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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Caught on Tape: Elizabeth I

In this episode of Caught on Tape we follow the Virgin Queen, Gloriana, Elizabeth I, take your pick of names. I haven’t read a lot of the historical novels on Elizabeth, as she isn’t one of my favorite historical people, and I haven’t seen any of these films either – although after putting together this list there are several I would love to see. I really think my historical movie quota is lacking – after looking at how many movies I have featured in this series of posts, and how many of them I have not seen. Here we will take a look at some of the early movies as well as some of the most recent – it is weird how I didn’t really find any between the 1950’s and 1990’s/2000’s.

The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)

“Tempers flared between stars Bette Davis and Errol Flynn on the set of Michael Curtiz's lavish production about the tumultuous love affair of Elizabeth I (Davis) and the ambitious young Earl of Essex (Flynn). Elizabeth mistrusts Essex's intentions with good reason -- his desire for power is stronger than his love for England. Olivia de Havilland and Vincent Price costar.” (from Netflix)

The wonderful Bette Davis and Errol Flynn (post Robin Hood) take the lead in this very early historical romance. This was the earliest clip that I could find, although there appear to have been some silent films made about the life of Glorianna. The film is based on a play by Maxwell Anderson called Elizabeth the Queen. From what little I know about the reign of Elizabeth, this romance is not realistic. Flynn is absolute eye candy while Davis makes a striking Elizabeth (not necessarily a pretty one as we will see portrayed next). Davis would go on to play Elizabeth again in 1955 in The Virgin Queen. I found it interesting that the trailer says filmed in Technicolor, but the trailer was in black and white! I guess you would have been excited to see the film after the trailer because of the color. The film received 5 Academy Award nominations, including one for Best Color Cinematography.

Young Bess (1953)

“Chronicles the life of queen Elizabeth I, before she became the queen of England. Apart from taking part in the court intrigues, she has an unhappy love for Admiral Thomas Seymour, and dreams of building a navy to match the Portuguese and the Spanish.” (from IMDB)

This movie looks like your typical 1950’s costume romantic drama. This movie stars Jean Simmons as Young Bess, Charles Laughton reprises his role as Henry VIII, Stewart Granger as Thomas Seymour and Deborah Kerr as Catherine Parr. Simmons almost didn’t get this role because she was considered to be too pretty for the role of Elizabeth. Charles Laughton looks great as Henry. I love the scene around 1:40 between Elizabeth and Henry – I don’t think that would have ever happened. I also am pretty sure that this story of love between Thomas and Elizabeth did not happen either. The movie was nominated for two Academy Awards – for Art Design and Costume. Jean makes a beautiful Elizabeth and she starred in several other historically based films (such as Desiree).

Elizabeth (1998)

Shekhar Kapur's Oscar-winning treatise on absolute power and its human toll sees fledgling queen Elizabeth I (Cate Blanchett) sacrificing happiness with her lover (Joseph Fiennes) for her own safety and placing her trust in her stealthy "spymaster," Sir Francis Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush). The so-called "Virgin Queen" took the throne of a Roman Catholic country, declared the nation Protestant and ruled for 45 years -- but at great personal cost.” (from Netflix)

Cate Blanchett plays another pretty (but more realistic) version of Elizabeth. This movie also has a great cast – co starring Joseph Fiennes as Robert Dudley (the first movie we have seen the character appear in thus far) and Geoffrey Rush as Francis Walsingham. This is a Hollywood version of Elizabeth’s life, you can find a whole long list of historical inaccuracies online. None-the-less, this movie has won a slew of awards.

Elizabeth I: Red Rose of the House of Tudor (2000)

“Adapted from the beloved Scholastic Book Series, Dear America, The Royal Diaries focuses on the diaries of three real princesses in three separate adventures. Each story is an accurate depiction about what life would have been like in the era covered by each story and as seen through the eyes of teenage girls. The Royal Diaries mixes the magic of storytelling with historical events, bringing these unique girls to life. Let these teen princesses surround you with the adventures, struggles and responsibilities of being part of a royal family while still being true to themselves.

