Wednesday, April 2, 2008

"To be Queen is to be less than human...'s to put pride before desire."

Wearing very white makeup and a shaved hairline, Bette Davis played Elizabeth I in 1939's "The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex".
Starring opposite (in more ways than one) Errol Flynn as the Earl of Essex, the film chronicles the love affair between both characters and the crown that ultimately separated them.
While director Michael Curtiz does his best to create a compelling drama, sometimes the story comes off looking as a bit shallow and merely at the service of the sumptuous Technicolor cinematography and Orry-Kelly costumes (an inspiration for last year's Elizabeth film perhaps?).
Sometimes the actions lead us to think that this is an essay on how rulers first and foremost are human, leading them to commit mistakes in the name of their very essence.
But is it really safe to say that Queen Elizabeth I would force her troops to withdraw from Ireland just because she was having a lovers' quarrel?
While Errol Flynn is at his charming best (that he chooses to use his Aussie accent proves just how much of a star he knew he was) and Olivia de Havilland, Vincent Price and Donald Crisp are satisfying in supporting roles, the film ultimately belongs to Davis.
Giving one of her best, and curiously less famous, performances she chews the scenery, does her best British accent and commands her subjects without ever losing perspective of the more personal side of what it's like to be a woman who happens to be a queen.
Davis was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar that year for "Dark Victory" which she said was her personal favorite.
In the movie's greatest scene she declares her love to Essex, only to minutes later realize this love could bring down her entire kingdom.
The shift in the mood occurs in the blink of an eye and despite all the wigs, jewels and clothes she has on, Davis is practically naked up there.
She would reprise the role later in her career and some of the themes in the plot would surface along her majestic filmography.

1 comment:

woodstock said...

when did she reprise this?