The Virgin Queen


1h 32m 1955
The Virgin Queen

Brief Synopsis

Sir Walter Raleigh wins favor with the Queen in order to get financing for a proposed voyage to the New World.

Film Details

Also Known As
Raleigh and the Virgin Queen, Sir Walter Raleigh, The Hawk and the Vulture
Genre
Romance
Drama
Historical
Release Date
Aug 1955
Premiere Information
World premiere in Portland, ME: 22 Jul 1955; Los Angeles opening: 3 Aug 1955; New York opening: 5 Aug 1955
Production Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 32m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.55 : 1
Film Length
8,255ft (10 reels)

Synopsis

In 1581, as Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester travels to London, his carriage becomes mired in the mud. Leicester orders the occupants of a nearby inn to help him, but they refuse until one, Walter Raleigh, recognizes him and rallies his friends to free the carriage. When Raleigh introduces himself, Leicester, who was friends with Raleigh's father, recalls meeting Raleigh as a boy. Raleigh, who served in the English Army in Ireland, along with his Irish friend, Lord Derry, asks Leicester to introduce him to Queen Elizabeth, and Leicester agrees. In London, Raleigh relates to Leicester his dream of building three ships of his own design and sailing them to the New World in search of wealth. After Leicester advises him to obtain suitable attire for his introduction at court, Raleigh talks a bewildered tailor into renting him the finest cloak in his establishment. At court, the sharp-witted Elizabeth is intrigued by the handsome Raleigh and invites him to dine with her. As they walk outside, Raleigh spreads his cloak over a muddy puddle so that the queen does not soil her feet, and his gesture further pleases Elizabeth while engendering the jealousy of her current favorite, Sir Christopher Hatton. During dinner, Raleigh irritates Elizabeth with insistent talk of his ships, but the squabbling couple are too well matched in wit and intelligence for Elizabeth to dismiss Raleigh completely. As he is leaving the palace, Raleigh is approached by Beth Throgmorton, a lady-in-waiting whom he met earlier, and although Raleigh swears that he will not return to plead before the queen, Beth asserts that he will. Soon after, Leicester visits Raleigh and Derry with news that Elizabeth has appointed Raleigh the captain of her palace guard. Raleigh, infuriated by Elizabeth's ploy, wants to refuse, but Leicester assures him that the palace is the perfect place for an ambitious man. Hoping to gain Elizabeth's favor, and thereby his ships, Raleigh acquieces and brings along Derry. One day, as Raleigh is inspecting the guard, Beth teases him about being the queen's new "lapdog." Raleigh is angered, and soon after, Beth again taunts him during a hunt, when Elizabeth orders him to set up her picnic. The queen sees Raleigh and Beth quarreling, and jealously tells Raleigh that the courtiers are not allowed to dally with her ladies. Later, at the palace, Elizabeth is approached by the French ambassador, who again broaches the subject of her marriage, much desired by the French queen, to a young French duke. Elizabeth, who has been stalling the marriage for five years in order to keep France from allying with Spain, throws out the ambassador. Seeing how irritated Elizabeth is, Hatton takes advantage of the situation by telling her that Raleigh has installed an Irishman in the palace guard. Hatton strongly hints that Derry is an assassin sent to kill the queen, and Raleigh reacts violently to his accusations. Later that evening, Elizabeth demands that Raleigh apologize for his behavior, but the headstrong courtier, sick of humbling himself, even for the queen, refuses. Raleigh storms out and is later met by Beth, who spends several hours with him in his rooms. Late at night, Raleigh and Beth, in front of the innkeeper and a servant, exchange their own wedding vows as a pledge of their love. Before Raleigh and Beth can escape with Derry, the palace guard come to arrest Raleigh. Beth returns to the palace safely, while in her bedchamber, Elizabeth pleads illness to pacify the French ambassador. Raleigh is brought to the queen, who charms him into pledging not to indulge in any swordplay with Hatton. Raleigh is astounded when Elizabeth then knights him and agrees to give him one ship. Raleigh rushes to tell Beth the good news, but she accuses him of "selling his favors cheaply" by putting up with Elizabeth's temper for only one ship instead of three. Especially angry that Raleigh did not tell the queen about their marriage, Beth quarrels with him, and he vows never to see Beth again. In Plymouth, Raleigh works with shipbuilder Randall to re-design an existing ship, the Golden Falcon . Meanwhile, in London, Beth overhears Elizabeth tell Hatton that she has no intention of letting Raleigh leave England. Realizing that Beth and Raleigh have formed some sort of attachment, Elizabeth also decides to send her ladies-in-waiting to France as a sign of good will. A rider arrives in Plymouth to tell Raleigh that he must return to London for the ship's cannons to be fitted, and also relates him the gossip that one of the queen's ladies is pregnant. Raleigh immediately rides to Beth's house, where she confirms that she is pregnant. The couple is reconciled and Raleigh plots to sail for the New World directly from Plymouth, with Beth by his side. Derry warns his friend that the plan is too dangerous, but Raleigh assures him that Elizabeth's greed will prompt her forgiveness when he returns with spices, gold and other treasures. Courtier Chadwick arrives in Plymouth and is suspicious of Raleigh's hurry to finish the ship, as well as the installation of a large bed in the captain's quarters. When Chadwick returns to London, he and Hatton reveal to Elizabeth that Raleigh has married Beth, and the infuratiated queen orders their arrest. Derry and Beth escape when Raleigh is arrested, but soon they, too, are apprehended, and Derry is killed during the struggle. Beth pleads with Elizabeth for Raleigh's life and, failing to sway her, warns that the queen cannot execute her until she has given birth. Elizabeth angrily retorts that men, including Raleigh, have loved her for her mind and spirit, even if they have been tempted by pretty faces such as Beth's. Later, Elizabeth visits Raleigh in the Tower, where he is being held, and accuses him of treason. Raleigh is outraged that she intends to have Beth executed, and the pair reprimand each other for their perceived betrayals. Finally realizing that she cannot live without Raleigh, even though she cannot control him, Elizabeth relents, allowing him and Beth to go free. Soon after, Leicester gently guides Elizabeth to a palace window and shows her the Golden Falcon as it sails down the Thames. Although she is displeased by the sight of Beth on the deck with Raleigh, Elizabeth is cheered to see her own royal scarf waving from the main mast as a sign of Raleigh's devotion.

