Just some fun!
The reviews below are of films that feature English and British monarchs produced for the silver screen.  I
began this list in 1996, when I taught a course on the history of English monarchy for the University of
Arizona's extended university, when I was still an impressionable doctoral student.  In the last year I have
begun revising these reviews, as well as writing new ones for films on English monarchs as they are
released.
  

Becket (1964):  Sterling adaptation of Jen Anouilh’s stage play, which chronicles the test of wills between
Henry II (Peter O’Toole) and his erstwhile friend and minister Thomas Becket (Richard Burton), who
turned renegade defender of the medieval church upon his appointment as archbishop of Canterbury.  The
dramatic license taken here is considerable; Becket is turned into a Saxon (he was actually Norman) to
further dramatize the ultimately irreconcilable divide between king and archbishop, while Henry's wife  
Eleanor of Aquitaine and mother the Empress Matilda are played as bigoted shrewish harpies, as the
king's son Henry is depicted as a royal version of a village idiot.  Nevertheless, Burton was ideal casting,
employing a studied restraint in his performance that brilliantly defines the duality of Becket's tortured
character, while O'Toole is simply magnificent as king Henry (a role he reprised in
The Lion In Winter).  
Most importantly, this film brings alive the central duality of the Middle Ages, between the violence of the
temporal sword of feudal society and the worldly and political spiritual sword of universal Christendom.  
(revised December 2009)




The Lion in Winter (1968):  The second best film on this list.  Peter O’ Toole reprised the role of Henry II,
in the twilight of his years, as he gathers his family for a thoroughly out of control Christmas holiday.  The
script positively sizzles as it unfolds the dynamics of intrigue and betrayal that plagued the Plantagenet
royal family.  Katharine Hepburn won her third Oscar (a tie with Barbra Streisand!) for her portrayal of the
ambitious and scheming Eleanor of Aquitaine.  With Anthony Hopkins as Richard, and Timothy Dalton as
the youthful Philip Augustus of France.


The Lion in Winter (2003):  Take this version back, and exchange it for the 1968 version, which cannot be
improved upon.






Braveheart (1995):  Mel Gibson (who also directed) as William Wallace, the legendary defender of Scottish
independence.  Thoroughly entertaining (especially on the big screen), Gibson takes more than his fair
share of dramatic licence, relying heavily on unhistorical plot devices (I have students whose task is to
figure out what these are, so forgive me for not revealing them here!).  Patrick McGoohan, though, is
positively chilling in his portrayal of the darker side of Edward I, the English Justinian, as the godfather of
pan-British imperialism.  Oscars for best film and director.







Edward II (1991):  This is an art film.  Derek Jarman’s modern adaptation of Christopher Marlowe’s
sixteenth century play depicts England’s most openly homosexual king in modern dress, displaying a gay
sensibility that simply did not exist in the fourteenth century.  Still, one does get a feel for why Edward is
usually considered to be the most unsuitable of medieval English kings.  With Stephen Waddington as
King Edward, and Tilda Swinton as his ferocious queen Isabella.





Henry V (1945):  this first filmed version appeared just in time to provide a powerful historical metaphor
for what had been Britain’s darkest hour during World War II.  Thanks to the bard of Avon, Henry V still
holds the popular title of England’s greatest medieval king.  The historical Henry was, of course, darker
and more ruthless than the hero of Shakespeare’s most patriotic historical play.  This version, directed by
and starring Laurence Olivier, holds up well.





Henry V (1989):  this later version is a truly spectacular production.  Kenneth Branaugh (who also directed)
sparkles as a more ebullient and charming king than Olivier’s earlier depiction.  The sets and costumes
would have pleased the bard himself, while the Battle of Agincourt is a particular delight.  With Emma
Thompson as Catherine of Valois.  First rate.





