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 <email@example.com>
Contrary to the play and the film, Mary and Elizabeth never met. See more »
A screen caption introduces a setting as "Holyrood Castle". Properly this building, now the monarch's official residence in Scotland, is known as the Palace of Holyroodhouse sometimes shortened to Holyroodhouse or Holyrood, but never as Holyrood Castle. See more »
You never can count on a woman. Marry her, and she turns to ice.
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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."
A Romantic Look at the passion of two female rulers
Mary of Scotland is not based on the exact historical record, but on Maxwell Anderson's play. However Anderson was trying to dramatize the difference between Elizabeth Tudor and Mary Stuart. Elizabeth was first and foremost a queen who put her passions on hold when it was a choice between them and the country she governed. Mary Stuart was totally incapable of doing that.
Interesting that Katharine Hepburn played Mary. Hepburn who was probably the liberated woman of the 20th century would have been a natural to play Queen Elizabeth. Too bad in fact she didn't in her career. But she does fine her as Mary. Florence Eldridge plays a cold, calculating Elizabeth. Fredric March as Lord Bothwell is not the hero he's shone to be here.
One thing about Scotland in the 16th century. The kingdom had the unbelievable rotten luck of having a whole succession of minority rulers with regencies for a couple hundred years. The nobles who are depicted here are quite used to having their own way. And when Mary abdicated the throne it went to still another regency when her infant son James became king.
Ian Keith's part as Hepburn's illegitimate half brother the Earl of Moray is an interesting one. In history, I've always thought of him as the real hero. He gave Mary sound advice which had she taken, she would have died on the throne of Scotland.
Vanessa Redgrave's later film shows how the exiled Mary Stuart got tricked into a conspiracy to bring Elizabeth down. I wish that had been done here. She was essentially AbScammed.
Elizabeth and Mary never met in real life, but for dramatic purposes it had to happen here.
It's a good film, not one of the best for any of the principals in the cast or for John Ford. Still it's an interesting piece of cinema although some knowledge of Scottish history might help.
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