The Wings of the Dove

November 7th, 1997


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Still of Helena Bonham Carter, Alison Elliott and Linus Roache in The Wings of the DoveStill of Alison Elliott and Linus Roache in The Wings of the DoveStill of Helena Bonham Carter, Alison Elliott and Linus Roache in The Wings of the DoveStill of Helena Bonham Carter and Linus Roache in The Wings of the DoveIain Softley in The Wings of the DoveStill of Helena Bonham Carter, Alison Elliott and Alex Jennings in The Wings of the Dove

An impoverished woman who has been forced to choose between a privileged life with her wealthy aunt and her journalist lover, befriends an American heiress. When she discovers the heiress is attracted to her own lover and is dying, she sees a chance to have both the privileged life she cannot give up and the lover she cannot live without.

Release Year: 1997

Rating: 7.0/10 (5,729 voted)

Critic's Score: 73/100

Director: Iain Softley

Stars: Helena Bonham Carter, Linus Roache, Alison Elliott

Kate Croy's mother was born to wealth and privilege, but she threw it all away to marry Kate's father, a penniless opium addict who admits to having stolen from his wife. After her mother's death, Kate is offered an opportunity to return to the life her mother gave up. There is a condition, however: Kate must sever all of her old ties, not only to her father, but also to her lover, the muck-raking journalist Merton Densher, whom she has promised marriage. Kate reluctantly agrees to this, and in the meantime becomes friendly with "the world's richest orphan," Millie Theale, an American making the Grand Tour. Desperate to see Kate, Merton crashes a party that she and Millie are attending, and Millie is attracted to him. When Kate learns that Millie is dying, she comes up with a plan to have her cake and eat it too...but all does not go as planned.

Writers: Henry James, Hossein Amini

Helena Bonham Carter - Kate Croy
Linus Roache - Merton Densher
Alison Elliott - Millie Theale
Charlotte Rampling - Aunt Maude
Elizabeth McGovern - Susan 'Susie' Stringham
Michael Gambon - Lionel Croy, Kate's Father
Alex Jennings - Lord Mark
Ben Miles - First Journalist
Philip Wright - Second Journalist
Alexander John - Butler
Shirley Chantrell - Opium Den Lady
Diana Kent - Merton's Party Companion
Georgio Serafini - Eugenio
Rachele Crisafulli - Concierge

Taglines: A couple with everything but money. An heiress with everything but love. A temptation no one could resist.

Release Date: 7 November 1997

Filming Locations: Brompton Cemetery, Fulham Road, West Brompton, London, England, UK

Opening Weekend: $183,610 (USA) (9 November 1997) (7 Screens)

Gross: $13,718,385 (USA) (12 April 1998)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

Based on a novel by Henry James (1902) with the same name, in 1998 ranked 26th on the list of 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century by the Modern Library.

Errors in geography: The tile pattern on the Underground stations the train passes through at the beginning of the film are identical in pattern and color for each station. Each station on the Piccadilly line had its own tile pattern and color scheme so that the illiterate could still recognize their station without needing to read the station name.

Merton: You want me to seduce a dying girl? And what makes you think she'll just leave me all her money?
Kate: I know her. I know how she loves.

User Review

A period movie with a difference


In this most affecting adaptation of Henry James's dense and difficult novel, Ian Softley brings passion back to the oft-derided genre of "period" movie. There are many angles in the story; tales of deception, social hypocrisy, conflict between our hearts' desire and our conscience, of regrets, and some degree, of just deserts. However, in the heart of it lies an unforgettable love triangle, fuelled by the amazing performances of the three leads. Helena Bohnam-Carter, in the pinnacle of her career, embodies the fierce intelligence and ruthless determination of Kate Croy, a woman born in a wrong era, whose effort to hold on to both love and wealth tragically backfires. Linus Roache, playing Kate's secret love, brings tortured Merton Densher (where does James come up with these names?) vividly to life. He has the sort of intense good looks and physical presence required for this role in spades; and his dramatic ability shines though, especially in his last scene with Millie, where he acknowledges his duplicity before the all-accepting love of the dying girl with an incredible raw emotionality. I was most impressed with Allison Elliot's Millie, however. The angelic Millie could have been a big cliché of a character, but in Elliot's skillful hands, Millie takes on the luminance of spirits and love of life that grow even as her physical strength fails. The story and the actors are tremendously aided by gorgeous cinematography (especially the mournful beauty of rain-soaked Venice) , costumes-to-die-for by Sandy Powell (who wore that fabulous red dress to this year's Oscar, accepting the award for "Shakespeare in Love". She should have won it for this film), and beautiful music. A movie to be watched in a dark rainy afternoon, and savored like fine wine.