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Elizabeth I: which actress do you prefer?


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I saw all three over several seasons at New York City Opera in the early 70s. Beverly Sills was Anna, Maria, and Elisabetta (the last in Roberto Devereux). In those days before supertitles it was a great advantage to have stories that were familiar from history and the movies.

I'm no opera expert, but I remember especially Sills's last scene as Anna, awaiting her execution while we hear from offstage the joyous celebrations for Henry VIII's next wedding.

Maria Stuarda is considered, I believe, a less successful work. I remember it mostly for the long face-to-face confrontation scene between Maria (Sills) and Elisabetta, both sopranos. This opera, llike Anna Bolena, ends with the heroine preparing to be beheaded.

Roberto Devereux is the last of the 3 chronologically. At NYC Opera Placido Domingo, was Devereux and Sills the much older Queen. Here it's Devereux (Earl of Essex) who ends up dead, after much suspence involving a ring and a possible pardon. The final word, however, is Elizabeth's, grieving for Essex and having presentiments of her own decay and death.

Sills recorded all three with the LSO. They're available under the umbrella title, "Three Queens." Here's the Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Donizetti-Queens-Stu...x/dp/B000050I2W

The recording of Maria Callas' 1957 live performance of Anna Bolena (La Scala) is fantastic and quite different in effect from Sills's work. Here's the Amazon link:

http://www.amazon.com/Donizetti-complete-G...2581&sr=1-2

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Historian Antonia Fraser airs her very readable views on historical movies and the novels behind them:

http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol...icle3446528.ece

I watched with disbelief 'The Tudors' TV series where King Henry VIII's sister Margaret marries the ageing King of Portugal whom she goes on to murder, eh? Never mind that the real Margaret actually married the King of Scotland, though she did outlive him.

The problem with watching these things is that if you have any knowledge of history, you quickly lose patience with most of these films; though like Ms Fraser I also admire Laughton as Henry VIII and enjoyed A Man For All Seasons.

Although historical fiction isn't a favourite genre I remember reading We Speak No Treason by Rosemary Hawley Jarman and thinking it would make a brilliant film and some of Mary Renault's books would look good on screen too.

I don't think I'll be bothering with the new film about the Boleyn sisters I'm afraid, as I'm feeling pretty much Tudored out by now.

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Historian Antonia Fraser airs her very readable views on historical movies and the novels behind them:

http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol...icle3446528.ece

I watched with disbelief 'The Tudors' TV series where King Henry VIII's sister Margaret marries the ageing King of Portugal whom she goes on to murder, eh? Never mind that the real Margaret actually married the King of Scotland, though she did outlive him.

The problem with watching these things is that if you have any knowledge of history, you quickly lose patience with most of these films; though like Ms Fraser I also admire Laughton as Henry VIII and enjoyed A Man For All Seasons.

[...]

Thanks for the link! I think part of the problem is that "history" itself--even without fictionalization--is a slippery object. And often when historians try to offer new evidence or interpretations of the past, they're labeled "revisionists." (This happens a lot with American history.) The Tudors do seem particularly encrusted with myth, legend, and puffy sleeves! Someone characterized modern representations of the Tudors as a "well-upholstered past."

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Thank you, Mashinka, for posting the link. An enjoyable article. We seem to be going through a bout of Tudormania.

Fraser’s views did seem a little foggy in spots – she seems to approve of a freewheeling attitude toward historical accuracy except when she doesn’t, and not all of her details seem accurate. Offhand, I don’t recall the exchange she quotes in ‘Nicholas and Alexandra’ nor do I think John Knox makes an appearance in ‘Elizabeth.’

‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ sounds like a garden variety bodice ripper. It’s possible to enjoy such things for themselves. Comparing it to ‘A Man For All Seasons,’ a work of serious intent whatever you may think of it, is really a business of apples and oranges.

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‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ sounds like a garden variety bodice ripper. It’s possible to enjoy such things for themselves. Comparing it to ‘A Man For All Seasons,’ a work of serious intent whatever you may think of it, is really a business of apples and oranges.

dirac, I think you are too easy on 'The Other Boleyn Girl'. Given the A-list cast and the huge amount of publicity this movie is getting, it really should be more than a garden-variety bodice ripper. Of course, having read the novel, I don't think it will be more than that. :thumbsup:

By the way, has anyone seen the British TV adaptation of 'The Other Boleyn Girl' with Natascha McElhone as Mary? So different from Johanssen.

