The Duke

I went to see the Duke last night: such a treat. Of course, it’s open to the accusation of being over-sentimental and caricaturing those northerners from Newcastle and the smooth ways of Londoners who spend money on art, but I didn’t think any the worse for that. I knew some of the story, but certainly not all of it and not the twist at the end, revealing, as I now discover is true, that it wasn’t Kempton Bunton who stole the painting after all, but his son, John, who, as the film reveals, subsequently confessed, but wasn’t prosecuted as an unreliable witness. They showed a picture of Michael Levey as if he was the Director at the time, whereas it was Philip Hendy, but the film is not intended as factual, but a funny, entertaining romance, true in spirit and true to Jeremy Hutchinson’s successful defence of Bunton.

So sad that it was Roger Michell’s last film, not least because he was working on a celebration of seventy years of the Queen for her platinum jubilee, which I hope was sufficiently finished before his death still to be seen.

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3 thoughts on “The Duke

  1. sandynairne says:

    When I was working on my own book on Art Theft – tracking the two late Turners stolen in Frankfurt in 1994 – inevitably I got fascinated by the Kempton Bunton story. He was named Kempton after Kempton Park, as his father won a bet on the races there … and he grew up to be large. Which was why it seemed implausible that he had himself clambered in through a small ‘lavatory window’ and removed the Goya. I interviewed Jeremy Hutchinson about his brilliant defence of Bunton, and he was suitably droll in describing trying to manage Bunton’s appearances in court. He got Bunton off all the charges, except the theft of the frame, which had been discarded by Bunton. The case caused a new clause to be inserted in the Theft Act which said specifically that you could not walk into a public gallery and remove a picture, even if you intended to return it.

      • sandynairne says:

        I agree. The film teeters slightly uneasily between crime story and comedy, but the performances are excellent; and the young Hutchinson is nicely captured.

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