- Acting of Lead Performers
- Acting of Supporting Cast
- Music Score
- Title Sequence
- Historical Importance
- Would You Recommend?
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Will Wonders Ever Cease?
- Alice Tully-Hall
This has to be a first! I always read the User Comments regarding any film I consider watching. I really do value the opinion of the discerning TCM audience. Not that I always agree, mind you! But regarding this film, I am happy to report that I can agree wholeheartedly with all of the rest of the TCM folks! Bette Davis, my idea of a consummate, thoughtful and dedicated actor, is never better than in "The Virgin Queen". Sure feels good to find I agree with the rest of the "Family" and that there will be no fighting over the remote this time!
The 1950's Success of Bette Davis
The overview of Bette Davis' career on this website is not accurate in several ways. I am going to deal with the error about her so called career slump of the 1950's right here on this film's page. First, by saying, I'd like to have an equal career slump! The most Oscar nominated and international award recipient film, "All About Eve," starring Bette Davis was the Best Picture of 1950 (career slump?). "Payment on Demand" was next in 1951; "Another Man's Poison," 1952; "Phone Call from a Stranger," 1952; "The Star," 1953 (earning her 10th Oscar nomination); :"The Virgin Queen," 1955 (one of her greatest roles as Queen Elizabeth); "The Catered Affair," 1956; "Storm Center," 1956 (now considered sensational); "Star Maker," 1958; "John Paul Jones" 1959; "The Scapegoat," 1959; "Elisabeth McQueeney Story," 1959 (and at least two dozen television appearances & stage performances. Wowee, what a career slump. So many acheivements they can't fit in this little space!
Davis Recreates Her 1939 Role
In 1939, Bette Davis played Queen Elizabeth I (the virgin queen), in a 5 Oscar nominated film with Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland & Vincent Price (& then some). Sixteen years later, Davis recreates the role with Richard Todd playing her love interest, Sir Walter Raleigh, Joan Collins as her lady in waiting, Beth Throgmorton & Herbert Marshall as Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester. The focus of the later life of the virgin queen is upon her deep relationship with Sir Walter Raleigh. When the queen finds he's bedded Beth and impregnated her, she nearly has him beheaded. But, her love for Sir Walter is to strong to do anything but let him sail away with Beth under her flag. Fascination with Queen Elizabeth I has produced several formidable films: Cate Blanchett & Helen Mirren have both played recent version of Queen Elizabeth I. Both are exceellent rendition. But, neither actor goes as far into the character of the virgin queen as Davis. While the others went a little way into the queen's aged appearance, only Davis is daring enough to be bald, wrinkled & ugly enough to seem genuine.
Oscar Winning Classic: Bette Davis
Queen Elizabeth I, known as the 'virgin queen' has been played by the modern actors, Helen Mirren and Cate Blanchett, and quite well at that. But neither come close to giving that classic performance of Bette Davis. Richard Todd deserves accolades as her most interesting challenge, Sir Walter Raleigh. Joan Collins turns in a great performance as her lady in waiting and romantic rival, Beth Throgmorton. The film wouldn't be complete without the venerable Herbert Marshall's character, Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester. It's Davis' cockey accented, amazing performance of queenly stature whenever she enters a scene, and her willingness, no, her demands, to look the age and even be made up to the homliness of her character that takes her performance beyond great to classic. The Oscar won for costumes is nearly an understatement. I'm surprised this film only took home 1 Oscar. The setting and direction are ever so notable too.
Going the Distance for the Role
Director Henry Koster must have been quite challenged to use color by Deluxe to depict the period. Color would make an enormous difference in settings, costumes, makeup, hair designs, for example. Bette Davis takes the commanding lead as Queen Elizabeth I, also known as "The Virgin Queen." Her biggest challenge is over Sir Walter Raleigh's (Richard Todd) constant desire to build ships to sail to "the new world" (the US). The saavy queen appoints his as the captain of her palace guard in order to keep in grounded and close to her. Her affedctions towards him grown. However, the beautiful lady in waiting to the Queen, Beth Throgmorton (Joan Collins) captures the heart and body of Sir Walter, which lands him in the tower and both are sentenced to be executed. Bethy is pregnant with his child and begs the queen for mercy. The Queen relents and Sir Walter and his wife sail off with the queens colors flying on the ship's mast. Davis is the only convincing Queen Eliabeth I I've ever seen. As was her pattern, she went the full length to become the aging and homely enough queen which none of the modern actors dared to do. Here's to the sheer gutsiness of Bette Davis: queen of the silver screen.
My Favorite Elizabeth I
No one plays Elizabeth I like Bette Davis, though a half dozen or so have already tried. This cast is just right for the film. Richard Harris shares many great scenes with Davis. She likes British actors saying their better than US men actors. Joan Collins certain isn't the "Dynasty" b_t_h as the closest women of the court to the queen. Davis goes further into the queen's struggle with being constantly pressured to marry, and when she doesn't has a very difficult time dealing with her age. Davis allows her appearance as the aging queen become dramatically aged to the degree that she's homely. That's the beauty of the actor who's in the business to make the best films possible and not to be the best 'movie star' or glamour puss possible. Glamour seems like a trite goal whenever the name of Bette Davis is brought up. This film epitomizes her willingness to be the character to whatever degree of changing herself it takes.
One Virgin Queen, One Bette Davis
There are many versions of this film or films similar to it, plot wise. The reason that Cate Blanchett's and Helen Mirren's versions of Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen don't measure up to this one starring Bette Davis is a major one. Davis is the only actor who goes far enough into character to get to the depth of Queen Elizabeth's struggle with aging. Davis didn't have her ego invested in looking like a glamour queen on screen, whenever her character called for her to look awful. Part of what makes this version work where the other's fail is Davis' willingness, confidence and daring to be ugly in order to really delve into this character. That is why I rate it quite high. So much so that it's a classic.
The events surrounding the life and reign of Queen Elizabeth I, as performed by Bette Davis (the Queen), Richard Todd (Sir Walter Raleigh) and Joan Collins (Beth), are ones that interest me. I'm more impressed with the performance of Bette Davis, which is incredible, than I am with the events. Miss Davis' Queen is the best of 4 different actors' that I've watched. Hers is much more realistic than the actors who didn't go far enough into character to depict the less flattering features of the Queen. I recommend this version.
The 5th Warner Bro.: Free at Last & How!
In this 20th Century Fox production, Bette Davis breaks free of Warner's contract at long last and immoralizes her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth I. With Richard Todd playing Sir Walter Raleigh & Joan Collins the Queen's closest lady in waiting, Beth & the legendary Herbert Marshall as the Earl of Leicester, Robert Dudley, there's only one way to rank this stellar film: CLASSIC. All of the modern remakes use leads who remain too attractive, or don't go far enough into the make-up department, to compare with Bette Davis' mirror-shattering queen.
Several Virgin Queens: Only 1 Bette Davis
There's Cate Blanchett, 'the virgin queen' & Helen Mirren, too. Both are quite accomplished 21st century actors. But, there's only 1 Bette Davis & for me, that means there only 1 grand version of "The Virgin Queen." Richard Todd's performance as Sir Walter Raleigh pales Errol Flynn's as Lord Essex (in "Elizabeth & Essex"). Davis had been known to take roles of unappealing women for 20 some years. Yet at only 5'2", when she struts between a line of court officials, Bette Davis' Queen Elizabeth is towering & regal with a cockneyed accent ta boot. Classic Davis film.
My Favorite of All the Versions
There's no one like Bette Davis playing Queen Elizabeth I, the daughter of Henry the VIII who beheaded her mother. Richard Tood plays her love interest, Sir Walter Raleigh. Davis has to go into a character that's much older than she; keep to a cockneyed English accent; take on a homely appearance & most of all create stately emotions of a monarch as well as romantic ones that are betrayed. Her presence is regal.