Based on Clyde Fitch’s play about historical people, the Prince who became George IV befriends the dandy Brummel who lost the love of his life to an aristocrat.
In 1795 important people are gathered at the wedding of Col. Alvanley (William Humphrey) to Margery (Mary Astor). On a balcony she is hit by a flower, and Captain George Bryan Brummel (John Barrymore) on the ground below says he is a man of no importance. She comes down, and he is surprised she is a bride. She says they forced her to give him up. He embraces her.
Inside George, the Prince of Wales (Willard Louis), enters, followed by his sister-in-law, Frederica Charlotte, Duchess of York (Irene Rich). Margery asks Brummel to take her with him, and he kisses her hand. Her mother, Mrs. Wertham (Clarissa Selwyn), sees them and comes down to confront him, asking if he would ruin them. He embraces Margery, and her mother pulls her away. Two men approach, and her mother says she only is wishing them luck. One man tosses a coin on the ground to bring him luck. Brummel is angry. Margery says the Prince is waiting. Margery and her mother go inside with the two men, and Margery looks back. Brummel picks up the coin and leaves the wedding.
Brummel writes a note on the back of her miniature portrait, “This beautiful creature is dead.” He looks at himself in the mirror and strikes poses. He plans to get revenge against this society that hurt him.
The Prince of Wales is entertaining soldiers about to depart. Brummel reminds Lord Henry Stanhope (Richard Tucker) that he holds his I.O.U.s. He will trade them for a place next to the Prince. As the Prince is announced, men line up at the table. The Prince stands at the head of the table, and the men raise their swords and drink. The Prince sits down, followed by the others. The innkeeper’s wife (Betty Brice) watches from a balcony. The Prince looks up at her, and Brummel notices. The Prince winks at her. Brummel whispers to the Prince, who is pleased. The Prince says she is beautiful and pats Brummel’s back. The Prince goes up the stairs despite protests. Brummel with his sword stops the innkeeper (James A. Marcus) from going up the stairs. Brummel advises the Prince he can hide in the closet. Brummel is unable to close the door. The innkeeper comes in and finds Brummel with his wife. Brummel says he did not ring for him. He gives the innkeeper a small bag of coins and says his wife has never been kissed by a gentleman before. He asks if his wife was insulted by him or the Prince. Brummel warns him not to say anything about himself. The innkeeper takes his wife away, and the Prince comes out of the closet. The Prince tells Brummel he is a better beau. The Prince leaves a ring on the table, and they return to the banquet. Brummel asks the Prince’s permission to leave the army and implies he wants to serve the Prince. The Prince proposes a toast to the soldiers leaving, and Brummel corrects him.
In 1811 Prince George is ruling as regent. Brummel stakes his fortune with the Prince, and his house in London is a gathering place for dandies. He does without taxed powder in his hair and sets a natural style. Abrahams asks the servant Mortimer (Alec B. Francis) when his master is going to pay him. Mortimer replies he is a “Gentleman’s gentleman.” The Prince is announced and comes in. Brummel comes in and bows. He says Abrahams wants money and asks him to leave his house. He goes out, and the Prince asks Brummel to arrange a little supper with some female companions. The Prince leaves with his entourage. Brummel takes some money from a dandy with a dog.
Brummel gives the Prince a napkin, and Lady Hester Stanhope (Carmel Myers) comes in and notices the snuffbox she gave Brummel. Mortimer assures her he still thinks only of her. Mortimer tells Brummel, and he goes to see her. She talks intimately, and he says her husband is in the next room. Mortimer warns them, and she goes behind a screen. The Prince and others enter. Stanhope sees an item of hers and notices her feet under the screen. He complains to Brummel and stalks out, followed by Brummel, the Prince, and his entourage. Brummel comes back to Hester, and the Prince outside the door listens to them. Brummel asks how she can doubt him. She caresses him, and the Prince comes in. Brummel says she came to see the Prince, who leaves with her. Brummel tells Mortimer he will see her tomorrow at four.
Hester is in a robe and embraces Brummel on a couch. She pleads, but he sits up and hands her a bouquet. She pours a drink and sets it on fire. She kisses him, and her husband walks in. Brummel tells Henry that he will not be able to come to his house again because he is in love with his wife. Henry slaps him, and they bow.
In a park they each take a pistol and stand apart. Henry shoots at Brummel but misses. Brummel shoots in the air. Henry says he will divorce his wife, and he expects Brummel to marry her. Brummel says it is a pity that Henry is a poor shot.
Brummel asks Lady Hester to marry him when she is free. She is happy; but he says if she accepts, he will hate her. He says it would hurt his position at court. He admits he loves her more than ever because he never loved her. She gets angry and says she cares only about her position at court. He thanks her, but she pulls her hand away. He leaves.
