The film is based on the play of the same name by Langdon Mitchell, which in turn was based on William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel Vanity Fair. The play was made famous in the late 1890s by actress Minnie Maddern Fiske. The screenplay was written by Francis Edward Faragoh. The film was considered a landmark in cinema as the first feature film to use the newly developed three-strip Technicolor production throughout, opening the way for a growing number of color films to be made in Britain and the United States in the years leading up to World War II.
The film recounts the tale of a lower-class girl who insinuates herself into an upper-class family, only to see her life and the lives of those around her destroyed.
Becky Sharp was the first feature film to use the three-strip Technicolor process, which created a separate film register for each of the three primary colors.
Becky Sharp (Miriam Hopkins), a socially ambitious English young lady, manages to survive during the background years of Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo. The poor and low class Becky climbs the British social ladder through her best friend Amelia Sedley, praising any rich man who would listen.
In her efforts to advance herself, she manages to connect with a number of gentlemen: the Marquis of Steyne (Cedric Hardwicke), Joseph Sedley (Nigel Bruce), Rawdon Crawley (Alan Mowbray), and George Osborne (G. P. Huntley Jr), the husband of Amelia.
She rises to the top of British society and becomes the scourge of the social circle, offending the other ladies such as Lady Bareacres (Billie Burke). Sharp falls into the humiliation of singing for her meals in a beer hall, but she never stays down for long. At the end, she cons her last man and finally lands Amelia’s brother, Joseph.
Pioneer Pictures [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons