Mary, Queen of Scots


2h 8m 1971

Brief Synopsis

In this historical drama, Mary must battle Queen Elizabeth I, her brother James, the Scottish Lords, the Scottish protestants, her husband and herself to secure the crown for her son and heir, the future James I of England.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
Dec 1971
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 22 Dec 1971
Production Company
Hal Wallis Productions; Universal Pictures, Ltd.
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures
Country
Great Britain and United States
Location
England, United Kingdom; Alnwick Castle, Northumberland, Great Britain England; Alnwick Castle, Northumberland, England; Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland, Great Britain England; Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland, England; Chateau De Chenonceaux,France; Hermitage Castle, Scotland, Great Britain; Hermitage Castle,Scotland; London, England, Great Britain; Parham Park, Sussex, England; Sussex-Parham Park, England, Great Britain

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 8m
Sound
70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints), Mono (35 mm prints)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

In 1560 France, the Scottish queen, Mary Stuart, loses her young husband, King Francis II, to a brain infection only a year after their marriage. Resentful and distrustful of Mary, the king's mother, Catherine de Medici, declares herself regent of France until her younger son can assume the throne, leaving Mary powerless. Learning from Scottish messenger James Hepburn, Lord Bothwell, that her mother has died and her half-brother James is now regent of Scotland, Mary agrees to return home to calm her battle-torn country and claim the throne of England where her cousin Elizabeth Tudor has ruled for nearly two years. In England, Elizabeth's close advisor, William Cecil, cautions the queen that the strong French Catholic influence in Scotland is a serious threat to the northern border and will continue to stir the volatile relationship between English Protestants and Catholics. Elizabeth is distracted from events in Scotland when the wife of her lover, Robert Dudley, is found dead. Hoping to quell rumors that Dudley arranged the murder in order to marry Elizabeth, the queen orders Dudley from the court until a trial can exonerate him. In France, Mary is angered upon receiving notice from Elizabeth that she cannot cross through English territory to reach Scotland. Before Mary's departure by sea, Catholic cardinal De Guise presents her to Father Ballard and Italian David Rizzio, both of whom will travel with the Catholic Mary to assist in dealing with the Protestant Scottish lords. Arriving in Scotland, Mary is disappointed by the lack of ceremonial greeting given her by her brother James and the dour lords. Asking after her horses, which were transported by Bothwell's ship, Mary is surprised to hear from James that Bothwell's ship was commandeered by the English and Bothwell imprisoned. Suspecting that James is not pleased by her return and has been instrumental in Bothwell's apprehension, Mary greets the Scottish lords and, hoping to assuage her brother, announces that James will be her chief minister. Riding to Holyrood castle, Mary is disconcerted by the bitter harassment heaped upon her by Reverend John Knox, who scorns Mary's Catholicism. Some weeks later in England, Elizabeth oversees the exercise of Mary's horses and is pleased when Dudley returns to declare he has been cleared of all involvement in his wife's death. Although Elizabeth again refuses to wed the ambitious Dudley, she grows concerned that the impulsive and romantic Scottish queen will re-marry a Catholic, which would be viewed as an act of war against England. Elizabeth conceives of a plan where she will publicly offer to make Mary her successor in the event of Elizabeth's death if Mary will agree to marry Dudley, who has been made the Earl of Leicester. Privately, however, Elizabeth schemes with Cecil to send Bothwell to Scotland, escorted by the handsome, young Henry, Lord Darnley, to convey the offer of succession to Mary. Certain that Mary will scorn Elizabeth's offer and recklessly seek to declare her independence by a romantic entanglement with the English, Catholic Darnley, Elizabeth assures Cecil that in the event Mary should choose to marry Dudley, England will win in any case by placing a Protestant in the Scottish court. Over several weeks Mary becomes involved with Darnley, unaware that the vainglorious young man is secretly also romantically engaged with Rizzio. When Mary announces her intention to marry Darnley, James rejects the plan, declaring that Knox will never approve of a Catholic royal consort. Infuriated by James' continual condescension and refusal to allow her involvement in the country's politics, Mary summarily dismisses him as chief minister, appointing Rizzio in his place. Bothwell warns Mary that she must imprison or execute James to break the Protestant lords' loyalty, but the queen refuses and exiles her brother to England instead. To Bothwell's disappointment, Mary weds Darnley, but Bothwell nevertheless swears his unwavering loyalty and personal dedication to the queen. Although, Mary soon experiences Darnley's willful arrogance and cruelty, she is nevertheless delighted to learn that she is pregnant. After Mary strips her husband of all authority and lavishes attentions on Rizzio, an insanely jealous Darnley accepts an offer made by the head of the Scottish lords, Ruthven, to assassinate Rizzio and overthrow Mary. In London, Elizabeth is provided a copy of Darnley's covenant with the lords and informed by Cecil that everyone in the Scottish court is aware of the plot except Mary and Rizzio. On Cecil's advice, Elizabeth funds James' return to Scotland, hoping to appease the lords. The act is futile, however, as Ruthven leads an incursion to the queen's private rooms where Rizzio is slaughtered as Mary and the vengeful Darnley watch. Fearful that James' return will instigate the lords to go further, Mary and Darnley accept Bothwell's protection at Hermitage Castle. Soon after, Mary gives birth to a son, christened James. Bothwell then leads an army against the Scottish lords who are defeated and exiled after which James imprisoned in Dunbar Castle. Mary agrees to hang James for his betrayal, but he tells her if he dies, she must also execute Darnley for his involvement in Rizzio's murder. Concerned that if she sentences Darnley he will publicly claim the baby was fathered by Rizzio, Mary pardons James. A few months later, when Bothwell tells Mary that Darnley's reckless promiscuity has resulted in his contracting "the pox," the queen is humiliated. Bothwell recommends recalling the exiled Scottish lords who will take Darnley to account for not supporting them as required by the covenant. To Darnley's dismay, Mary pardons the lords and upon their return, Bothwell is drawn into a plot by James to murder the king consort. Lured to his private home in Kirk o' Field, Darnley rests there one evening, while the queen departs to a previously arranged party. The house, whose cellar is full of gunpowder, is set on fire by the lords, but when Darnley escapes just before the explosion, he is brutally assaulted and killed by several lords. In England, Elizabeth is horrified to learn of Darnley's murder and suspects Bothwell, who only a few weeks later marries Mary in a private Protestant ceremony. Shortly after the service, James arrives at Carberry Hill with troops and threatens the couple. Mary pleads with Bothwell not to fight and when James promises Bothwell safe passage to Europe, he accepts. James then demands that Mary abdicate in favor of her son, threatening to publicize letters to Bothwell that reveal Mary's involvement in Darnley's murder. Bothwell vows to return with an army to restore the crown to Mary if she accepts James' offer of safe passage to England after her abdication, and she reluctantly assents. Soon after arriving in England, Mary meets Elizabeth in an isolated glen and asks for her support in restoring her crown. To Mary's fury, Elizabeth declares that when a court has cleared Mary of involvement of Darnley's murder, she will consider her cousin's request, then places her in protective custody. As Mary's confinement stretches over several years, Cecil pleads with Elizabeth to execute her to put an end to the national Protestant and Catholic divide. Increasingly made ill by her dank quarters, Mary continues to hope for a reprieve and is saddened when her son James refuses to correspond with her. Mary also learns with pain that Bothwell has died, insane, in far-off Denmark. Frustrated by Elizabeth's inability to take action against Mary, Cecil works with Lord Francis Walsingham to provide evidence that Mary is involved in a plot to overthrow Elizabeth. Despite the evidence, Elizabeth declares that if Mary asks her pardon she will grant her exile. Elizabeth arranges to meet Mary once again and although Mary readily apologizes directly to her cousin, but demands a public trial. Elizabeth reminds her of the letters tying Mary to Darnley's murder and warns her there is ample evidence of her involvement in the recent plot. Mary boldly accepts her death but reminds Elizabeth that she must live with having ordered the death of her equal. Soon afterward, a despondent Elizabeth signs the execution decree and days later Mary courageously meets her end.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
Dec 1971
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 22 Dec 1971
Production Company
Hal Wallis Productions; Universal Pictures, Ltd.
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures
Country
Great Britain and United States
Location
England, United Kingdom; Alnwick Castle, Northumberland, Great Britain England; Alnwick Castle, Northumberland, England; Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland, Great Britain England; Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland, England; Chateau De Chenonceaux,France; Hermitage Castle, Scotland, Great Britain; Hermitage Castle,Scotland; London, England, Great Britain; Parham Park, Sussex, England; Sussex-Parham Park, England, Great Britain

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 8m
Sound
70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints), Mono (35 mm prints)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Award Nominations

Best Actress

1971
Vanessa Redgrave

Best Art Direction

1971
Terence Marsh

Best Costume Design

1971
Margaret Furse

Best Score

1971

Best Sound

1971

Quotes

Trivia

Released the same year as the mini-series "Elizabeth R" (1971) (mini) in which Glenda Jackson also played Queen Elizabeth I.

Vanessa Redgrave had to learn the title song "Vivre et Mourir" phonetically because she could not speak French.

