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The first biopic of Handel, The Great Mr Handel, was released in 1942 and was directed by Norman Walker with Wilfred Lawson in the title role. Using the first edition of Newman Flower’s 1923 biography of Handel as its main source of factual information, the film mostly concentrates on the period of the composer’s life from around 1738 up to first performance of Messiah in 1742. A significant portion of the film centres around Handel’s financial and health problems resulting from the demise of Italian opera in London as well as his subsequent recovery and the composition of Messiah, inspired, according to the film, by divine intervention. While the The Great Mr Handel by no means presents an accurate or complete description of Handel’s life, it does provide a number of insights into wartime Britain, presenting Handel’s struggle to overcome his financial and personal difficulties as an allegory to the problems facing Britain during the Second World War. Handel, who, along with Messiah, and largely thanks to the Victorians, had become a national icon, comes to represent wartime Britain in the film and functions as a symbol of hope for the British public during the war. This paper explores the allegories to 1940s-wartime Britain found in the biopic while taking Handel’s position as a national icon and Messiah performances as a national institution, both of which enabled the film’s production, into consideration. The links between the film and the Handel biographies available to the scriptwriters in the 1920s, 30s and 40s, especially the pre-revised editions of Newman Flower’s biography of Handel, will also be traced, and contemporary views of Handel and his music will be taken into account.



Haendel après Haendel :

Construction, renommée, influence de Haendel et de la figure haendélienne

N° 14h

Matthew Gardner

Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg

The Great Mr Handel (1942): Handel's First Biopic, its Sources and Wartime Allegory



Donald Burrows
Donald Burrows - Turning the Handel

Albert Gier
Albert Gier - Haendel à Karlsruhe

Adrian La Salvia
Adrian La Salvia - La Renaissance de Haendel au miroir des traductions

Annette Landgraf
Annette Landgraf - The German Belletristic Literature about Handel

Pierre Degott
Pierre Degott - From Facts to Fiction

Matthew Gardner
Matthew Gardner - The Great Mr Handel

Michael Burden
Michael Burden - When Giulio Cesare was not Handel's Giulio Cesare

Brian Robins
Brian Robins - John Marsh and Handel

Lionel Duguet
Lionel Duguet - La réception du Messie en France au XIXème siècle

Denis Tchorek
Denis Tchorek - Un exemple de transfert culturel

Steven Young
Steven Young - Handel Redux

Gilles Couderc
Gilles Couderc - Move over, Handel!

Jean-Philippe Heberlé
Jean-Philippe Heberlé - L'héritage haendélien et Michael Tippett

Ivan Curkovic
Ivan Curkovic - Men and/or Women

Maja Vukusic Zorica
Maja Vukusic Zorica - Les périgrinations du genre

Yaiza Bermudez Cubas
Yaiza Bermudez Cubas - Reflexiones de la musica del Haendel en el cine

Nathalie Vincent-Arnaud
Nathalie Vincent-Arnaud - Les métamorphoses de Terpsichore

Françoise Deconinck
Françoise Deconinck - Sharp, Haendel, Nares et les autres

Pierre Dubois
Pierre Dubois - The Changing Faces of Handelian Historiography