The Tower of London (1939):  a bastardized screen version of Shakespeare’s Richard III, this nicely
costumed melodrama leaves historical accuracy on the cutting room floor to tell the tale of England’s most
reputedly sinister king.  With Basil Rathbone as the scheming and homicidal King Richard III.








The Tower of London (1962):  a campy remake, this time seen through the lens of schlock filmmaker
Roger Corman.  I don’t know why I even put this lurid low-budget potboiler on this list, except that
Corman manages to work in every single bit of anti-Ricardian Tudor propaganda.  Vincent Price is
wickedly delightful as Richard III.




Richard III (1955):  Shakespeare’s play was the culmination of a century of bad press endured by the last
Yorkist king, unable to defend himself from the grave as a host of historians have done for him in the
twentieth century.  As filmed drama, however, Laurence Olivier was hysterically diabolical in the title
role.  With John Gielgud as George, duke of Clarence.




Richard III (1995):  another “art” film, like Edward II, offensive to the purist.  This time the setting is
between the wars Britain, nicely timed for Nazi allusions.  Frankly, I do not see the point.  What could be
next?  Antony and Cleopatra, living it up on Miami Beach?  With Ian McKelland as Richard.




The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933):  this film capitalized on the then current popular biography of the
same name.  Charles Laughton won an Oscar for his vivid portrayal of the corpulent sixteenth century
monarch.  Though lauded in its day, to the modern viewer it is nothing but high camp, full of
unintentionally funny scenes (or were they intentional?), as Laughton cemented Henry’s enduring
reputation for notoriously bad table manners.  Historical accuracy rarely prevailed in the early days of
Hollywood- this film is a prime example.  For instance, while the historical Henry VIII was trim and
athletic in his youth, Laughton is fat all the way through the film, while Elsa Lanchester looked more like
an alpine hausfrau than Anne of Cleves.  Once you know what Henry and his wives actually looked like,
you will know what I mean.




A Man For All Seasons (1966):  Hands down, the best film on this list.  Robert Bolt pared his stage play to
the essential bone to chronicle the test of wills between Sir Thomas More (Paul Scofield) and Henry VIII
(Robert Shaw) over the “King’s Great Matter.”  A deft use of dramatic license does not significantly alter
the essential historical accuracy of the screenplay, derived from sixteenth century primary sources.  
Beautifully filmed on location in England, the sterling supporting cast includes John Hurt (Richard Rich),
Leo McKern (Thomas Cromwell), Wendy Hiller (Lady Alice More), and Nigel Davenport (The Duke of
Norfolk), with stunning cameos by Vanessa Redgrave as Anne Boleyn, and Orson Welles as Cardinal
Wolsey.  Directed by legendary filmmaker Fred Zinneman (
High Noon, From Here to Eternity, Julia).

A Man For All Seasons (1988):  refer to my instructions for The Lion in Winter (2003).


Anne of the Thousand Days (1969):  Historians have never lost their fascination with Anne Boleyn, the
most controversial of all English queen consorts.  Richard Burton cuts a fine figure as the bewitched Henry
VIII, who moved heaven, earth, and the Reformation Parliament to win his second wife, while the lovely
French actress Genevieve Bujold was an appropriate choice to play a queen who spent a good deal of her
youth at the French royal court.  In fact, Bujold actually looked a lot like Anne Boleyn, and that helps.  
Despite these obvious virtues, the screenwriter compacted chronology and blended spurious fiction with
historical fact to create a plausible (to the non-specialist!) dramatization of  Henry and Anne's torturous ten
year relationship.  (revised June 2008)





The Other Boleyn Girl (2008) In all fairness, this is not filmed history, it is filmed historical fiction.  That
said, I have thrown off the hat of historical inquisitor to evaluate how this film
suggests the story and the
personalities of the mid- Henrician moment.  While chronology and historical accuracy have been
considerably transformed to construct the story line, the film presents an imaginative telling of the story of
the Boleyn sisters, Mary (Scarlett Johansson) and Anne (Natalie Portman) Boleyn ,  devoted to each other
yet set up as rivals as their father and uncle, the duke of Norfolk, pimp them out to a handsome but vapid
Henry VIII (Eric Bana).  A nice story, with Mary as the unlikely heroine, while mother Elizabeth's (Kristen
Scott Thomas) fury is a slow build throughout the film.  Exquisitely filmed drama, but if you confuse this
with history, you are in trouble.  





