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The Wicked Lady was a 1945 film starring Margaret Lockwood in the title role as a nobleman's wife who secretly becomes a highwayman for the excitement. The story was based on the novel The Life and Death of the Wicked Lady Skelton by Magdalen King-Hall, which in turn, was based upon the (disputed) events surrounding the life of Lady Katherine Ferrers, the wife of the major landowner in Markyatemarker on the main Londonmarker - Birminghammarker road.

The film was loosely remade by Michael Winner as The Wicked Lady in 1983.

Plot

Caroline (Patricia Roc) invites her beautiful, green-eyed friend Barbara (Margaret Lockwood) to her upcoming wedding to wealthy landowner and local magistrate Sir Ralph Skelton (Griffith Jones). A scheming Barbara soon has Sir Ralph totally entranced. Caroline, wishing only his happiness, stands aside, and even allows Barbara to persuade her to be the maid of honour so as to lessen the scandal of the abrupt change of brides. At the wedding reception, Barbara meets a handsome stranger, Kit Locksby (Michael Rennie). It is love at first sight for both, but too late.

Married life on a rural estate does not provide the new Lady Skelton the excitement she expected and craves. A visit by her detested sister-in-law, Lady Henrietta Kingsclere (Enid Stamp-Taylor), and her husband (Francis Lister) does not lessen her boredom. Henrietta wins Barbara's jewels, including her most-prized possession, her late mother's ruby brooch, in a game of Ombre. A chance remark about the notorious highwayman Captain Jerry Jackson gives Barbara an idea. Masquerading as Jackson, Barbara holds up Henrietta's coach and takes her brooch (as well as the rest of Henrietta's jewelry).

Intoxicated by the experience, she keeps on waylaying coaches, until one night, she and the real Captain Jackson (James Mason) target the same one. After they relieve the passengers of their valuables and ride away, Jackson is amused to find his competitor is a beautiful woman. They become lovers and partners in crime.

Barbara learns of a valuable gold shipment from a former tenant farmer of Skelton's, Ned Cotterill (Emrys Jones), who is employed as one of the guards. Jackson is against the idea of stealing the gold, as the coach will have double the usual protection, but Barbara talks him into it. However, the robbery does not go smoothly. When Cotterill pursues them, Barbara aims for his horse, but ends up killing Cotterill. However, her conscience is not disturbed for long.

Hogarth (Felix Aylmer), an aged family servant, finds out about Barbara's double life. However, his religious fervour to save her and her convincing lies about repenting keep him from revealing what he knows. Barbara tries to silence him with poison and, when that is not quick enough, smothers him.

She then goes to visit Jackson after the prolonged absence caused by Hogarth, but finds him in bed with another woman. Infuriated, she anonymously betrays him to her husband. Jackson is captured and sentenced to be hanged. In London, Barbara goes to view the execution with Caroline, terrified that he will name her as his accomplice. However, he only mentions her indirectly before his hanging. When a riot breaks out afterward, the two ladies are rescued by none other than Kit, who turns out to be engaged to Caroline.

Later, at the Skelton estate, Barbara begs Kit to take her away to start a new life. He is sorely tempted, but when Skelton talks him out of it, she decides that drastic measures are needed. She awaits her husband's coach with a loaded pistol. Jackson shows up (his hanging having been botched). When he learns what she intends, it is too much even for him. He rides off to warn Skelton, but Barbara shoots and kills him. When she tries to do the same with her husband, Kit shoots her first.

Mortally wounded, she flees back to her home, where Caroline finds her and ascertains the truth. Caroline sends Kit in alone to see the dying woman. At first, Barbara lies about how she was shot; however she cannot continue the deceit with her one true love. She confesses all and pleads with Kit to stay with her until the end, but he is too repulsed by the magnitude of her crimes. He leaves her to die alone.

Cast

  • Margaret Lockwood as Barbara Worth
  • James Mason as Captain Jerry Jackson
  • Patricia Roc as Caroline
  • Griffith Jones as Sir Ralph Skelton
  • Michael Rennie as Kit Locksby
  • Felix Aylmer as Hogarth
  • Enid Stamp Taylor as Lady Henrietta Kingsclere
  • Francis Lister as Lord Kingsclere
  • Beatrice Varley as Aunt Moll
  • Amy Dalby as Aunt Doll
  • Martita Hunt as Cousin Agatha
  • David Horne as Martin Worth
  • Emrys Jones as Ned Cotterill
  • Helen Goss as Mistress Betsy
  • Muriel Aked as Mrs. Munce


Production

The film was made at Gainsborough Studios in Londonmarker.

Due to problems with American censors, extensive re-shooting was required before the film was released in the United States (according to Robert Osborne of Turner Classic Movies). The problems were that the women's blouses (appropriate for the era portrayed) were very low-cut and showed too much cleavage for the USA motion picture production code. It was a problem Jane Russell had in The Outlaw (1943). TCM sometimes airs the original, uncensored version on its USA basic cable network.

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