The Virgin Queen (1955)

92 mins | Biography | August 1955

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HISTORY

The working titles of this film were Sir Walter Raleigh , Raleigh and the Virgin Queen and The Hawk and the Vulture . According to a 12 May 1955 HR news item, the picture was to be released in Great Britian as Sir Walter Raleigh . The film is based on the lives of Elizabeth I (1533—1603) and Walter Raleigh (1552?—1618). For more information on Elizabeth I and motion pictures inspired by her life, see the entry below for Young Bess . As portrayed in The Virgin Queen , Raleigh was one of Elizabeth’s favorite courtiers, although the story of him spreading his cloak on the muddy ground for her may be apocryphal. The queen knighted Raleigh in 1585 and bestowed many honors on him, and the adventurous Raleigh conceived several colonizing expeditions to America. Tobacco and potatoes were two of the American products introduced by Raleigh to England. In 1592, Raleigh, who was also a well-known poet, was imprisoned in the Tower of London by Queen Elizabeth for having secretly married one of her maids of honor, Bess Throckmorton. [Bess’s name in the film is Beth Throgmorton.] Raleigh won his freedom when one of his expeditions returned to England with a valuable cargo. After Elizabeth’s death, Raleigh struggled to maintain the favor of her successor, James I, to little avail. Raleigh spent many years imprisoned in the Tower and was finally executed for treason in 1618.
       According to modern sources, Twentieth Century-Fox production chief Darryl F. Zanuck was so determined to have Bette Davis star in The Virgin Queen that he delayed production on the picture for ... More Less

The working titles of this film were Sir Walter Raleigh , Raleigh and the Virgin Queen and The Hawk and the Vulture . According to a 12 May 1955 HR news item, the picture was to be released in Great Britian as Sir Walter Raleigh . The film is based on the lives of Elizabeth I (1533—1603) and Walter Raleigh (1552?—1618). For more information on Elizabeth I and motion pictures inspired by her life, see the entry below for Young Bess . As portrayed in The Virgin Queen , Raleigh was one of Elizabeth’s favorite courtiers, although the story of him spreading his cloak on the muddy ground for her may be apocryphal. The queen knighted Raleigh in 1585 and bestowed many honors on him, and the adventurous Raleigh conceived several colonizing expeditions to America. Tobacco and potatoes were two of the American products introduced by Raleigh to England. In 1592, Raleigh, who was also a well-known poet, was imprisoned in the Tower of London by Queen Elizabeth for having secretly married one of her maids of honor, Bess Throckmorton. [Bess’s name in the film is Beth Throgmorton.] Raleigh won his freedom when one of his expeditions returned to England with a valuable cargo. After Elizabeth’s death, Raleigh struggled to maintain the favor of her successor, James I, to little avail. Raleigh spent many years imprisoned in the Tower and was finally executed for treason in 1618.
       According to modern sources, Twentieth Century-Fox production chief Darryl F. Zanuck was so determined to have Bette Davis star in The Virgin Queen that he delayed production on the picture for three years until she decided to accept the role. Davis, who had been in semi-retirement since the 1953 Twentieth Century-Fox release The Star , had previously starred as Elizabeth I in the 1939 Warner Bros. production The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex . The 1939 picture was directed by Michael Curtiz and co-starred Errol Flynn as “Essex” and Vincent Price as “Raleigh” (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ). At Davis' request, Perc Westmore, who did her makeup for the earlier film, was hired to do her makeup for The Virgin Queen . Davis partially shaved her head for the scene in which the queen attempts to shock "Raleigh" by showing him her near baldness. There was a great deal of contemporary publicity about Davis' shaved head, and she appeared at the 1955 Academy Award ceremony wearing an ornate skullcap to disguise her lack of hair. According to a 17 Jan 1955 HR news item, Davis was dissatisfied with the script but the problems were “straightened out following a long distance talk” between the star, Zanuck and producer Charles Brackett.
       In Sep and Dec 1952, LAT reported that Leonard Goldstein would produce the film, with Cornel Wilde considered to star. In Sep 1953, HR ’s “Rambling Reporter” column speculated that Burt Lancaster had been cast as Raleigh and Jeffrey Hunter as “Lord Derry.” In Jan 1954, “Rambling Reporter” announced that Richard Burton was the studio’s choice to play Raleigh. HR news items include the following actors in the cast, although their appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed: George Berkeley, Anthony Dearden, Olaf Hytten, Walter Crain, Frank McGrath, Florence Dublin and Darrin Dublin. Although an 11 Jan 1955 HR news item reported that the picture was to be shot partially in London, it was filmed completely in Hollywood. According to studio publicity, director of photography Charles G. Clarke was in Hong Kong working on another film when production on The Virgin Queen began, and so Leon Shamroy filled in for him until his return.
       According to HR news items, the film’s premiere was held in Portland, ME, for the benefit of the Children’s Theatre of Portland. Davis was a director of the theater, and she and her then-husband, Gary Merrill, held a cocktail party at their home for the press and celebrity guests invited to the premiere. The Virgin Queen was the first film made in Hollywood by Australian actor Rod Taylor, who had previously appeared in the 1955 Distributors Corp. of America production Long John Silver , which was shot entirely in Australia (see above). The film was nominated for an Academy Award in the Costume Design (Color) category. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
6 Aug 1955.
---
Daily Variety
4 May 1955.
---
Daily Variety
27 Jul 55
p. 3.
Film Daily
27 Jul 55
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Sep 1953
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jan 1954
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
17 May 1954
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jan 1955
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Jan 1955
p. 1, 4.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Jan 1955
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Jan 1955
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jan 1955
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Feb 1955
p. 20.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Feb 1955
p. 3, 7.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Mar 1955
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Mar 1955
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Mar 1955
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Mar 1955
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Mar 1955
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Mar 1955
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Mar 1955
p. 12, 18.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Mar 1955
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Apr 1955
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Apr 1955
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
2 May 1955
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
4 May 1955
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
12 May 1955
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Jun 1955
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Jun 1955
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jul 1955
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jul 1955
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jul 55
p. 3.
Los Angeles Examiner
4 Aug 1955.
---
Los Angeles Times
18 Sep 1952.
---
Los Angeles Times
24 Dec 1952.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
30 Jul 55
p. 537.
New York Times
10 Jul 1955.
---
New York Times
6 Aug 55
p. 13.
New York Times
19 Jul 1964.
---
People
21 May 1990.
---
Time
15 Aug 1955.
---
Variety
27 Jul 55
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d asst dir
Dial dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Fill-in dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Ward dir
Cost des
Dir of men's ward
Men's ward asst
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
DANCE
Choreog
MAKEUP
Makeup
Miss Davis' makeup by
Hair styling
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit prod mgr
Scr supv
Miss Davis' jewelry by
STAND INS
Bette Davis' stand-in
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col consultant
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Sir Walter Raleigh
The Hawk and the Vulture
Raleigh and the Virgin Queen
Release Date:
August 1955
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Portland, ME: 22 July 1955
Los Angeles opening: 3 August 1955
New York opening: 5 August 1955
Production Date:
21 February--29 March 1955
addl seq late April--early May 1955
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
3 August 1955
Copyright Number:
LP5412
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Color
De Luxe
Widescreen/ratio
CinemaScope
Lenses/Prints
Bausch & Lomb
Duration(in mins):
92
Length(in feet):
8,255
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
17443
SYNOPSIS