Lady Jane (1985):  This elegant film tells the tragic story of Lady Jane Grey, the “Nine Days Queen of
England.”  Helena Bonham Carter, darker and smokier than the historical Jane, who was red-haired and
freckled, considerably softened the character of Grey who, like her cousin Edward VI, comes down in
history as a brilliant but prim, humorless Protestant prig, the tragic victim of a typically brutal Tudor
upbringing, in which childhood had no place. (When I originally wrote this piece in 1996, Lawrence Stone
was all there was!)




Young Bess (1953):  typically 1950s period piece of Elizabeth I’s life before she became queen.  Even so,
Hollywood took more than its fair share of dramatic license to brighten what was the darkest period in
Elizabeth’s life.  Charles Laughton reprises the role of Henry VIII, to engage in a series of unaccountable
conversations with his younger daughter.  Similar to The Private Life of Henry VIII, the utter lack of
attention to even a semblance of historical accuracy is noticeable to even the most casual student of Tudor
history.  Of course, it would have been bad box office to have shorn the devilishly handsome Stewart
Granger of his trademark salt and pepper Caesar-style locks in his portrayal of Thomas Seymour, who
actually sported long black hair and flowing beard.  Jean Simmons, however, was never lovelier in the title
role.

Fire Over England (1937)
This nearly forgotten gem of a film features an early screen portrait of Elizabeth I ripped from the pages of
J.E. Neale’s classic 1934 biography.  But
Fire Over England was also based ostensibly on the novel of the
same name in which the plot line, which culminates in the defeat of the Spanish Armada, mirrored the
current state of European politics in the late 1930s, as a “free” Britain wrestled with the specter of conflict
with fascist Europe.  Flora Robson shines as Elizabeth, and her multi-faceted performance ranks with those
of Bette Davis, Glenda Jackson, and Judy Dench.  Robson’s performance replicates the by now
standardized stereotypes we usually associate with Elizabeth; her vanity, sexual jealousy, as well as her
confidence, charisma, and devotion to longtime servants like William Cecil, Lord Burghley, and Robert
Dudley, Earl of Leicester.  In this film, Burghley is the cautious Neville Chamberlain, who tries to impress
upon the queen England’s inability to pay for a war strongly advocated by Leicester, a Churchill howling
in the wind for a return to England’s martial greatness.  But all these characters are secondary; the
protagonist here is Michael Ingolby, played the youthful and engaging Lawrence Olivier, the son of a
naval commander captured during an engagement with the Spanish who was subsequently burned as a
heretic by the Inquisition.  But Michael himself is saved by a Spanish admiral, who lets him hide out in his
hacienda so that his daughter Elena could fall in love with him.  Despite their mutual ardor, Michael is
determined to return to his Queen and render her service during the impending Spanish invasion.  The
Michael character is fictional, a sort of Raleigh and Essex all rolled up into one, and Elizabeth, of course, is
very fond of him, an affection that is dampened only by Michael’s love for Burghley’s granddaughter
Cynthia, played by a charming and ebullient Vivien Leigh.  Once again, duty triumphs over love, as
Elizabeth sends Michael undercover to a choleric and religiously dogmatic Philip II’s court, to weasel out
the secret instructions for the
coup’ d’état that was to accompany the Spanish Armada.  In the meantime he
meets up again with the by now married Elena, who blows his cover, causing him to negotiate a rather
dashing escape,
a la Errol Flynn.  Back in England, Olivier’s Michael gives Flynn a run for his money as a
screen swashbuckler, as he singlehandedly destroys the Armada, and returns to court for Elizabeth’s
blessing to marry Cynthia.  But even though Elizabeth is a secondary character in this film, Robson offers a
rich, nuanced performance of an idealized Elizabeth, who asks for Burghley’s blessing before riding to
address her troops at Tilbury.  Elizabeth and Leicester also sigh over their long faded romance, as the
Queen registers her sublime displeasure with the inevitabilities of the aging process, as Cynthia removed
her bejeweled wig to reveal her own thinned out hair.  In this sense, despite its fictional elements, the
viewer is presented with the convincing portrait of the state of England and its Queen on the eve of its
most improbable victory.
(2011)




The Virgin Queen (1955):  Jean Simmons takes a backseat to Bette Davis in this episodic account of the
fabled Tudor queen and her relationship with Sir Walter Raleigh, played by an ebullient and drop dead
gorgeous Richard Todd.  Davis vividly captures Elizabeth I’s queenly mastery, in a film that is an obvious
precursor for the second of the Kapur/Hirst films,
Elizabeth: the Golden Age (see below).  In the case of The
Virgin Queen,
the Elizabeth and Raleigh tango has been cleared of the details that clutter Golden Age; no
Cecil, Walsingham, Mary Queen of Scots or King Philip, while Leicester is relegated to a sort of kindly
uncle like figure to Raleigh.  Todd's Raleigh is much more one dimensional than Clive Owens, but he
makes a superb swashbuckler in the tradition of Errol Flynn, while Joan Collins as Bess Throckmorton
more than holds her own in her scenes with the formidable  Davis.  In this sense, and despite the consider
dramatic license taken, this film is as good as 1950s historical cinema gets, filmed in the wide screen
process of cinemascope (and gorgeously transferred to DVD), and shot entirely on the 20th Century lot in
Los Angeles, the production has an epic feel for a film that only clocks in at just over 90 minutes.  
Definitely worth watching. (revised September 2009)




Elizabeth and Essex (1939):  Bette Davis’s first romp as Elizabeth I.  The bare bones of the relationship
between the aged Virgin queen and the youthful earl of Essex is fleshed out in typically early Hollywood
style.  However, the film does present, in a sanitized form, the sexual dynamic of the late Elizabethan
court.  With Errol Flynn as the reckless earl of Essex.








Elizabeth (1998) Cate Blanchett is luminous as Elizabeth I, while cinematographer Remi Adefarasian did a
masterful job of creating what may be the best modern screen equivalent of Tudor era indoor lighting-
dark and dank.  But that is about all this production has to recommend for itself as a filmed historical text;
Michael Hirst’s screenplay inexplicably gutted the drama inherent in the early years of Elizabeth’s reign to
present a fictionalized, chronologically compacted melodrama, as the characterizations of Cecil, Dudley,
and Walsingham bear little relation to their historical counterparts, although the duke of Anjou’s romp in
drag is great fun.  Any rational notion of historical time was thrown out with the bathwater, as the film
concludes with Elizabeth consciously, and over night, transforming herself into the white faced clown of
her final years.  Watch for its entertainment value only.



