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Mary Stuart returns to Scotland to rule as queen, to the chagrin of Elizabeth I of England who finds her a dangerous rival. There is much ado over whom Mary shall marry; to her later regret, she picks effete Lord Darnley over the strong but unpopular Earl of Bothwell. A palace coup leads to civil war and house arrest for Mary; she escapes and flees to England, where a worse fate awaits her. Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Opening credits: "Like two fateful stars, Mary Stuart and Elizabeth Tudor appeared in the sixteenth century, to reign over two great nations in the making ... They were doomed to a life-and-death struggle for supremacy, a lurid struggle that still shines across the pages of history ... But today, after more than three centuries, they sleep side by side, at peace, in Westminster Abbey."
Katharine Hepburn plays the young queen in this John Ford version of the rivalry between Mary of Scots and her cousin, Elizabeth I (played by Florence Eldridge; whose husband Fredric March plays a jaunty Lord Bothwell). Cut back to the bare bones, and squarely on the differences between the two women, it isn't altogether successful.
John Knox rants his Protestant spiel, Bothwell appears with a retinue of pipers (at several points); Darnley's murder is glossed over, as is his smallpox. John Carradine has a well-defined role as the ill-fated David Rizzio, while Mary's parasitical court of Lords are quirkily represented and dismissed.
Hepburn isn't as bad as one would fear, but it wasn't really a suitable role for her, nor, one would expect, was the material enough for tough director Ford to make much of. So this film remains a misfire, with some interesting sequences and some strong performances, but as a whole, it just doesn't work.
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