Notes

The opening and closing cast credits differ slightly in order. The following written epilogue appears in the closing credits: "Elizabeth ruled England for another sixteen years. She died as she had lived, unmarried and childless. The Thrones of England and Scotland passed to the only possible claimant...a man, King James the First-only son of Mary Stuart...Queen of Scots."
       The film had a long production history. According to a July 1961 Hollywood Reporter news item, writer James Kennaway and director Alexander McKendrick had completed a script entitled Mary, Queen of Scots which was to be shot in England the following year. A Hollywood Reporter 1965 news item stated that director Anatole de Grunwald was interested in a project on the Scottish queen for M-G-M. A 1968 Daily Variety article stated producer Robert Fryer was also considering a project on Queen Mary with Maggie Smith in the starring role and her then-husband, Robert Stephens, in the role of "Lord Bothwell." In January 1969, a Daily Variety news item indicated that Mia Farrow would star as "Mary" in McKendrick's production. A September 1970 Variety item noted that producer Hal B. Wallis had taken over that production, for which John Hale was writing an original screenplay and Charles Jarrott would likely direct.
       As in the earlier film biographies on her, Mary, Queen of Scots was generally historically correct in the portrayal of the turbulent life of the queen. The film correctly illustrated England's Queen Elizabeth I's fears that Mary would wed a Catholic after King Francis's death, due to the Catholic view that Mary was the rightful heir to the English throne, as they considered Elizabeth's birth illegitimate. As shown in the film, Elizabeth did indeed offer to help Mary select a husband and suggested her own long-time close companion, Robert Dudely, Earl of Leicester.
       The murder of Lord Darnley, as portrayed in the film, was instigated by Mary's half-brother, James Stewart, Earl of Moray and was then taken over by James Hepburn, Lord Bothwell. As depicted in the film, Mary's involvement in the assassination was never established. Mary, Queen of Scots depicts the relationship between Mary and Bothwell as highly romantic, but according to various historical sources, their marriage was made in haste, occurring three months after Darnley's murder and after Bothwell had arranged a quick divorce from his wife, Lady Jean. Historical sources suggest that Bothwell forcibly took Mary to Dunbar castle. Six weeks after the marriage, Mary was taken prisoner by the Scottish lords and accused by her brother James, using the infamous "Casket Letters" (later proven forgeries) between herself and Bothwell, of plotting Darnley's murder. Mary agreed to abdicate in favor of her son James.
       As the film relates, upon reaching early adulthood, James ignored his mother's requests for assistance as she languished under English captivity and instead cultivated a relationship with Elizabeth. Despite the written epilogue at the conclusion of the film which impies that Elizabeth had no hand in choosing the next English ruler, she named James as her successor just before her death.
       The film does not reveal that over her many years of confinement in England, Mary traveled between numerous residences before arriving ultimately at Fotheringhay Castle, where Elizabeth's long-time "spymaster", Lord Francis Walsingham, arranged evidence connecting Mary with a plot against the English queen. Deeply distressed to direct the death of a sovereign equal, Elizabeth put off signing Mary's order of execution for four months after Parliament's decree. The execution of Mary in the film is historically correct, her red dress symbolizing Catholic martyrdom. For further information on the history of Queen Mary, see the entry for the 1936 production Mary of Scotland.
       Mary, Queen of Scots was shot on location in France, Scotland, Northumberland and Sussex at the Chateau De Chenonceaux, Hermitage Castle, Almwick Castle, Bamburgh Castle and Parham Park. The film was nominated for the following Academy Awards: Best Actress (Vanessa Redgrave), Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Music (Original Dramatic Score) and Best Sound.
       John Hale had adapted the Maxwell Anderson play Anne of a Thousand Days, about the relationship between King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, parents of Elizabeth I, for the 1969 Universal production, also directed by Charles Jarrott. Anderson received a Pulitzer for his play Mary of Scotland in 1933. A film based on Anderson's play was released by RKO in 1936, Mary of Scotland, which starred Katharine Hepburn as Mary, Florence Eldridge as Elizabeth and her husband Fredric March as Bothwell, directed by John Ford. Another film about Mary was the 1923 British silent called The Loves of Mary, Queen of Scots, directed by Denison Clift and starring Fay Compton. The same year that Mary, Queen of Scots was released, Glenda Jackson also essayed the role of Elizabeth in the BBC produced television mini-series, Elizabeth Regina. Hale wrote the opening episode of the much acclaimed, historically accurate series.
       Queen Mary has been featured in numerous other feature films and teleplays, including the 2004 BBC television mini-series, Gunpowder, Treason & Plot, directed by Gillies MacKinnon and starring Clémence Poésy as Mary and the 2005 BBC-Channel 4-HBO production,Elizabeth I with Barbara Flynn as Mary and Helen Mirren a Elizabeth.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter December 1971

Released in United States Winter December 1971