Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bette Davis plays Elizabeth again

The movie The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex is one I've recommended before. (It aired yet again on Errol Flynn's birthday yesterday.) Bette Davis played England's Queen Elizabeth I in that movie, and would go on to play Elizabeth a second time. That later movie, The Virgin Queen, airs tomorrow morning at 8:00 AM on the Fox Movie Channel.

This one is set a good two decades before Elizabeth and Essex, and the main love of Elizabeth in this film is Sir Walter Raleigh (Richard Todd). Raleigh was a military hero of sorts, but really wanted to get into the court of Elizabeth for a different reason: he wanted to lead an expedition to the New World, and is looking for financial backing for a ship and men. Of course, there's the usual palace intrigue, in that Raleigh has to deal with two other of Elizabeth's lovers: the Earl of Leicester (Herbert Marshall) and Christopher Hatton (Robert Douglas). Also, Raleigh falls in love with one of the Queen's ladies-in-waiting (played by a young Joan Collins), which threatens to bring forth the queen's ire.

Well, we know Raleigh is going to survive; at least, he outlives the Queen but gets beaded by James I in 1618. But that's not a reason to downgrade the movie. After all, we know what's going to happen to Esses in Elizabeth and Essex, and that's quite a good movie. Unfortunately, the story in The Virgin Queen isn't quite as interesting as the one in Elizabeth and Essex. And with the exception of Davis, the characters aren't quite as good either. The one advantage The Virgin Queen does have, though, is technical superiority born largely of the wide-screen cinematography. None of this is to say The Virgin Queen is a bad movie, however; it's just not quite as good as Elizabeth and Essex.

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