Film Details

Also Known As
Raleigh and the Virgin Queen, Sir Walter Raleigh, The Hawk and the Vulture
Genre
Romance
Drama
Historical
Release Date
Aug 1955
Premiere Information
World premiere in Portland, ME: 22 Jul 1955; Los Angeles opening: 3 Aug 1955; New York opening: 5 Aug 1955
Production Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 32m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.55 : 1
Film Length
8,255ft (10 reels)

Award Nominations

Best Costume Design

1955
Mary Wills

Articles

The Virgin Queen (1955) - The Virgin Queen


When Bette Davis first played Queen Elizabeth I onscreen in Essex and Elizabeth (1939), she was enjoying her own reign in Hollywood -- not only professionally, after a decade of thrilling work that included Of Human Bondage (1934) and Jezebel (1938), but personally, as she juggled love affairs with William Wyler and Howard Hughes while still married to another man. By 1955, however, her star had tarnished considerably. The temporary triumph of All About Eve (1950) had given way to roles in a series of forgotten films and a stint on Broadway cut short by a serious jaw infection. It took her three years to recuperate, a convalescence extended by that familiar Hollywood actress's lament of not enough good roles for older women. (Additionally, she and new husband Gary Merrill had discovered their adopted daughter Margot was mentally retarded and would require special care for the rest of her life.) It was not a stretch to play a powerful, forceful woman stretched to the edge, but luckily Davis recounted in her autobiography The Lonely Life that returning to Elizabeth I in The Virgin Queen (1955) "was an exciting project to me and a subject I felt important to make a film about."

