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Queen Elizabeth is running this show. The men in her court should be thinking about how to add to the glory of the Elizabethan Age and how to foil those pesky Spanish who got far too much influence in England when her older sister Mary was on the throne after their father Henry VIII was succeeded by their sickly half brother. Elizabeth thinks Michael Ingolby can do great things. Michael is mostly thinking about one of Elizabeth's ladies in waiting, Cynthia. Soon his mind is on survival when Elizabeth sends him on a voyage to Spain. Written by
Dale O'Connor <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Queen Elizabeth uses a small telescope to check on the progress of her fleet against the Spanish Armada (1588). The telescope was invented in 1608, five years after her death. See more »
You see, Elena, the whole trouble comes from treating your enemies like human beings. Don't you see, my dear, that if you do that they cease to be enemies. Think what that leads to: the end of patriotism; the end of war; it's the end of everything."
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Sir Laurence Olivier once said that he thought his work before Wuthering Heights markedly inferior to that after because it was William Wyler who taught him the art of film acting and the difference between that and the stage. Although he overacts in spots in Fire Over England, even with that it comes natural because the character he's playing is an impetuous youth.
England did not have the big navy and the empire it boasted of in later centuries. Spain was the big kid on the European block in 1587 when this story takes place. It's Hapsburg King, Philip II either directly or through his Hapsburg relations lay claim to about half of western Europe and about 3/5 of the North and South American continents combined.
And Spain was driven by a religious ideology in the Roman Catholic faith with its Inquisition determined to stamp out diversity of thought in it's wake. England had broken away from the Roman Church and the Pope and was asserting its own religious sovereignty.
England didn't have a navy, but it did have privateers, although the Spanish called them pirates. They raided Spanish commerce and exacted a heavy toll in life and property. That got Philip II pretty mad and he set out to build the biggest fleet anyone ever saw to wipe these upstarts out. He called it the Armada.
These upstarts had a female ruler in Elizabeth I, played by Flora Robson. Over 400 years before Germaine Greer and Betty Friedan were writing about feminism, in that most masculine of ages Queen Elizabeth devoted her very existence to her people and sacrificed a lot of personal happiness in doing so. Flora Robson gives the definitive portrait of Elizabeth of England in this film. She did it so well that when she came to America, Warner Brothers had her play Queen Elizabeth again in The Sea Hawk. Elizabeth in this writer's humble opinion was the greatest monarch the English have ever had.
Raymond Massey plays Philip II, a dour humorless man who also unceasingly worked for his country. He's a cunning adversary for Elizabeth.
Fire Over England was the first film that Olivier did with his future wife Vivien Leigh. On this film they started the affair that was the Taylor-Burton romance of it's day. I'm sure the publicity helped the box office here. Vivien Leigh is one of Elizabeth's ladies in waiting and she falls big time for Olivier who has been captured, escapes Spain and then sent on a confidential mission by Elizabeth to find out about some English fifth columnists she suspects. How Olivier escapes the first time and what happens on the mission, well that's for you to see Fire Over England for.
Two other main characters are Lord Burleigh played by Morton Selten and the Earl of Leicester played by Leslie Banks. Leicester in his youth was the lover and chief confidant of Elizabeth even before she became Queen. Their story is a part of the rich tapestry of pageant that was Elizabeth of England's life. Why they didn't marry is a whole film in and of itself and Banks's anguish is captured well here.
Grand entertainment and a grand historical pageant tribute to one of the most heroic times in English history.
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