Includes 3 Stories:
Elizabeth I: Red Rose of the House of Tudor
Isabel: Jewel of Castilla
Cleopatra VII: Daughter of the Nile”
(from Amazon)

This is one part of a three part TV series based on three of the Royal Diaries YA books. One segment is on Elizabeth and the other two that are also on the DVD are Cleopatra and Isabella of Castille. These episodes originally aired on HBO. It is presented in diary format like the book and told from the pre-teen/teenaged perspective. The scene with King Henry trying to mount his house is hilarious. Tamara Hope is the young Elizabeth. This is not the most indepth of movies, but this would be appealing to a YA audience, paired with the books of course!

Elizabeth I Mini-series (2005)

Helen Mirren earned a pair of Emmy and Golden Globe awards for her impassioned portrayal of Queen Elizabeth I in this HBO miniseries that explores the effect of the monarch's public role on her private life. Unable to wed the man she loves (Jeremy Irons, in an Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning role), Elizabeth flirts with the idea of marrying a French prince and later sets her sights on the earl's stepson.” (from Netflix)

This miniseries featured on HBO focuses on the last 25 years of Elizabeth’s reign. There are two, two-hour segments. The first part focuses primarily on her relationship with Robert Dudley while the second part focuses on the problems during the end of her reign, including the issue of Mary, Queen of Scots. The fabulous Helen Mirren plays Elizabeth in a role that earned her much acclaim. Jeremy Irons (as Robert Dudley) and Hugh Dancy (as her later man of interest, the Earl of Essex) are the male co-stars here. This mini-series comes to me highly recommended.

Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007)

“Cate Blanchett earned another nod from the Academy as the Virgin Queen -- reprising her Oscar-nominated role from 1998's Elizabeth -- in this lushly costumed but historically muddy sequel from director Shekhar Kapur. Focusing on the queen's tempestuous relationship with the adventurer Sir Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen), the film also stars Geoffrey Rush as the queen's adviser, Sir Francis Walsingham, and Samantha Morton as Mary, Queen of Scots.” (from Netflix)

Cate Blachette reprises her role as Elizabeth in her second film on the Queen – this time focusing on the later aspects on her reign. It seems the focus of late is on her later life while in earlier decades it was on the romances of her early life. Geoffrey Rush also reprises his role as Francis Walsingham, while Clive Owen takes over the hunk factor from Joseph Fiennes as Sir Walter Raleigh. As with the first, this movie is full of creative license when it comes to historical fact; an issue that Cate Blanchett addressed in an interview, “It's terrifying that we are growing up with this very illiterate bunch of children, who are somehow being taught that film is fact, when in fact it's invention. Hopefully, though, a historical film will inspire people to go and read about the history. But in the end it is a work of history and selection". This movie receive less stellar reviews that the 1998 outing.

What films have you seen where Elizabeth I is present? If you have seen any of the above, what did you think?

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. Lovely post -- I've seen only two of these -- the Cate Blanchett ones -- and they're very pretty but so historically wonky they make me a bit twitchy! I am definitely going to seek out the Helen Mirren version, tho!

  2. I'd like to see Elizabeth & Essex and Young Bess. I loved Elizabeth I with Cate Blanchett but the Golden Age wasn't nearly as good. The mini-series with Helen Mirren was FANTASTIC!

  3. Audra - I haven't seen any of these yet - I really want to see the Helen Mirren one, I have heard so many good things about it. I'm glad to know ahead of time that the Cate Blanchette ones are not that historical...

    Holly - I too want to see Young Bess...unfortunately Netflix doesn't have it - so I will have to look elsewhere.

  4. I enjoyed the Cate Blanchett movies because they were pretty, and I love Cate...but yeah, historical weirdness abounds. And I want to see the Helen Mirren miniseries!

    And if you want completely a-historical but fun fluff, try Errol Flynn (again) in The Seahawk, with Flora Robson as Queen E. She may be my favorite film Elizabeth, even if the movie is complete fabrication :)

  5. Rowenna - I will have to check out this Errol Flynn movie! Thanks for the recommendation.

  6. I've seen Elizabeth 1 with Cate Blanchett, but it made me want to throw things at the screen. I also have seen the Virgin Queen with Anne Marie Duff. That one was a little better. I'm interested in seeing the Young Royals one, I loved that book when I was little. I must have read it at least once a week.

  7. Gothicangel18 - The Young Royals is on youtube - you can watch the whole thing in segments. I had read about the Virgin Queen - I will have to check that one out. Thanks.


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