Elizabeth:  The Golden Age (2007) I was fully prepared to hate this film, (as is fashionable with Tudor
historians) but, as with
The Other Boleyn Girl, I was pleasantly surprised as I watched the DVD with some of
my lay friends, who found it highly entertaining.  Sure, no Cecil (who was rusticated in the previous film!)
or Dudley, but the 1580s chronology is roughly historical, while the characters,  King Philip (Jordi Molla),
Walter Raleigh (the magnificent Clive Owen), Bess Throckmorton (Abby Cornish),  Mary Queen of Scots
(Samantha Morton) and Francis Walsingham (a surprisingly subdued Geoffrey Rush), create archetypal
representations of the great issues, foreign and domestic, that Elizabeth (Cate Blanchett) and her subjects
faced during the turbulent 1580s.  Indeed, Cate Blanchett is easily the most versatile and compelling
English speaking actress working in film today, lending an air of class to virtually any film project she is a
part of, while Clive Owen sparkles as Raleigh; their screen kiss, while patently unhistorical, conveys the
essence of Elizabeth's frustrated emotional longings in a way that the written word could never match.  In
this sense, the film, at least for the non-specialist, possesses some historical value.  Nevertheless, I will
never understand
why Kapur and Hirst ignore some of the most compelling dramatic episodes that actually
occurred
during the 1580s, such as the story of Elizabeth signing Mary Queen of Scot's death warrant,
putting it in her desk,  and telling principal secretary Davison to leave it there, so she could throw a royal
fit and deny culpability once the deed was done.   



Mary of Scotland (1936):  Solemn, turgid version of Maxwell Anderson’s play of the life of Mary, Queen of
Scots.  While the names and dates are accurate, the film fails to capture the complexity of the historical
Mary’s character.  Indeed, one has to wonder how legendary filmmaker John Ford and star Katharine
Hepburn could make such a boring film.  With Florence Eldridge as Elizabeth I.





Mary, Queen of Scots (1971):  Davis, Simmons, Blanchett, and Judi Dench (see below) all must take a back-
seat to Glenda Jackson’s superb portrayal of Elizabeth I (you
must see the 1971 miniseries Elizabeth R if you
have not already), although Vanessa Redgrave fails to capture the transcendent charm that served Mary
Queen of Scots so well over the course of her tortured career.  While the religious and political dynamics
of the second half of the 16th century are nicely fleshed out in the screenplay, the film depicts a series of
secret chance meetings between the two rival queens who never actually met face to face.  This lavish Hal
B. Wallis production is solid entertainment, and the chance meetings employ dramatic license to good
effect, but I remain ambivalent about a film that gives the audience the impression that these two queens
actually knew each other personally, when much of the drama inherent in their story was due to the fact
that
they never met.  With Patrick McGoohan as James Stewart, earl of Moray.  (revised June 2008)




Shakespeare in Love (1998):  Judi Dench appeared onscreen for all of eight minutes to become the only
actress to win an Oscar portraying Elizabeth I(although Blanchett was nominated for both of her Elizabeth
films).  Dench was memorable, though (“The Queen does not attend lewd performances!”), as was Joseph
Fiennes, Gwynyth Paltrow (in her Oscar winning performance), Geoffrey Rush, and Tom Wilkinson in a
fictional account of a chain of events that inspired the writing of Romeo and Juliet.  This film is not only
hysterically funny; it does a fine job portraying the ups and downs of Elizabethan theater life, as well as
the seamy underbelly of late sixteenth century London.  




Cromwell (1970):  The story of the Puritan military genius who deposed Charles I.  While lavishly filmed,
with spectacular battle scenes of the English Civil War, the film ultimately is a certified snore, as Richard
Harris fails to ignite the passion and implacable will of Oliver Cromwell.  Not surprisingly, Alec Guinness
steals the show as Charles I.