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I have to confess that I am addicted to the Tudors on showtime. I almost never get lured into any TV series.....but this one got me. I watched every single episode - some of them more than once! - and am now enjoying the reruns as we approach the beginning of the second season...

The series inspired me to read The Other Boleyn Girl this past summer, and also another book by the same author, that focuses on Catherine of Aragon. I just read a review of new movie version of the Other Boleyn Girl..... not very good. Guess that's one I'll wait to come to cable...

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I love the following, from the NY Times review of The Other Boleyn Girl:

Many of the scenes seem to have been whittled down to the nub, which at times turns it into a succession of wordless gestures and poses. Given the generally risible dialogue, this isn’t a bad thing, despite Mr. Morgan’s previous credits (notably “The Queenâ€). Ms. Portman’s eyes, Mr. Bana’s hands and Ms. Johansson’s chin all receive vigorous workouts.
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I have to confess that I am addicted to the Tudors on showtime. I almost never get lured into any TV series.....but this one got me. I watched every single episode - some of them more than once! - and am now enjoying the reruns as we approach the beginning of the second season...

The series inspired me to read The Other Boleyn Girl this past summer, and also another book by the same author, that focuses on Catherine of Aragon. I just read a review of new movie version of the Other Boleyn Girl..... not very good. Guess that's one I'll wait to come to cable...

KarenD, welcome to the thread and the board. I followed the show, too. A lot of it is, well, ridiculous, but I just relax and go with it and have a good time. I am apprehensive about what things will be like this season without Sam Neill as Wolsey, and the great Maria Doyle Kennedy as Katharine of Aragon won’t be around for too much longer, either.

As for being inspired to read, I find the history books just as vivid about this period as the historical novels I've come across.

And when is Henry going to grow a beard??

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Thank you for the welcome!

I am glad that you reached the conclusion that you could just relax and “go with it” as far as the series is concerned. Yes, I agree that the story line does take a few liberties with actual history. But, I have to tell you, that I only know that from study that occurred AFTER watching the show. The series made me more curious about the actual history than I otherwise would ever have been… true confession.

The same may be true of Phillipa Gregory’s books. (the author of the books I mentioned.) Yet, through both the series and these books, I feel I have gained a bit of insight into what this time period may have been like.

Even if the books or the TV series are little better than historical soap operas, I feel they still have redeeming qualities! Hey, I could have been watching the “Sopranos’ (my husbands favorite….)

Gregory’s book about Catherine of Aragon might be interesting and useful reading to anyone following the series…. It gives one perspective on how she came to marry Henry after his brother died, and the basis for Henry’s pursuit of an annulment. I found the portrayal of the grit of her character in the book consistent with her portrayal on the show.

I didn’t realize Sam Neill had passed away! Or did I misinterpret the post. And MD Kennedy was true to the character… but history does remove her from court….

As far as Henry growing a beard… well historically he is also supposed to become much more portly….hmmmm…. we can have a few more episodes with a fit and trim and beardless Henry, can’t we????

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How interesting, one of my numerous degrees was in medieval-renaissance history with a necessary study of the Plantagenets thru the Tudors-Stuarts. But forgetting history and remembering the other degree in cinema-tv prod. (all so I could be a well-rounded Prod.-Dir. at PBS, in case I didn't get the chance to do dance films)....

My favorite current actress to portray ElizabethI has never done so yet. Why do I prefer her? Because she is an identical twin of Elizabeth in nearly all the famous portraits bart found at the www.marileecody.com/gloriana/elizabeth site. And her lineage goes back nearly as far (or further?) than Elizabeth's herself, so maybe some ancient genes got mixed in somewhere? Who is it?--The latest Best Supporting Actress Oscar-winner: Tilda Swinton. Don't believe me? Look at the picture of her in Elizabethan period costume (albeit as a man) in the film (or pbk book cover) of "Orlando". I know Orlando is all about gender-bending, but I did think it was egregious casting not to cast Swinton as Elizabeth in the film.

Other than that, I do prefer Glenda Jackson--but also agree six episodes does allow for greater depth in characterization. (I miss the late Robert Hardy in all his roles, and Robin Ellis' Poldark.) Still, no one has touched Jackson (or her scriptwriters) in conveying the fear/pressure/determination needed to write that "Tidal letter" and survive long enough to inherit.

