Geoffrey Thorpe, a buccaneer, is hired by Queen Elizabeth I to nag the Spanish Armada. The Armada is waiting for the attack on England and Thorpe surprises them with attacks on their galleons where he shows his skills on the sword.
This period drama frames the tumultuous affair between Queen Elizabeth I and the man who would be King of England, Robert Devereux, the Earl of Essex. Ever the victor on the battlefield, Devereux returns to London after defeating Spanish forces at Cadiz. Middle-aged Elizabeth, so attracted to the younger Devereux but fearful of his influence and popularity, sends him on a new mission: a doomed campaign to Ireland. When he and his troops return in defeat, Devereux demands to share the throne with the heir-less queen, and Elizabeth, at first, intends to marry. Ultimately sensing the marriage would prove disastrous for England, Elizabeth sets in motion a merciless plan to protect her people and preserve her throne.Written by
Charles Laughton, whom Bette Davis greatly admired, visited her on the set. Seeing him she greeted him with, "Hi, Pop!" referencing his Oscar-winning portrayal Elizabeth's father Henry VIII in The Private Life of Henry VIII. (1933). While talking together in a corner of the set, the thirty-one year old actress confessed to him that she felt she had bitten off more than she could chew in playing an older Elizabeth. According to the Davis biography 'Fasten Your Seat Belts', he replied, "Never stop daring to hang yourself, Bette!" See more »
At about 20 minutes into the movie, a duet is being performed with a piano and lute. The piano was not yet invented in 1596. It was invented circa 1700. The only keyboard string type instrument, in the time period, was the Harpsichord. See more »
Errol Flynn always complained about being typecast in action roles, but the reasons why are clearly evident in this sometimes ponderous, and sometimes affecting historical drama based on the play by Maxwell Anderson. While Flynn's performance isn't bad it looks positively bland when compared to Bette Davis's superlative performance as the ageing Queen Elizabeth I. Davis furnishes the Queen with all sorts of mannerisms and vocal inflections (while banishing all traces of her American accent) which may or may not be factually accurate (as my only other reference point for Elizabeth is Miranda Richardson's madcap turn in Blackadder it's impossible for me to know). Whether it is accurate or not, Davis delivers a performance that is never less than riveting and dominates the entire film.
The film itself is something of a Jekyll and Hyde. The first forty minutes border on tedium as we are subjected to endless conversations between the dowdy queen with fading looks and the dashing young knight who courts her, and it's clear that the writers struggled (and failed) to escape from the material's stage origins. It's all scene-setting for the second half of the film, however, which makes it worth sitting through, because once the political intrigue and back-stabbing begin the film takes off and becomes a richly absorbing slice of history. The supporting cast is straight out of Hollywood's Who's-Who of the 1930s, but my only gripe would be the casting of Alan Hale in the small but important role of an Irish rebel leader. The jolly Hale looks more like a well-fed butcher than a fighting man who's been squelching around Irish bogs for weeks on end!
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