To Kill a King (2002) In 2003,The year following the release of To Kill a King, when Rupert Everett played
Charles II in
Stage Beauty (see below), he joined a rarified group of actors ( Judi Dench, Helen Mirren,
Vanessa Redgrave, Helena Bonham Carter) who have played more than one British monarch on screen.  As
the doomed Charles I in this film, Everett is much more regally subdued and than his subsequent
portrayal of Charles II, but his performance in To Kill a King lacks the rarified charisma that animated Alec
Guinness’s performance of the Charles I in
Cromwell (1970), the best performance in an otherwise dismal
drama.  But the king is but a secondary character in this engrossing study of the tempestuous, symbiotic
relationship between aristocratic Lord Thomas Fairfax and the Puritan Oliver Cromwell, the men who led
the parliamentary forces that defeated King Charles in the English Civil War, tried him for treason, and
beheaded him.  In this film, Fairfax and Cromwell each have qualities that the other lacks.  Fairfax
(Dougray Scott) is good-looking, aristocratic, and has a beautiful wife, Lady Anne (Olivia Williams), who
remains devoted to the king.  Fairfax is popular with the troops, and his ingrained sense of loyalty is at the
core of his character.  In contrast, Cromwell (Tim Roth) is a Puritan firebrand, entirely ruthless and without
pity, the driving force behind the effort to kill the king.  What is noteworthy about this film is how the
demands of family duty, obedience to royal authority, and an ingrained sense of injustice tormented
Fairfax, who was the only individual to question Cromwell’s inexorable sense of destiny.  It is the story of
this friendship, tempered by the demands of justice and war, rather than the fate of the king, that made this
film memorable.




Restoration (1998):  Only recently have filmmakers come to realize how fun Charles II and the Stuart
Restoration could be on screen.  This film, the first of a seemingly unintentional trilogy of Restoration era
films, is based upon the novel by Rose Tremain, concerning the adventures of Robert Merivel (Robert
Downey Jr.), ordered by Charles II (Sam Neill) to marry his mistress, but not to sleep with her.  This proves
hard for Merivel to do, who eventually finds the inner medical doctor within, just in time for the London
plague of 1666.  A visual treat, with fine performances all around- as in Stage Beauty and The Libertine,
Restoration England is stunningly brought alive in this delightful film.




Stage Beauty (2004):  In the second installment of the Restoration trilogy, Rupert Everett is a riot as the
early restoration period Charles II, who relaxed the ban on women actors in the theatre, creating big
problems for Mr. Kynaston (Billy Crudup), trained as a youth to portray female characters, particularly
Shakespearean heroines (A woman playing a woman?  Where’s the trick in that?”).  Based loosely on
fragments of reminiscence from Samuel Pepys, the film vividly and humorously recreates the rather
relaxed sexual mores of the Restoration court (Edward Fox is particularly delightful as a decidedly
puritanical Edward Hyde), and the gender dynamics of Restoration England.  This film boasts a plethora
of excellent performances from Claire Danes, Tom Wilkinson, Hugh Bonneville, and Richard Griffiths.  
You must see this film!





The Libertine (2004):  the final installment of the Restoration trilogy finds the older and less ebullient
Charles II (John Malkovich) , troubled by his foreign entanglements and the looming Exclusion Crisis, and
stymied by the machinations of poet John Wilmot, earl of Rochester (Johhny Depp), whose debauchery led
to his ultimate ruin.  Based on the play by Stephen Jeffries, Depp adds Wilmot to his resume of offbeat
performances, who casts his final vote in the House of Lords in favor of an indefeasible hereditary
monarchy.




The Madness of King George (1994):  Engaging drama, with comic overtones, about the Hanoverian king
who lost, successively, the American colonies and his mind.  Nigel Hawthorne is brilliant as George III, as
is Helen Mirren in her portrayal of the devoted and determined Queen Charlotte.  For the most part
historically accurate, screenwriter Alan Bennett (who adapted his stage play) managed to find a most
sardonic wit and humor in the characterizations of Charles James Fox (Jim Carter), William Pitt the
Younger (Julian Wadham), and George, Prince of Wales (Rupert Everett).



