Tim Purtell
May 30, 2005 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Empress of Ireland

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Christopher Robbins
publisher
Thunder's Mouth Press
genre
Nonfiction

We gave it a B+

The empress of the title — The Empress of Ireland — is Brian Desmond Hurst, the long-forgotten director of some 25 films (including The Playboy of the Western World and 1951’s Alastair Sim-topped A Christmas Carol) who worked with Laurence Olivier, Alec Guinness, and a couple of Redgraves. In the ’70s, the octogenarian, openly gay filmmaker enlisted the heterosexual author, then a callow journalist and screenwriting novice, to write an epic about the birth of Christ. Shadows of Gods and Monsters hover, but Christopher Robbins’ effervescent prose hums to its own tune, with anecdotes amusing (a Tangier dinner party attended by pink-satin-attired dwarves), hilarious (a luncheon thrown off course by particularly potent hash), and horrific (Hurst’s recollections of the battle at Gallipoli). The movie never gets made, but no matter. It sparked this affectionate portrait of a fiercely intelligent imp whom Robbins correctly dubs ”an original and fabulous creation.”

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