In 1581, as Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester travels to London, his carriage becomes mired in the mud. Leicester orders the occupants of a nearby inn to help him, but they refuse until one, Walter Raleigh, recognizes him and rallies his friends to free the carriage. When Raleigh introduces himself, Leicester, who was friends with Raleigh's father, recalls meeting Raleigh as a boy. Raleigh, who served in the English Army in Ireland, along with his Irish friend, Lord Derry, asks Leicester to introduce him to Queen Elizabeth, and Leicester agrees. In London, Raleigh relates to Leicester his dream of building three ships of his own design and sailing them to the New World in search of wealth. After Leicester advises him to obtain suitable attire for his introduction at court, Raleigh talks a bewildered tailor into renting him the finest cloak in his establishment. At court, the sharp-witted Elizabeth is intrigued by the handsome Raleigh and invites him to dine with her. As they walk outside, Raleigh spreads his cloak over a muddy puddle so that the queen does not soil her feet, and his gesture further pleases Elizabeth while engendering the jealousy of her current favorite, Sir Christopher Hatton. During dinner, Raleigh irritates Elizabeth with insistent talk of his ships, but the squabbling couple are too well matched in wit and intelligence for Elizabeth to dismiss Raleigh completely. As he is leaving the palace, Raleigh is approached by Beth Throgmorton, a lady-in-waiting whom he met earlier, and although Raleigh swears that he will not return to plead before the queen, Beth asserts that he will. Soon after, Leicester visits Raleigh and Derry with news that Elizabeth has ... +