Young Victoria (2009):  Occasionally, an historical film will take an historical story and transfer it directly
to film with a minimum of dramatic license taken to make it marketable for the big screen.  Young Victoria
is one of those films,  and it is a sheer delight.  As a teenage heir to the British throne, princess Victoria
(Emily Blunt) was caught in the power struggle between her uncle, King Willliam IV (Jim Broadbent), her
mother, the Duchess of Kent (Miranda Richardson), and her mother's conniving boyfriend Conroy (Mark
Strong).  Meanwhile, Victoria's uncle, King Leopold of the Belgians (Thomas Kretschmann), feverishly
grooms his nephew, Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (Rupert Friend), to be the consort of the future queen.  
Through all this Victoria remains inwardly centered, and totally in charge of affairs, public and private,
once the crown was on her head.  I was personally delighted that the drama inherent in the Bedchamber
Crisis of 1839 (which I have discussed at length elsewhere) was used as a plot device, while the film
makers had no need to invent a love story for this film.; it is the unorthodox courtship of hearts and minds
between Victoria and Albert, which unfolds over the entire film, that made
Young Victoria both charming
and absorbing.  
Highly recommended!



Mrs. Brown (1997):  Judi Dench’s Oscar for Shakespeare in Love is partly explained by her loss the
previous year (to Helen Hunt in
As Good As it Gets) in what remains her finest screen performance.  Dench
vividly recreates the widowed Queen Victoria’s unbridled wall of fury that only John Brown (Billy
Connelly), an uncouth thuggish Scot, was able to penetrate, to the disconcertion of “Bertie”, the Prince of
Wales (David Westhead), and the rest of the royal household and staff, and the amazement of Benjamin
Disraeli (Antony Sher), who recognized in Brown a successful conduit to communicate with the isolated
queen.  This film is as good as it gets; performances, production values, and the attention paid to the
actual drama inherent in the pages of history; as the producers wisely chose to leave the true nature of
Victoria and Brown’s relationship unexplained.  Not to be missed!

The King's Speech (2010):  I was apprehensive concerning all the hype surrounding this film as I entered
the Galaxy Cinema in Cary NC, in the company of a bumper crop of aging baby boomers and seniors.  As I
soon realized, the critical chorus of universal praise was completely justified; The King’s Speech, in fact,
may very well be the best film on this list.  What makes this film so compelling is that it is an inspirational
story of a very ordinary man, who happened to be the Duke of York and then King George VI, who
overcame the odds to beat his speech impediment and communicate with his nation during its darkest
hour.  Interspersed liberally throughout the inherent drama of this story is a deft and sometimes manic
comic touch that frequently erupted into scenes that are the funniest celluloid I have roared at in a long
time.  The cast will all win Oscars.  Colin Firth (Shakespeare in Love, Pride and Prejudice, Mama Mia, A
Single Man) is revelatory as “Bertie” who sought out the services of Lionel Logue, a failed actor and self
proclaimed speech therapist.  As Logue, Geoffrey Rush  (Shine, Quills, Pirates of the Caribbean) is
mesmerizing, while Helena Bonham Carter (Lady Jane, Sweeny Todd) as Queen Elizabeth is smart, classy,
and entirely possessed with the human touch that made this wartime king and queen so beloved by their
nation.  The film also features Guy Pearce (L.A. Confidential, Memento) as “David,” King Edward VIII,
who threw away his crown for the women he loved.  Also revelatory is Claire Bloom (Limelight) in her
final scene as Queen Mary of Teck, who bristled as she realized that her second son had the makings of a
king her first did not.   

The Queen (2006):  Helen Mirren is superb as her current majesty, Elizabeth II, who failed to grasp the
enormity that the death of Diana, princess of Wales, had on the British psyche in August of 1997.  Stephen
Frears (The Grifters) fearlessly filmed this story of the inner workings of the contemporary monarchy, as
newly elected PM Tony Blair wears down the Queen’s icy resolve for the monarchy to “deal” with Diana’s
death privately.  What I especially enjoyed about the film was the way that Mirren’s performance betrayed
Elizabeth II’s devotion to the essentially Victorian morality that had served the Windsor dynasty so well; a
reverence she was unable to transfer to the next generation of royals.  Mirren won a much deserved Oscar
for this performance; luckily, perhaps, she had already been created a Dame Commander of the British
Empire in 2003.
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