I like Cate Blanchette; but not really enamored with the films. Re: ELIZABETH: I did think the final image a good copy of coronation portrait, agree about apt portrayal of the paranoia of the time, and will never forget that first scene at the stake. But it was a very modern take on the time. I also was not sure the darkness of the scenes was intentional--candlelight was not the greatest illuminatorafter all, or was it a way to create subliminal tension in the audience? The second film had better staging-scenic design, but less tension, and bordered on the hagiographic & hystrionic at times.

I thought the recent Showtime "Tudors" was 'trashy soap opera' with entirely innaccurate sets/costumes or motivation, but I guess okay to watch everyone chew the scenery. Though Rhys-Meyers' Henry reminded me too much of his "Gormanghast"(sp?) portrayal.

I have seen almost all the other films/portraits mentioned above, except Bernhardt, and agree with most of the comments.

RE: Anne Boleyn...Genevieve Bujold yes. Dorothy Tutin too old for part in BBC's Six Wives, but affecting. Yes, Vanessa Redgrave in that cameo. (I LOVE Man for All Seasons, for its direction, production, script, and acting.) No one has mentioned Helena Bonham Carter's Anne yet. Or HBC's 16 year old portrayal of Jane Grey for Trevor Nunn, which also took some liberties with history, but had some very accurate sets and costumes, and excellent (RSC) actors--Wood, Hordern, and oh yeah, Patrick Stewart?

I agree about Portman & Johannson, too modern pouty coached to do characters justice. But at least someone is still making 'historical' films.

As I said, an interesting thread with many enlightened interesting opinions.

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I know Orlando is all about gender-bending, but I did think it was egregious casting not to cast Swinton as Elizabeth in the film.

But Orlando DID have a great Elizabeth I in Quentin Crisp, the self-described "stately homo of England". He gave a whole new meaning and respectability to the epithet "old drag queen"!

Bonham Carter's Jane Grey was really a mishmash of bad history and presentism. Jane utterly loathed Dudley the Dud, and for his part, even though inflation was rife at the time, his little lecture on economics was completely outside his ken and character. Hordern was wasted and handed some awful lines, and untrue besides, about sixteenth-century differences between the Roman and Anglican Communions.

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Who is it?--The latest Best Supporting Actress Oscar-winner: Tilda Swinton.

Swinton has played Elizabeth, for Derek Jarman.

I didn’t realize Sam Neill had passed away! Or did I misinterpret the post. And MD Kennedy was true to the character… but history does remove her from court….

As far as Henry growing a beard… well historically he is also supposed to become much more portly….hmmmm…. we can have a few more episodes with a fit and trim and beardless Henry, can’t we????

Sorry, Karen. I didn't mean to suggest that Neill himself had died, God forbid, but that Wolsey was dead and so we presumably wouldn't see any more of Neill in the series unless he made a ghostly reappearance.

As for Henry's appearance, why the hell not, I guess. Rhys Meyers doesn't look anything like him to begin with, and of course he's way too short. :)

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As for Henry's appearance, why the hell not, I guess. Rhys Meyers doesn't look anything like him to begin with, and of course he's way too short. :)

funny, I didn't notice that he seemed too short. Or does history inicate that Henry was very tall?

I wonder if they will start to age him in he second season?

Ah, the beauty of mindless entertainment while I sew my daughter's pointe shoes.....

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funny, I didn't notice that he seemed too short. Or does history inicate that Henry was very tall?

]Henry was a giant of a man in his day, and he would still be among the bigger men today. In his youth he was the most dazzling of Renaissance princes. Rhys Meyers is a bit on the twerpy side.

Bonham Carter's Jane Grey was really a mishmash of bad history and presentism. Jane utterly loathed Dudley the Dud, and for his part, even though inflation was rife at the time, his little lecture on economics was completely outside his ken and character. Hordern was wasted and handed some awful lines, and untrue besides, about sixteenth-century differences between the Roman and Anglican Communions.

I thought it was nice to see a movie about the era willing to suggest that the reformers had a point or three --most of them side unquestioningly with the conservatives -- and thank you for mentioning it, 4mrdncr, I had forgotten about it. I haven’t seen the film for some time but it’s perfectly acceptable in the terms of current historiography to suggest that Mary was the rebel against the established order and not Northumberland and Jane. There’s ‘presentism’ in any historical film – it’s just a question of degree and when too much is enough.