That subject -- the sparring love-hate relationship between the queen and Sir Walter Raleigh (played by Irish-born charmer Richard Todd) -- was appealing to Twentieth Century Fox executives too. They'd been looking for a way to groom Todd for bigger stardom, and had intended to title the movie after his character (before deciding, strangely, that Americans wouldn't know how to pronounce "Raleigh".) After triumphing in a sword fight, Raleigh acquires an audience with the queen to share his grand plans for English sea exploration. He meets not only the imperious ruler (Bette Davis) at court but the equally wily young coquette Beth Throgmorton (Joan Collins, in her first American movie role). "I'm not quite sure whether you please me or not," the perplexed queen snaps, after Raleigh pulls grandiose stunts like laying his fine cloak over a puddle for her to tread upon, but soon she makes up her mind. Trouble is, Throgmorton -- and Raleigh -- soon make up their minds, too.

For a character who so permeates the film, it's remarkable to reflect that Davis was only needed for eleven shooting days. (That zippy schedule pleased her too: she'd gone into the production committed to three weeks.) Now 47 years old, she did not need the aging makeup she'd worn to play Elizabeth I the first time around, but her commitment to the role included having her eyebrows and hairline shaved back to the crown of her head every day for period accuracy. The ruffed-and-bustled period costumes were suffocatingly hot to wear, but Davis developed a sturdy, stomping walk that hinted at swagger, decrepitude, and the weight of power.

That swaggering power was no act. Joan Collins got a decidedly chilly vibe from Davis on set and did her best to not aggravate the star, most importantly by refraining from chewing gum (a lifelong pet peeve of Davis's). It didn't work -- during one take, Davis got so impatient with how Collins was dawdling putting on a shoe that she kicked her. (But Davis later clarified that the malice directed at her younger co-star was rooted in method acting, not jealousy.) Still, her son Michael came to the set one day, and, after watching his mother direct a bellowing monologue at Todd, turned to his father and asked "Why is Mummy yelling at that man instead of you?" (Director Henry Koster (who'd proven his ability with CinemaScope directing The Robe (1953)) broke his arm during the shooting of The Virgin Queen, and joked that the cast on his arm was easier to handle than the cast of his movie.)

Davis's hair had not grown back by the time she was invited to present the Best Actor award to Marlon Brando at the 1954 Oscars®, and she had to wear a sparkly cap to hide her radical hairline. When the movie was finally released, the Los Angeles Examiner crowed "Like a magnificent war horse, breathing fire and brimstone, Miss Davis injects life and action into the tale, seeming to inspire everyone and everything about her. What a queen!" Unfortunately, The Virgin Queen was not a big box office hit, and Davis's following movie roles remained uninspired until her big comeback in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962). Still, Davis remembered the character of Elizabeth I fondly: "Both times I played her, I had a whale of a time."

by Violet LeVoit

SOURCES:
Bonus commentary. The Virgin Queen. [DVD]. 20th Century Fox, 2008.
Thomson, David. Bette Davis (Great Stars.) Faber & Faber, 2010.
"Bette Davis Estate Near $1 Million; 2 Daughters, Grandsons Left Out." Los Angeles Times, November 7, 1989
McNally, Peter. Bette Davis: The Performances That Made Her Great. McFarland, 2008.
Chandler, Charlotte. The Girl Who Walked Home Alone: Bette Davis: A Personal Biography.Simon & Schuster, 2006.
Davis, Bette. The Lonely Life: An Autobiography.G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1962.
Latham, Bethany. Elizabeth I in Film and Television: A Study of the Major Portrayals.McFarland, 2011.

