24 user 9 critic

The Shooting Party (1985)

While Europe stands on the brink of World War I in Autumn 1913, Sir Randolph Nettleby hosts a weekend of shooting on his estate for European aristocrats.


Alan Bridges


Isabel Colegate (novel), Julian Bond (screenplay)
Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 4 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
James Mason ... Sir Randolph Nettleby
Edward Fox ... Lord Gilbert Hartlip
Dorothy Tutin ... Lady Minnie Nettleby
John Gielgud ... Cornelius Cardew
Gordon Jackson ... Tom Harker
Cheryl Campbell ... Lady Aline Hartlip
Robert Hardy ... Lord Bob Lilburn
Aharon Ipalé ... Sir Reuben Hergesheimer
Joris Stuyck Joris Stuyck ... Count Tibor Rakassyi
Rebecca Saire ... Cicely Nettleby
Sarah Badel Sarah Badel ... Ida Nettleby
Rupert Frazer Rupert Frazer ... 'Lionel' / Lionel Stephens
Judi Bowker ... 'Olivia' / Lady Olivia Lilburn
John J. Carney ... Jarvis
Ann Castle Ann Castle ... Lady Mildred Stamp


Autumn, 1913: on the eve of the Great War, a small party of lords and ladies gather at the Hertfordshire estate of Sir Randolph Nettleby. A code of propriety governs all: dress, breakfast, relations with the estate's peasants, courtship, shooting, adultery. Lionel Stephens, who is courting Sir Randolph's daughter, gets into a shooting competition with Lord Gilbert Hartlip; Lord Gilbert's wife carries on discreet affairs; a pamphleteer circles the estate calling for no more killing, and Sir Robert's grandson hopes to protect a wild duck he's befriended. A way of life is ending: Lord Gilbert's violation of the gentlemen's code suggests internal rot as the real world presses in. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Romance


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Release Date:

September 1985 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Shooting Party See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Black and White (opening credits)| Color (colour) (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


James Mason and Sir John Gielgud appeared in Julius Caesar (1953), Murder by Decree (1979), 11 Harrowhouse (1974), and Frankenstein: The True Story (1973). See more »


In the outdoor scenes we regularly hear the sound of a willow warbler singing. The bare trees indicate that the film is set in the winter. Willow warblers spend the winter in Africa so would not be heard in England at this time of year. See more »


[an animal rights protester has just disrupted the shooting]
Sir Randolph Nettleby: This is a very well produced pamphlet. Where do you get a thing like this printed? Is it expensive? You don't mind my asking you?
Cornelius Cardew: Oh no, not at all. I know a very good printer in Dorking, just near where I live. An excellent man of anarchistic views. He gives me very good rates.
Sir Randolph: Ah, special terms. Hmm. He wouldn't give me such good ones, I suppose.
Cardew: Are you a pamphleteer too, sir?
Sir Randolph: Well, I was thinking of making a sort of foray in that ...
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: Autumn 1913

Closing credits epilogue:

Captain Lionel Stephens MC killed in action Ypres 1915

Oberstleutenant Count Tibor Rakessyi killed in action Stobykhva 1916

Lieutenant Marcus Nettleby killed in action Delville Wood, The Somme 1916

Lance-Sergeant Walter Weir died of wounds Gallipoli 1915

Private John Hoskins killed in action Passchendaele 1917 See more »


Version of The Shooting Party (1978) See more »

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User Reviews

A beautifully articulate summary of an era.
13 October 1999 | by Lloyd-23See all my reviews

The Shooting Party is set in 1913, which is not very long ago, and yet is another world. This was the last year of the old world, and the start of the modern world. The opening narration by James Mason sets the theme: that the world of the haves and have-nots is doomed, and that the future holds great change.

This was Mason's last film, and his was a part very well suited to him. He is the great patriarch, head of the family, and benign chief of the great estate. He is not a soppy fool, but he is kind and means well to all. He invites many aristocrats to his estate for a few days of shooting, and these arrive, with their servants.

In the house, then, are representatives of much of the world at that time: the upper classes, some British, some foreign, and the lower classes, some servants, some local rustics who will be the beaters for the shoot. The film then shows us how they are all behaving.

Both the upper and the lower classes are stuck in their ways, though if anything, it is the upper class which questions whether this is the way things should be. When the shooting pauses for tea, the posh folk sit elegantly but uncomfortably in a clean white marquee, and drink from china, while the beaters look far happier drinking from mugs from a communal urn and chatting amongst themselves.

The foreign aristocrats are haughty, and annoy the British by referring to the beaters as "peasants". The British aristocrats are not happy. Two young idealists are in the agony of a forbidden love, others have sham marriages or petty rivalries.

The world is one full of love, but much of it frustrated. A boy has a pet duck, which he fears will be shot. Mason has a liking for a local poacher whom he hires as a beater, despite the contempt which the hunt master has for the man. By the end of the film, you feel great liking and sympathy for many of the characters.

To get the most from this film, some knowledge of history and British culture is required, but there is much to like in this film without these. The acting and dialogue are good, the setting atmospheric, and what is being said about the people of the time is so very fair. This film does not hammer home any of its points, but shows both the good and the bad in the characters, and lets the viewer decide.

All through the film, our present-day knowledge of the slaughter to come in the churned mud of the Somme, Ypres, Paschendale and the Dardenelles stays with us, affecting the way we perceive every nuance. The film makers were clearly aware of this, and take full advantage of it.

The ending is one of the most moving I know from any film. Simple, yet very effective.

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