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Monday, April 12, 2010

THE VIRGIN QUEEN (1955)


16 years after playing Elizabeth Tudor in THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ELIZABETH & ESSEX/’39, Bette Davis had a second go. Time & tide, Hollywood ups-and-downs & hard living may have made it easier for her to don the mask of the mature Queen, but everything else – script, megging, decor, score, co-stars, even her own presentational acting style – had coarsened. It might all be less noticeable if the story didn’t follow the earlier film so closely, with Richard Todd’s Walter Raleigh running almost the same course as Errol Flynn’s Essex. A pity since, on its own terms, it’s all quite watchable. Helmer Henry Koster tended to sit tight on his CinemaScope compositions (he was far better in modest earlier pics like the adorable 100 MEN AND A GIRL/’37), but he gets it all across. Todd & the young Joan Collins are a fine pair of lovers (Davis gets to tear up the joint when Collins hoists her pregnancy at the jealous Queen. "Beee . . . Verrrry . . . Proud!,’ Davis spews), and the supporting cast are fine. But compare this crew with the feast of character actor types Warners had on hand for Bette in the earlier film. To say nothing of helmer Curtiz, lenser Polito, designer Grot, costumer Orry-Kelly & Erich Wolfgng Korngold with as great (and romantic) a score as he ever wrote. All that, plus Olivia de Havilland looking as flat out gorgeous as she ever did.

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