The Virgin Queen (1955) - The Virgin Queen

The Virgin Queen (1955) - The Virgin Queen

When Bette Davis first played Queen Elizabeth I onscreen in Essex and Elizabeth (1939), she was enjoying her own reign in Hollywood -- not only professionally, after a decade of thrilling work that included Of Human Bondage (1934) and Jezebel (1938), but personally, as she juggled love affairs with William Wyler and Howard Hughes while still married to another man. By 1955, however, her star had tarnished considerably. The temporary triumph of All About Eve (1950) had given way to roles in a series of forgotten films and a stint on Broadway cut short by a serious jaw infection. It took her three years to recuperate, a convalescence extended by that familiar Hollywood actress's lament of not enough good roles for older women. (Additionally, she and new husband Gary Merrill had discovered their adopted daughter Margot was mentally retarded and would require special care for the rest of her life.) It was not a stretch to play a powerful, forceful woman stretched to the edge, but luckily Davis recounted in her autobiography The Lonely Life that returning to Elizabeth I in The Virgin Queen (1955) "was an exciting project to me and a subject I felt important to make a film about." That subject -- the sparring love-hate relationship between the queen and Sir Walter Raleigh (played by Irish-born charmer Richard Todd) -- was appealing to Twentieth Century Fox executives too. They'd been looking for a way to groom Todd for bigger stardom, and had intended to title the movie after his character (before deciding, strangely, that Americans wouldn't know how to pronounce "Raleigh".) After triumphing in a sword fight, Raleigh acquires an audience with the queen to share his grand plans for English sea exploration. He meets not only the imperious ruler (Bette Davis) at court but the equally wily young coquette Beth Throgmorton (Joan Collins, in her first American movie role). "I'm not quite sure whether you please me or not," the perplexed queen snaps, after Raleigh pulls grandiose stunts like laying his fine cloak over a puddle for her to tread upon, but soon she makes up her mind. Trouble is, Throgmorton -- and Raleigh -- soon make up their minds, too. For a character who so permeates the film, it's remarkable to reflect that Davis was only needed for eleven shooting days. (That zippy schedule pleased her too: she'd gone into the production committed to three weeks.) Now 47 years old, she did not need the aging makeup she'd worn to play Elizabeth I the first time around, but her commitment to the role included having her eyebrows and hairline shaved back to the crown of her head every day for period accuracy. The ruffed-and-bustled period costumes were suffocatingly hot to wear, but Davis developed a sturdy, stomping walk that hinted at swagger, decrepitude, and the weight of power. That swaggering power was no act. Joan Collins got a decidedly chilly vibe from Davis on set and did her best to not aggravate the star, most importantly by refraining from chewing gum (a lifelong pet peeve of Davis's). It didn't work -- during one take, Davis got so impatient with how Collins was dawdling putting on a shoe that she kicked her. (But Davis later clarified that the malice directed at her younger co-star was rooted in method acting, not jealousy.) Still, her son Michael came to the set one day, and, after watching his mother direct a bellowing monologue at Todd, turned to his father and asked "Why is Mummy yelling at that man instead of you?" (Director Henry Koster (who'd proven his ability with CinemaScope directing The Robe (1953)) broke his arm during the shooting of The Virgin Queen, and joked that the cast on his arm was easier to handle than the cast of his movie.) Davis's hair had not grown back by the time she was invited to present the Best Actor award to Marlon Brando at the 1954 Oscars®, and she had to wear a sparkly cap to hide her radical hairline. When the movie was finally released, the Los Angeles Examiner crowed "Like a magnificent war horse, breathing fire and brimstone, Miss Davis injects life and action into the tale, seeming to inspire everyone and everything about her. What a queen!" Unfortunately, The Virgin Queen was not a big box office hit, and Davis's following movie roles remained uninspired until her big comeback in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962). Still, Davis remembered the character of Elizabeth I fondly: "Both times I played her, I had a whale of a time." by Violet LeVoit SOURCES: Bonus commentary. The Virgin Queen. [DVD]. 20th Century Fox, 2008. Thomson, David. Bette Davis (Great Stars.) Faber & Faber, 2010. "Bette Davis Estate Near $1 Million; 2 Daughters, Grandsons Left Out." Los Angeles Times, November 7, 1989 McNally, Peter. Bette Davis: The Performances That Made Her Great. McFarland, 2008. Chandler, Charlotte. The Girl Who Walked Home Alone: Bette Davis: A Personal Biography.Simon & Schuster, 2006. Davis, Bette. The Lonely Life: An Autobiography.G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1962. Latham, Bethany. Elizabeth I in Film and Television: A Study of the Major Portrayals.McFarland, 2011.

