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Sir Walter Raleigh gains audience with Queen Elizabeth I and soon wins her over to his way of thinking. He wants ships to sail and make a name for England. A young ward of the court, Beth Throgmorton, is strongly attracted to Raleigh and returns the attraction. But soon the Queen shows her desires and he bends in order to achieve his goal of ships. But still he loves Beth. Written by
The second time that actress Bette Davis portrays English monarch Queen Elizabeth I. See more »
At the concluding scene of the movie, Queen Elizabeth looks through her window with a telescope, an invention of 1608, five years after her death in 1603. See more »
[the Queen enters as Raleigh is on his knees trying to pick up Beth Throgmorton's broken pearl necklace]
Queen Elizabeth I:
Is this your pet swine? You've cast your pearls before him.
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Opening credits prologue: In 1581 all the roads of England led to London for better or worse. See more »
"The Virgin Queen" was the second film in which Bette Davis played Queen Elizabeth I of England. The first was "The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex", made when Davis was a young woman in her early thirties, even though it is set during a period during which the historical Elizabeth would have been in her sixties. "The Virgin Queen" displays a greater concern for accuracy, at least as far as the Queen's age is concerned; it is ostensibly set in 1581 when Elizabeth would have been 48, around the same age as Davis was in 1955, although the events it describes actually took place several years after that date.
Like "The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex" it deals with the relationship between the Queen and one of her favourites, in this case Sir Walter Raleigh. Although the film is generally classified as a historical drama, it can in fact be seen as a romantic comedy in period dress and observes most of the conventions of that genre. It would be easy to update the plot to a modern setting; "Walt, an up-and-coming young executive with ambitious plans for expanding the business, has caught the eye of his formidable lady boss Elizabeth, but he only has eyes for her attractive young assistant". For the business expansion plans, read Raleigh's ambitions to found English colonies in the New World, and for the attractive young assistant read the Queen's maid of honour Elizabeth Throckmorton, here generally referred to as "Beth" to distinguish her from her monarch. (I doubt if anyone ever referred to the Queen as "Beth", at least not to her face). Of course, a sixteenth-century rom-com has an extra edge over a twenty-first century one in that the penalty Walt might face for a wrong step is not the sack but the loss of his head.
The film's most distinctive feature is its visual style; the background colours are fairly muted, but bright primary colours, especially reds and blues, stand out in the foreground, giving it something of the look of a painting. The clothes of the wealthy classes of this period tended to be sumptuous, so it is perhaps not surprising that the film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Costume Design.
That apart, there is little about the film which really makes it stand out. It does not really represent Davis' best work when compared to earlier films such as "Jezebel" or "The Letter". Nevertheless, as a historical romance it is a very enjoyable one. Richard Todd plays Raleigh as a dashing hero in the Errol Flynn-Stewart Granger tradition, and the lovely Joan Collins makes a splendidly spirited heroine as Beth. (It is a misconception that Collins could only play villainesses; in her early days she was often cast as the heroine). This is the sort of film that makes entertaining, if undemanding, watching on a wet Sunday afternoon. 6/10
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