The Tichborne Claimant is a 1998 movie which is an adaptation of the true story of Lord Tichborne.
The Tichborne Claimant is an adaptation of the true story of Lord Tichborne, a 19th Century nobleman, hugely wealthy, who disappears after a shipwreck in South America.
Years after the event, Bogle, Tichborne’s valet is dispatched to investigate stories that Tichborne managed to survive the wreck and now lives a completely new life in Australia. He encounters an alcoholic deadbeat who claims to be Tichborne and initially disbelieves him but makes a deal to split the vast inheritance with the ruffian should they be able to successfully convince the courts of his identity. However, upon their return to England, more and more people come forward to confirm that the man is indeed who he claims to be…
Directed by David Yates and written by Joe Fisher this is an excellent British comedy drama with a starry cast, including Stephen Fry, John Gielgud and Charles Grey. Robert Pugh stars as “the Claimant” but the real star and a great discovery is John Kani as Bogle, the Afro/English valet. Kani brings a great dignity to the role, especially when facing the inevitable prejudices that existed at the time and also manages to look uncannily like Nelson Mandela, evoking unconscious comparisons between Bogle and that great campaigner which only enhance the film. Pugh clearly relishes his part and turns in a perfectly judged outrageous performance as Titchborne (or is he?) and of course, both Fry and Gielgud are excellent. In fact the film is replete with great British character actors appearing sometimes in cameos but enlivening the movie with their presence.
It has a lot of interesting things to say about the stultified British class system as Bogle and the Claimant work together to convince the courts that this scruff bag is actually a Gentleman and this is where most of the comedy arises, almost as a nod to “My Fair Lady”. After all, nobody does class comedy better than the British! There is a slightly documentary feel to the opening sequences which tell of the original disappearance of Titchborne which enhances the storytelling as we slip seamlessly from documentary to drama then to comedy and the film holds the viewer’s interest throughout. Direction is nothing exceptional but is assured and right for the piece so for an evening’s diversion I can recommend it.