In 1581, as Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester travels to London, his carriage becomes mired in the mud. Leicester orders the occupants of a nearby inn to help him, but they refuse until one, Walter Raleigh, recognizes him and rallies his friends to free the carriage. When Raleigh introduces himself, Leicester, who was friends with Raleigh's father, recalls meeting Raleigh as a boy. Raleigh, who served in the English Army in Ireland, along with his Irish friend, Lord Derry, asks Leicester to introduce him to Queen Elizabeth, and Leicester agrees. In London, Raleigh relates to Leicester his dream of building three ships of his own design and sailing them to the New World in search of wealth. After Leicester advises him to obtain suitable attire for his introduction at court, Raleigh talks a bewildered tailor into renting him the finest cloak in his establishment. At court, the sharp-witted Elizabeth is intrigued by the handsome Raleigh and invites him to dine with her. As they walk outside, Raleigh spreads his cloak over a muddy puddle so that the queen does not soil her feet, and his gesture further pleases Elizabeth while engendering the jealousy of her current favorite, Sir Christopher Hatton. During dinner, Raleigh irritates Elizabeth with insistent talk of his ships, but the squabbling couple are too well matched in wit and intelligence for Elizabeth to dismiss Raleigh completely. As he is leaving the palace, Raleigh is approached by Beth Throgmorton, a lady-in-waiting whom he met earlier, and although Raleigh swears that he will not return to plead before the queen, Beth asserts that he will. Soon after, Leicester visits Raleigh and Derry with news that Elizabeth has appointed Raleigh the captain of her palace guard. Raleigh, infuriated by Elizabeth’s ploy, wants to refuse, but Leicester assures him that the palace is the perfect place for an ambitious man. Hoping to gain Elizabeth’s favor, and thereby his ships, Raleigh acquieces and brings along Derry. One day, as Raleigh is inspecting the guard, Beth teases him about being the queen’s new “lapdog.” Raleigh is angered, and soon after, Beth again taunts him during a hunt, when Elizabeth orders him to set up her picnic. The queen sees Raleigh and Beth quarreling, and jealously tells Raleigh that the courtiers are not allowed to dally with her ladies. Later, at the palace, Elizabeth is approached by the French ambassador, who again broaches the subject of her marriage, much desired by the French queen, to a young French duke. Elizabeth, who has been stalling the marriage for five years in order to keep France from allying with Spain, throws out the ambassador. Seeing how irritated Elizabeth is, Hatton takes advantage of the situation by telling her that Raleigh has installed an Irishman in the palace guard. Hatton strongly hints that Derry is an assassin sent to kill the queen, and Raleigh reacts violently to his accusations. Later that evening, Elizabeth demands that Raleigh apologize for his behavior, but the headstrong courtier, sick of humbling himself, even for the queen, refuses. Raleigh storms out and is later met by Beth, who spends several hours with him in his rooms. Late at night, Raleigh and Beth, in front of the innkeeper and a servant, exchange their own wedding vows as a pledge of their love. Before Raleigh and Beth can escape with Derry, the palace guard come to arrest Raleigh. Beth returns to the palace safely, while in her bedchamber, Elizabeth pleads illness to pacify the French ambassador. Raleigh is brought to the queen, who charms him into pledging not to indulge in any swordplay with Hatton. Raleigh is astounded when Elizabeth then knights him and agrees to give him one ship. Raleigh rushes to tell Beth the good news, but she accuses him of “selling his favors cheaply” by putting up with Elizabeth’s temper for only one ship instead of three. Especially angry that Raleigh did not tell the queen about their marriage, Beth quarrels with him, and he vows never to see Beth again. In Plymouth, Raleigh works with shipbuilder Randall to re-design an existing ship, the Golden Falcon . Meanwhile, in London, Beth overhears Elizabeth tell Hatton that she has no intention of letting Raleigh leave England. Realizing that Beth and Raleigh have formed some sort of attachment, Elizabeth also decides to send her ladies-in-waiting to France as a sign of good will. A rider arrives in Plymouth to tell Raleigh that he must return to London for the ship’s cannons to be fitted, and also relates him the gossip that one of the queen’s ladies is pregnant. Raleigh immediately rides to Beth’s house, where she confirms that she is pregnant. The couple is reconciled and Raleigh plots to sail for the New World directly from Plymouth, with Beth by his side. Derry warns his friend that the plan is too dangerous, but Raleigh assures him that Elizabeth’s greed will prompt her forgiveness when he returns with spices, gold and other treasures. Courtier Chadwick arrives in Plymouth and is suspicious of Raleigh’s hurry to finish the ship, as well as the installation of a large bed in the captain’s quarters. When Chadwick returns to London, he and Hatton reveal to Elizabeth that Raleigh has married Beth, and the infuratiated queen orders their arrest. Derry and Beth escape when Raleigh is arrested, but soon they, too, are apprehended, and Derry is killed during the struggle. Beth pleads with Elizabeth for Raleigh’s life and, failing to sway her, warns that the queen cannot execute her until she has given birth. Elizabeth angrily retorts that men, including Raleigh, have loved her for her mind and spirit, even if they have been tempted by pretty faces such as Beth’s. Later, Elizabeth visits Raleigh in the Tower, where he is being held, and accuses him of treason. Raleigh is outraged that she intends to have Beth executed, and the pair reprimand each other for their perceived betrayals. Finally realizing that she cannot live without Raleigh, even though she cannot control him, Elizabeth relents, allowing him and Beth to go free. Soon after, Leicester gently guides Elizabeth to a palace window and shows her the Golden Falcon as it sails down the Thames. Although she is displeased by the sight of Beth on the deck with Raleigh, Elizabeth is cheered to see her own royal scarf waving from the main mast as a sign of Raleigh’s devotion. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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