’s actually pretty darn good for 1977, and shockingly, I actually found many elements of the costumes to approve of … but they were going for “haw haw people in ye oldey times were gross and had no taste,” and the colors, hair, and makeup hits you like a Mack truck.

I don’t even know if I can summarize the plot for you without getting irritated, so let’s let some kind soul over at IMDB do it for me:

Lady Booby alias ‘Belle’, the lively wife of the fat landed squire Sir Thomas Booby, has a lusty eye on the attractive, intelligent villager Joseph Andrews, a Latin pupil and protégé of parson Adams, and makes him their footman. Joseph’s heart belongs to a country girl, foundling Fanny Goodwill, but his masters take him on a fashionable trip to Bath, where the spoiled society comes mainly to see and be seen, yet Sir Thomas really seeks relief for his sick foot, but drowns in the famous Roman baths. When the all but grieving lady finds Joseph’s Christian virtue and true love resist her lusting passes just as well as the many ladies who fancy her footman, she fires the boy. On his way back on foot, he falls prey to highwaymen who rob him of everything, even the cloths on his back. He’s found and nursed by an innkeeper’s maid, which stirs lusts there, again besides his honorable conduct, but is found by the good parson. Meawnhile the lady consents to her cousin marrying below their station when learning the fiancée is Joseph’s sister, Pamela. The parson barely escapes a wicked gentleman’s totally unjust, all but gentle justice after being accused of the attempted rape committed by a squire he actually prevented and comes to learn ever more about a relevant child-theft by gypsies, but meanwhile he, Joseph and Fanny fall prey again to the rapist’s utter debauchery…

The costume AND production design were done by Michael Annals, who was primarily a theatrical designer. His name is super featured in the opening credits, so he was clearly a Big Deal at the time. Trying to find any information about his work on this film (nada), I found a nice obituary about him written by Ian McKellan, so it seems he was very talented and valued by the theater community.

Beyond that, My Thoughts:

Living in a Renaissance Faire Paradise

Guys, you ain’t NEVER seen such a bucolic vision of rustic English life. The opening scene is some kind of May Day celebration, and there’s all kinds of happy peasants rusticating and frolicking and doing whatever the hell else your platonic ideal of peasants do.

Joseph Andrews 1977

Also, there is a character who is a “gypsy,” and if he isn’t Mr. July in the Hotties of the Renaissance Faire 1977 Calendar, I don’t know who is. He’s also got a lot of Kris Kristoffersen in A Star Is Born going on.

Joseph Andrews 1977


Satanic Nuns, Anyone?

It’s a sub-plot!

Joseph Andrews 1977

This guy, in a totally bad Dracula wig, gets innocent Fanny drunk and ties her up on a table.

Joseph Andrews 1977

Enter see-thru-habit satanic nuns. Joseph rescues Fanny, in case you were worried.


Oh the Hair

Joseph Andrews 1977

You’ve got your mullet on sweet lil’ innocent Joseph, your frizzy layered curls on Fanny…

Joseph Andrews 1977

Fanny there (Natalie Ogle) played Lydia in the 1980 Pride & Prejudice, FYI.

Joseph Andrews 1977

Either carrot red or hot pink wigs on Ann-Margret as Lady Booby, both of which, no.



This film is decidedly in the camp of “18th century aristocrats were weird and gross and put 30 layers of spackle on their faces and never scraped it off.”

Joseph Andrews 1977

Particularly on Mrs. Slipslop, Lady Booby’s lady’s maid. Who, HAW HAW, is constantly hitting on young Joseph.

Joseph Andrews 1977

They did have mirrors, ya know.

Joseph Andrews 1977

Ann-Margret/Lady Booby is supposed to be hot, but also a debauched aristocrat, so they keep it pretty, but spackle it on nonetheless.

Joseph Andrews 1977

Points for versimilitude in that they show how scary this kind of makeup can get when your face gets sweaty, but again, EW GROSS OLDER RICH LADY.


Every Wacky-Looking Character Actor You Can Imagine Is in This

Joseph Andrews 1977

Thats Michael Hordern (Anne of the Thousand Days, The Slipper and the Rose, Lady Jane) as the well-intentioned but bumbling Parson Adams.

