A young married girl was named Wally at birth because both her mother and her grandmother were obsessed with the life of Wallis Simpson, the divorcee who had an affair with Prince Edward, the Prince of Wales, who became King Edward VIII. The King abdicated the throne eleven months later, stating that he could not discharge his duties as king “without the help and support of the woman I love.” It was considered the romance of the century. It is assumed that W.E. stands for Wallis and Edward.
Wally Winthrop, in 1998, was also infatuated with the lives of the English couple to the extent that she made several visits to Sotheby’s auction of articles of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, so-called after the King’s abdication. She won the bid for several pairs of gloves belonging to the Duchess, for which she paid $11,000.
Wally’s marriage to William Winthrop was foundering, as Wally desperately wanted children and her husband did not. He also did not want her to hold down a job although she loved working. He began working late at his medical profession, and she was left alone much of the time. He was incensed when he discovered her purchases from Sotheby’s.
The film weaves back and forth, revealing the facts about the two married couples as they struggled with their separate problems. Actual footage of the Duke and Duchess was shown, since the paparazzi hounded them as they traveled throughout the world.
The Duke was clearly deeply in love with his wife, as she was with him. In the film, Wallis states that she too gave up a great deal to marry the man she loved – her privacy, her reputation, and her friends, while at the same time she was scorned by the Duke’s family and the citizens of Great Britain and the world at large.
Wally Winthrop made friends with the security guard at Sotheby’s because of her many visits there. They became friends, then lovers, after Wally’s husband beat her so badly she could no longer stay with him.
I found the film to be riveting, telling two stories that had just a fragile connection. The costumes from the 30’s were exceptionally beautiful, and English actress Andrea Riseborough, who portrayed Wallis Simpson, had such a similar look that the viewer could easily imagine she was Wallis.
The British film used mostly an English cast who did a superb job although none of the actors are familiar to American audiences. Interestingly, the film was directed, produced and co-written by Madonna, the American singer-songwriter. Although the film did not get good reviews, it could be assumed that the critics felt a need to skewer Madonna’s theatrical efforts. Nevertheless, it was a highly entertaining piece of work.