Emma Thompson's Pre-Raphaelite Film about Effie Gray

Effie Gray by John Everett Millais

The Pre-Raphaelites have hit the headlines again with Emma Thompson's new film about Effie Gray.

Thompson's film is about the love triangle between Effie Gray, John Ruskin and John Everett Millais. Effie fell in love with Ruskin's best friend and protege Millais and divorced her very respectable husband Ruskin on the grounds that they had never consummated their marriage. It was reported that Ruskin was repulsed by Effie's body. In her famed letter to her parents Effie wrote:

"He alleged various reasons, hatred to children, religious motives, a desire to preserve my beauty, and finally this last year he told me his true reason... that he had imagined women were quite different to what he saw I was, and that the reason he did not make me his Wife was because he was disgusted with my person the first evening 10th April."

The playwright Gregory Murphy, wrote a play called The Countess, which dealt with the same affair as Thompson's film. The play ran in an off-Broadway theatre for some time and also had a run in the UK. Gregory Murphy is suing Emma Thompson for infringement of copyright. This seems a rather far fetched accusation for a biographical work - when the story is in the public domain. There is also another play called Mrs Ruskin by Kim Morrisey, which appeared at the Warehouse Theatre in Croydon and if Gregory Murphy were to win his case could it also be assumed that Kim Morrisey could then sue Emma Thompson as well!

I did actually see The Countess play in London, written by Gregory Murphy. I did not witness any new revelations about the Effie/Ruskin/Millais story which I had not already read about and am surprised that Murphy has made this accusation.

I am certain Emma Thompson will win and hope that her film will help to bring the Pre-Raphaelites into focus even more - which could easily make a difference to our musical POSSESSED, about the Jane/Morris/Rossetti love triangle. I am a great admirer of Thompson's work, both as a writer and an actress, and feel sure that her take on the Effie story will have both depth and quality.


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