Young Bess (1953)

111 mins | Biography | 29 May 1953

Director:

George Sidney

Producer:

Sidney Franklin

Cinematographer:

Charles Rosher

Production Designers:

Cedric Gibbons, Urie McCleary

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

In the onscreen prologue and closing credits, Anne Boleyn's name is misspelled as "Ann." Nov 1952 HR news items reveal that Mara Corday was originally cast as Boleyn. According to a 7 Jun 1953 NYT article, M-G-M purchased the film rights to Margaret Irwin's book in 1945, but production was delayed because of difficulties in casting the title role, for which both Greer Garson and Deborah Kerr were considered. A 24 Aug 1952 NYT news item states that Katherine Anne Porter and credited writer Jan Lustig prepared a screenplay in 1945. A modern source also credits Porter with having worked on the screenplay, but the extent of her contribution to the final film has not been determined. Charles Laughton, who portrayed King Henry VIII in Young Bess , had previously portrayed the monarch in the 1933 film The Private Life of Henry VIII (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ), a performance that earned him an Academy Award. According to a 31 Dec 1952 HR news item, director George Sidney planned to use twenty-five English actors when looping the film to add authenticity.
       Elizabeth I (1533--1603) ruled as queen of England and Ireland from 1558 until her death, and was the last of the Tudor rulers. Admiral Thomas Seymour was the brother of Jane Seymour, Henry VIII's third wife and mother of Prince Edward. Seymour married Henry's sixth wife, Catherine Parr, after the king's death. Parr died in 1548, shortly after giving birth, and Seymour was executed for high treason six months later. Although the extent of their ... More Less

In the onscreen prologue and closing credits, Anne Boleyn's name is misspelled as "Ann." Nov 1952 HR news items reveal that Mara Corday was originally cast as Boleyn. According to a 7 Jun 1953 NYT article, M-G-M purchased the film rights to Margaret Irwin's book in 1945, but production was delayed because of difficulties in casting the title role, for which both Greer Garson and Deborah Kerr were considered. A 24 Aug 1952 NYT news item states that Katherine Anne Porter and credited writer Jan Lustig prepared a screenplay in 1945. A modern source also credits Porter with having worked on the screenplay, but the extent of her contribution to the final film has not been determined. Charles Laughton, who portrayed King Henry VIII in Young Bess , had previously portrayed the monarch in the 1933 film The Private Life of Henry VIII (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ), a performance that earned him an Academy Award. According to a 31 Dec 1952 HR news item, director George Sidney planned to use twenty-five English actors when looping the film to add authenticity.
       Elizabeth I (1533--1603) ruled as queen of England and Ireland from 1558 until her death, and was the last of the Tudor rulers. Admiral Thomas Seymour was the brother of Jane Seymour, Henry VIII's third wife and mother of Prince Edward. Seymour married Henry's sixth wife, Catherine Parr, after the king's death. Parr died in 1548, shortly after giving birth, and Seymour was executed for high treason six months later. Although the extent of their romantic relationship is not known, modern historians agree that Elizabeth and Seymour did carry on a flirtation that caused friction in Seymour's marriage.
       According to an 8 May 1953 HR news item, M-G-M's Empire Theatre in London was installing the city's first panoramic screen for the run of Young Bess . The slightly curved screen had an aluminized surface and was intended to "give panoramic dimensions to normal-sized prints." Contemporary news items add that the film had a charity premiere in Brighton, England, as part of the festivities surrounding the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on 2 Jun 1953. Young Bess received Academy Award nominations for Best Costume Design (Color) and Best Art Direction (Color). Jean Simmons and Stewart Granger, who portrayed Elizabeth and Seymour, were married at the time the film was made.
       Elizabeth I's life has served as the inspiration for many other biographical films, including the 1939 film The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex , directed by Michael Curtiz, with Bette Davis and Errol Flynn (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ); the 1955 film The Virgin Queen , directed by Henry Koster, which also starred Bette Davis as Elizabeth and featured Richard Todd and Joan Collins (see above); and the 1998 film Elizabeth , directed by Shekhar Kapur, in which Cate Blanchett appeared in the title role. The queen's life was also the subject of a 1968 NBC television special, Elizabeth the Queen , starring Judith Anderson and Charlton Heston, and an acclaimed 1971 BBC mini-series, Elizabeth R , starring Glenda Jackson. A number of films have incorporated Elizabeth as a minor character, and in 1998, Dame Judi Dench won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of the queen in Shakespeare in Love . More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
2 May 53
p. 28.
Box Office
9 May 1953.
---
Daily Variety
28 Apr 53
p. 3.
Film Daily
30 Apr 53
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Sep 52
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Oct 52
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Oct 52
p. 22.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Nov 52
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Nov 52
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Nov 52
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Dec 52
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Apr 53
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
8 May 53
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
12 May 53
p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
29 May 1953.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
2 May 53
p. 1821.
New York Times
24 Aug 1952.
---
New York Times
21 Dec 52
sec. II, p. 5.
New York Times
22 May 53
p. 31.
New York Times
31 May 53
sec. II, p. 1.
New York Times
7 Jun 53
sec. II, p. 1.
Variety
29 Apr 53
p.6.
Variety
20 May 1953.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
SOUND
Rec supv
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Hair styles
Makeup created by
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
Col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Young Bess by Margaret Irwin (London, 1944).
DETAILS
Release Date:
29 May 1953
Premiere Information:
New York and London openings: 22 May 1953
Los Angeles opening: 28 May 1953
Production Date:
2 October--19 November 1952
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
27 April 1953
Copyright Number:
LP2561
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
111
Length(in feet):
10,050
Length(in reels):
12
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
16304
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