It's quite true that Jane married Guildford more or less at gunpoint, but I thought the romance was acceptable dramatic license. I have no use for Bonham Carter but Cary Elwes was charming.

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Swinton has played Elizabeth, for Derek Jarman.

In what movie was that? I remember her as the Queen in Jarman's "Edward II", but not as Elizabeth.

Jubilee. It's not a conventional historical movie by any means, though

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Of course I agree with both Mel and GWTW: historically Jane hated Guildford, and Swinton played Edward II's queen for Jarman, not Elizabeth. I never said either film was historically accurate, just that I liked "Jane Grey"'s use of locations, subdued (except for wedding scene) costumes, & the chance to see the RSC alums in something other than the RSC. And both Jarman, and later even "Braveheart" (which had many more egregious E&O's and transposition of persons and dates) suggested that Edward III was NOT the son of Edward II. (Was it Mortimer, who was supposed to be his father, or am I getting my supposed usurpers/dates mixed up too?)

I do remember Mr.Crisp as Elizabeth and of course the double pun that went through all our heads viewing him, but again, still wish someone would realize that Swinton at least looks more like Eliz.I than most others who have portrayed her.

Henry VIII was a large man--we've all seen those two sets of armor in the Tower right?

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Henry was a giant of a man in his day, and he would still be among the bigger men today.
Henry VIII was a large man--we've all seen those two sets of armor in the Tower right?

Maybe not all of us, but I have. He was stout, but not so tall that I would consider him tall by today's standards. I recall seeing the "younger" suit arrayed on horseback (therefore seated), and my impression was that he was no more than 5'7" or so.

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Swinton played Edward II's queen for Jarman, not Elizabeth.

It is a minor point and I will not belabor it further, but Swinton played Elizabeth for Jarman,. She also played Isabella for him.

He was stout, but not so tall that I would consider him tall by today's standards. I recall seeing the "younger" suit arrayed on horseback (therefore seated), and my impression was that he was no more than 5'7" or so.

Opinions can differ, but from my reading it sounds as if Henry was six feet or so. He wasn’t always stout, of course, and even allowing for flattery by all reports he was a magnificent young man. Henry would not have been among the tallest men by today's standards, but he would still qualify as tall and I imagine he'd still stand out in the crowd even minus the crown. :wallbash:

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Henry at full stature was a good six feet tall, and didn't carry the nom de guerre "Great Harry" for nothing! He stopped taking exercise in the form of tournament training after being unhorsed and knocked out, so after that, he filled out to the well-known later Holbein image we have of him today. A few years ago, the Royal Armourer at the Tower let a copy of his "standing suit" of armour be copied for a British-style "Candid Camera" sketch, where a modern six-footer stood, stock-still, in the exhibit until somebody said something like, "Wonder where's the lav?" At which he solemnly raised his arm and pointed, then returned to his former position. It was very funny.

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My favorite current actress to portray ElizabethI has never done so yet. Why do I prefer her? Because she is an identical twin of Elizabeth in nearly all the famous portraits bart found at the www.marileecody.com/gloriana/elizabeth site. And her lineage goes back nearly as far (or further?) than Elizabeth's herself, so maybe some ancient genes got mixed in somewhere? Who is it?--The latest Best Supporting Actress Oscar-winner: Tilda Swinton.
A great casting idea, 4mrdncr. Swinton's bone structure, penetrating eyes, perfect skin, and intelligence really do shout: "Royal blood." (Even though royals rarely have many -- or any -- of these qualities. :wink:

Like Jackson, Swinton has (and this seems very rare among film actresses) the ability to convince us that she understands and is driven by her concerns for the larger political issues. When Jackson talks monarchical or church politics you know she believes passionately in what she has to do. I have the feeling Swinton would be able to do the same.

Orlando DID have a great Elizabeth I in Quentin Crisp, the self-described "stately homo of England". He gave a whole new meaning and respectability to the epithet "old drag queen"!
Another great bit of casting. Crisp had STYLE -- and over-the-top costumes as well.
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I'm afraid my movie going these days is limited to planes, but while I always admired Glenda Jackson's portrayal when it aired on PBS, I loved the last scenes of "Elizabeth" after Cate Blanchett banishes Essex after finding out he is married and transforms herself into the portrait.

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