Quotes

It is I who makes the policy of this room, I and I alone!
- Queen Elizabeth I

Trivia

Notes

The working titles of this film were Sir Walter Raleigh, Raleigh and the Virgin Queen and The Hawk and the Vulture. According to a May 12, 1955 Hollywood Reporter news item, the picture was to be released in Great Britian as Sir Walter Raleigh. The film is based on the lives of Elizabeth I (1533-1603) and Walter Raleigh (1552?-1618). For more information on Elizabeth I and motion pictures inspired by her life, see the entry below for Young Bess. As portrayed in The Virgin Queen, Raleigh was one of Elizabeth's favorite courtiers, although the story of him spreading his cloak on the muddy ground for her May be apocryphal. The queen knighted Raleigh in 1585 and bestowed many honors on him, and the adventurous Raleigh conceived several colonizing expeditions to America. Tobacco and potatoes were two of the American products introduced by Raleigh to England. In 1592, Raleigh, who was also a well-known poet, was imprisoned in the Tower of London by Queen Elizabeth for having secretly married one of her maids of honor, Bess Throckmorton. [Bess's name in the film is Beth Throgmorton.] Raleigh won his freedom when one of his expeditions returned to England with a valuable cargo. After Elizabeth's death, Raleigh struggled to maintain the favor of her successor, James I, to little avail. Raleigh spent many years imprisoned in the Tower and was finally executed for treason in 1618.
       According to modern sources, Twentieth Century-Fox production chief Darryl F. Zanuck was so determined to have Bette Davis star in The Virgin Queen that he delayed production on the picture for three years until she decided to accept the role. Davis, who had been in semi-retirement since the 1953 Twentieth Century-Fox release The Star, had previously starred as Elizabeth I in the 1939 Warner Bros. production The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex. The 1939 picture was directed by Michael Curtiz and co-starred Errol Flynn as "Essex" and Vincent Price as "Raleigh" (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40). At Davis' request, Perc Westmore, who did her makeup for the earlier film, was hired to do her makeup for The Virgin Queen. Davis partially shaved her head for the scene in which the queen attempts to shock "Raleigh" by showing him her near baldness. There was a great deal of contemporary publicity about Davis' shaved head, and she appeared at the 1955 Academy Award ceremony wearing an ornate skullcap to disguise her lack of hair. According to a January 17, 1955 Hollywood Reporter news item, Davis was dissatisfied with the script but the problems were "straightened out following a long distance talk" between the star, Zanuck and producer Charles Brackett.
       In September and December 1952, Los Angeles Times reported that Leonard Goldstein would produce the film, with Cornel Wilde considered to star. In September 1953, Hollywood Reporter's "Rambling Reporter" column speculated that Burt Lancaster had been cast as Raleigh and Jeffrey Hunter as "Lord Derry." In January 1954, "Rambling Reporter" announced that Richard Burton was the studio's choice to play Raleigh. Hollywood Reporter news items include the following actors in the cast, although their appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed: George Berkeley, Anthony Dearden, Olaf Hytten, Walter Crain, Frank McGrath, Florence Dublin and Darrin Dublin. Although an January 11, 1955 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that the picture was to be shot partially in London, it was filmed completely in Hollywood. According to studio publicity, director of photography Charles G. Clarke was in Hong Kong working on another film when production on The Virgin Queen began, and so Leon Shamroy filled in for him until his return.
       According to Hollywood Reporter news items, the film's premiere was held in Portland, ME, for the benefit of the Children's Theatre of Portland. Davis was a director of the theater, and she and her then-husband, Gary Merrill, held a cocktail party at their home for the press and celebrity guests invited to the premiere. The Virgin Queen was the first film made in Hollywood by Australian actor Rod Taylor, who had previously appeared in the 1955 Distributors Corp. of America production Long John Silver, which was shot entirely in Australia. The film was nominated for an Academy Award in the Costume Design (Color) category.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Summer July 1955

CinemaScope

Released in United States Summer July 1955