Joseph Andrews (1977)

Peter Bull (Tom Jones) as Lord Booby, all gouty and bad teeth, and he conveniently dies.

Joseph Andrews 1977

And Hugh Griffith (Tom Jones, Oliver!) as Squire Western, a snob who thinks he’s all that because he’s an aristocrat, never mind the dirty linen and ratty wig.


Some of the Costumes Aren’t Bad

Joseph Andrews 1977

Ann-Margret in an early version of the robe à la française or sack, when it was still very loose in front. Honestly, this looks right out of Janet Arnold, and the fabric choice works. Not too sure about the ginormous cap.

Joseph Andrews 1977

This blue taffeta dress is pretty.

Joseph Andrews 1977

Annals did some great stuff with the foppish men, giving them super high, powdered, macaroni wigs and ornate clothes. Everyone wants to shag Fanny, FYI.

Joseph Andrews 1977

More fops. THIS is an OTT debauched aristocratic look I can get behind, even if those coats all scream acetate to me.

Joseph Andrews 1977

Joseph’s sister, Pamela, is engaged to an aristocrat. Since she’s actually supposed to be sweet and good, she gets an elegant mantua or nightgown (the fitted gown typical of English dress in the mid-18th century).

Joseph Andrews 1977

Hey, an actual française/sack! And it’s pretty, too!

Joseph Andrews 1977

Don’t keel over when I tell you that Lady Booby’s stage costume (she used to be an actress) is actually great.

Joseph Andrews 1977

I know, you’re thinking I’m insane.

Antoine PESNE (1683-1757), The Dancer Barbara Campanini (1721-1799), 1757

But by total and complete chance, a friend of mine posted this image of a dancer in her stage costume about two days before I watched this movie. I almost fell over. Antoine PESNE (1683-1757), The Dancer Barbara Campanini (1721-1799), also known as Barberina, 1757. Gemälde im Stadtschloss Potsdam (Speisezimmer).


But Some Require Sunglasses

Joseph Andrews 1977

This must be a promo pic, because Ann-Margret’s eye makeup never gets THAT 1960s.

Joseph Andrews 1977

That ensemble on screen. Note Joseph’s coordinating pink outfit (to AM’s right).


Others … Yeah

Joseph Andrews 1977

Oh, is there back lacing. This is what happens when you spiral lace something, but start the lace on the wrong side. Also, please to note super slubby dupioni.

Joseph Andrews 1977

Head doily? Is there a binder clip in there somewhere?

Joseph Andrews 1977

That’s Penelope Wilton (Downton Abbey) rocking the high school theater Puritan costume.

Joseph Andrews 1977

Mrs. Slipslop’s gown isn’t pleated to the bodice point in back, causing some upsetting gaposis. Altho, cute dog!



What will you people torment me with next?


About the author



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.

12 Responses

  1. Jacqui Gauld

    Mrs Slipslop is Beryl Reid, a fairly well-known British actress, probably best remembered forThe Killing of Sister George.

  2. Aurora

    Is it just me, or does the pup in the last picture have a total WTF expression? Poor thing looks traumatized

  3. Janet Nickerson

    I saw this when it first was released. There was some full frontal male nudity as I remember, which was rather surprising. BTW, this is Fielding’s second novel parodying Samuel Richardson’s ‘Pamela’; the first was ‘Shamela’. Apparently Fielding didn’t think much of Richardson.

    • Rori

      Can’t really blame Fielding here. The Pamela is basically the Twilight during its time: popular, but with a discerning moral behind it.

      At least Clarissa is better.

  4. Laura

    I’m so so on the costumes (though those colors…gah!). But my boobs hurt in sympathy with how high she had to hitch them up in those dresses.

  5. Melponeme_k

    I watched this movie because it looked original. I did enjoy it although none of it made sense. Everything seemed to hinge on getting Ann Margaret to wear the lowest cut bodice’s, just to this side of decency, imaginable. Which I don’t blame them, they knew what assets they had to highlight! XD