At Hatfield House in England, in 1558, royal governess Mrs. Ashley tells steward Mr. Parry that word has come from London that their mistress Elizabeth's half-sister, Queen Mary, is on her deathbed. Ecstatic at the prospect of "Young Bess" inheriting the throne, the servants share a celebratory drink and recall Elizabeth's childhood: King Henry VIII and his wife, Anne Boleyn, present their infant daughter Elizabeth to the court. When Anne is executed for infidelity three years later, Elizabeth loses her claim to the throne and is sent to live in Hatfield with Mrs. Ashley. The young princess is brought back to court to meet Henry's fourth and fifth wives, but returns to Hatfield when these marriages end. Years pass, and dashing Lord Admiral Thomas Seymour arrives at Hatfield one day to bring Elizabeth, now a headstrong young woman, back to court. At the palace, Elizabeth meets the gracious Catherine Parr, Henry's sixth wife, and is immediately won over by her warmth. Elizabeth also is reunited with her younger half-brother Edward, who speculates that Catherine may not last long because of her outspoken ways. One day, on one of Thomas' ships, Henry accuses Catherine of heresy when he learns that she authorized an English translation of the Bible. Elizabeth comes to her stepmother's defense, and Henry is impressed by her spirit and likeness to him. The king soon falls ill, and on his deathbed warns Thomas to be on guard against Thomas' cold, ambitious brother Ned. Henry dies, and Elizabeth realizes that she is in love with Thomas. Young Edward is crowned king and placed under the guardianship ... +


At Hatfield House in England, in 1558, royal governess Mrs. Ashley tells steward Mr. Parry that word has come from London that their mistress Elizabeth's half-sister, Queen Mary, is on her deathbed. Ecstatic at the prospect of "Young Bess" inheriting the throne, the servants share a celebratory drink and recall Elizabeth's childhood: King Henry VIII and his wife, Anne Boleyn, present their infant daughter Elizabeth to the court. When Anne is executed for infidelity three years later, Elizabeth loses her claim to the throne and is sent to live in Hatfield with Mrs. Ashley. The young princess is brought back to court to meet Henry's fourth and fifth wives, but returns to Hatfield when these marriages end. Years pass, and dashing Lord Admiral Thomas Seymour arrives at Hatfield one day to bring Elizabeth, now a headstrong young woman, back to court. At the palace, Elizabeth meets the gracious Catherine Parr, Henry's sixth wife, and is immediately won over by her warmth. Elizabeth also is reunited with her younger half-brother Edward, who speculates that Catherine may not last long because of her outspoken ways. One day, on one of Thomas' ships, Henry accuses Catherine of heresy when he learns that she authorized an English translation of the Bible. Elizabeth comes to her stepmother's defense, and Henry is impressed by her spirit and likeness to him. The king soon falls ill, and on his deathbed warns Thomas to be on guard against Thomas' cold, ambitious brother Ned. Henry dies, and Elizabeth realizes that she is in love with Thomas. Young Edward is crowned king and placed under the guardianship of Ned, who has been named Lord Protector of the Realm, and his wife Ann. When Ann accuses Elizabeth of having behaved inappropriately with Thomas, the princess hurls an inkwell at her and is ordered to return to Hatfield. Thomas instead has Elizabeth and Catherine moved to Chelsea, to Ned's annoyance. Elizabeth confesses her feelings for Thomas to Mrs. Ashley, who replies that he is in love with another woman. Elizabeth vehemently denies this, but late one night, she hears a horse approach and from her window sees Thomas and Catherine embrace. Mrs. Ashley gently tells the crestfallen Elizabeth that Thomas and Catherine were secretly engaged before Henry decided to take Catherine for his wife, and that Ned would never permit his brother to marry into the royal family. Elizabeth goes to see Edward, who complains of Ned and Ann's oppressive control over him. Elizabeth urges Edward to stand up for himself, and gives him the idea of authorizing a marriage between Catherine and Thomas. Edward commands the lovers to marry, and gives Thomas more ships. After a successful campaign against pirates, Thomas' popularity soars, arousing Ned's jealousy. One day, Thomas takes Elizabeth sailing, and she impresses him with her nautical knowledge and her dreams of global supremacy for England. Elizabeth's unrequited love for Thomas continues to torture her, and she agrees to Ned's request that she consider marriage to a Danish prince. At a banquet for the Danish envoy, Elizabeth slips away and kisses Edward's infatuated valet, Barnaby Fitzpatrick, hoping that Thomas will discover them. They are instead seen by the Danish envoy, who departs at once. Thomas is furious with Elizabeth, but they kiss and she declares her love for him. The following day, Catherine confronts Elizabeth, having divined the young woman's feelings, and Elizabeth agrees it is best that she return to Hatfield. Catherine soon becomes ill and dies. A year later, Elizabeth appears at court during Edward's birthday celebration. Edward privately tells Elizabeth that Ned has intercepted Thomas' letters to her, and warns that Thomas' life is in danger. When she returns to Hatfield, Elizabeth learns that Parry and Mrs. Ashley have been taken to London for questioning. Thomas comes to Elizabeth in the middle of the night, and they talk together until dawn. Later, Elizabeth is summoned by Ned, who informs her that Thomas has been arrested and taken to the Tower. Ned accuses her of conspiring with Thomas to commit treason, but Elizabeth defiantly accuses Ned of plotting to kill his brother and vows to enlist Edward's support. Thomas is executed before Edward can intervene, however, and Elizabeth comforts the weeping young king. Back in the present, Mrs. Ashley tells Parry that she has dressed specially in anticipation of Elizabeth's becoming queen, explaining that she wore the same gown to Edward's funeral and Ned's execution. As the crowds outside cheer and her servants look on with pride, a poised Elizabeth steps out on the balcony to greet her subjects. +

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

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