At Christmas time Brummel is a social hit, and the Prince asks him about his coat. Brummel implies it is not a coat. Brummel talks with the beautiful Duchess, and Margery comes in. The Duchess says he is wasting himself playing the court jester. He says he is no one and gets attention by scandals. He says it would have been different if he had known the tenderness of a real woman like her. Hester leads the Prince to Brummel, who ignores them. She tells the Prince he treats him like a brother-in-law.
Brummel invites the Duchess of York to a midnight supper. A woman takes off her coat and veil, and he sees she is Margery. She came to warn him that he has an enemy at court who threatens to tell the Prince about his meeting with the Duchess. He says he does not care. He tells her he has only loved one woman in his life. He shows her the miniature portrait of her, and she reads what he wrote on the back. He says he will always love her. She asks about Hester; he says he was lonely, and she was amusing. About the Duchess he says she was kind. The Prince arrives and goes in. He walks up to Margery, and her husband is angry. He tells her to take this tailor’s dummy she always wanted. Alvanley leaves, and Brummel follows him. The Prince reads the note on her portrait. The Prince tells her he will be more faithful than Brummel. He says she has his heart, and she turns away. He asks if she would forget him if he sent him as ambassador to France. She pleads, and Brummel comes back in and offers to see her to her sedan chair. The Prince says he will do that, and he escorts her out. Brummel warns the Prince he is wasting his time.
The Prince is giving a dinner, and Brummel sits next to the Duchess. The Prince next to Margery notices them. The Prince announces he is sending Brummel to France as his ambassador. He is tired of his scandals, but they are the rage in France. Brummel says the Prince would be a success in France. The Prince touches Margery and tells her to speak to Brummel, who warns the Prince he has been drinking. The Prince becomes angry, and Brummel says he must call his carriage. The Prince tells him to get out. Brummel bows to the Duchess and Margery before leaving. Margery is sad.
On the mall Brummel talks with friends. The Prince arrives, and Brummel yawns. The Prince asks Lord Byron to sup with him but ignores Brummel, who asks Byron who his fat friend is.
Mortimer is confronted by men wanting their money, and they make themselves at home. Brummel is alone in a garden, and Margery comes to him. He says he came to say goodbye; his creditors are sending him to jail. He says his day is over, and she embraces him. He says he is the same nobody who talked to her there on her wedding day. He starts to embrace her and then leaves. She runs to him, and he kisses her before going out the gate.
Brummel is taking the Dover coach from London, and Mortimer hands him the portrait of Margery.
The Prince has become King George IV, and the other George is forgotten. Brummel in a garret warms himself by the fire.
People are gathering at Calais to see the King pass by. Brummel tells Mortimer he is hoping to see him. Soldiers march in the street. George IV rides in a carriage and looks at Brummel, who slowly takes off his hat. Then the King goes on. Brummel sees the Duchess and bows. Then he sees Margery in a carriage.
The King sits down at a banquet. Mortimer comes in, but two men stop him. The King beckons him. Mortimer gives the King a snuff box, and the King asks if it comes with apologies. Mortimer nods. The King finds a note from Brummel saying he wished the Prince had shown him more propriety. Mortimer asks the King to forgive. Mortimer says Brummel is ill and starving. The King laughs and walks to a counter. He takes a pen and writes a note. He puts it in the box and asks Byng to lend him £100.
Mortimer comes back to Brummel’s garret and hands him the box. He finds the note which says, “We accept your apology. Make yourself presentable and come to the Inn tonight. George R.” Brummel gets angry and looks in a mirror. He asks Mortimer to return the money to the King as his last service because he is dismissed. Mortimer pleads and cries.
That night Brummel serves himself. He eats sausage and holds some over the fire. Margery comes in, and Brummel stands up. She says she could not stay away. He says she has made his garret heaven. They sit down and talk. She says her husband died, and she asks him to marry her. He shakes his head and says he is old and tired of life and even of love. She walks to the door, and he kisses her hand before she leaves. He cries.
In a prison hospital his name is on the cell door. Old and decrepit, Brummel looks through the bars of his door and shakes his fist. Mortimer comes to visit him, and the attendant lets him in when serving his food. Brummel eats and does not seem to know Mortimer, who serves him. Brummel is happy and eats. Mortimer tells him that his friend, the King, is dead, and Margery is very ill. That affects him, and he recognizes Mortimer, who hugs him. He says his guests are arriving at eight. He imagines the Prince’s spirit comes in and walks back and forth. The Prince offers him the snuff box, and Brummel knocks it down.
Margery’s spirit rises from her ill body and comes to Brummel, who asks Mortimer to seat her. She sits down, and Mortimer prays. Brummel asks her not to leave him. He raises his cup to her and falls dead on the table. She stands up, and his spirit rises to join her. Mortimer cries, and Brummel’s spirit embraces Margery’s.
This biographical drama portrays an independent man who loses his love but manages to become an intimate friend and advisor of the Crown Prince while setting the fashions in London. However, his romantic affairs cause scandals, and the Prince decides to send him away. The gentleman has his pride and suffers in poverty, but after death he is reunited with his friend and his dearest love.