Saturday, June 9, 2012


20th Century Fox
A Cinemascope Production



Jay Robinson   Herbert Marshall   Dan O'Herilihy   Robert Douglas   Romney Brent  Rod Taylor

    Assistant Director - Joseph E Rickards                 Director of Photography - Charles G Clark  A.S.C
Music by Franz Waxman   Art Director - Lyle R Wheeler & Leland Fuller  Edited by Robert Simpson A.C.E
           Written by Harry Brown &  Mindret Lord   Costumes by Mary Wills &  Charles La Maire
                                Produced by Charles Brackett  Directed by Henry Koster

       (c)  1955  FOX ..  92 MINS .. Color by Deluxe .. Reg 1 & 2 DVD  Fox Home Entertainment

"The Virgin Queen" was Joan's first major Hollywood film and it also was Bette Davis's first film in three years, as she had left Hollywood to star on Broadway in the musical revue "Two's Company". But her run on Broadway was cut short as she had to undergo jaw surgery and it took her sometime to recover. Joan was happy with the role of Beth Throgmorton, a lady in waiting to the domineering Queen. She commented on her part as "Cool. Crazy. Jolly Good!". She was however both in awe and wary of the legendary Bette, as she recently recalled.
" The costumes were terribly uncomfortable, as I was wearing a modified version of the steel corset, the constrictive costumes probably accounted for Bette's bad moods. She stalked up and down the set chain-smoking and she was not too fond of young pretty actresses and she constantly barked angrily as us for minor infractions. In one scene I had to lace up her shoe and she would not keep her foot still, shouting at me then for messing up the scene. Finally the director Henry Koster demanded I play her at her own game. This I did by grabbing her foot between my knees and preventing her from shaking it and finally I could lace up the shoe. After that incident Bette had a bit more respect for me!"
It was Bette's second time to play the role of Elizabeth 1st and she certainly suffered for her art on this picture. Her days began at 5.30, where she had to have her head freshly shaved, eyebrows plucked and her eyelashes bleached. The real Queen had been bald since the age of sixteen and Bette wanted an authentic look. But Bette wasn't the only one suffering for her art as Joan had to spend endless hours standing for costume fittings, as every costume was handmade and they were covered with thousands of tiny seed pearls and other beads. The costumes were so lavish that costume designers Mary Wills and Charles Le Maire were nominated for an Oscar for costume design at the 1956 Oscars. The film had it's gala premiere at The Strand Theatre in Portland Maine. It was a benefit for The Children's Theatre of Portland and was attended by more than 100 stars and journalists from New York. Bette had made her home in Maine for the three years she had been away from Hollywood. Joan at the time was still living with Sydney Chaplin in an apartment on Beverly Glen, near the Fox studios. But things were not all rosy, as she was paying all the bills as Sydney was out of work and spent his days watching TV or playing golf. But although Joan found working with Bette, a sometimes terrifying experience, her co-star Richard Todd had only good things to say about both ladies. He was fond of Bette and admired her greatly. He commented that he thought Joan was splendid, a professional and a nice person. Joan would work with Todd a few more times over the years, in the 60's they co-starred in "Subterfuge" and in the early 80's they would appear in the play "Murder in Mind".  Gossip columnist's had also begun to notice Joan with comments such as:
Earl Wilson - "Joan Collins is the zippiest, unstuffy British actress we know!"

Louella Parsons - "I don't see how anybody could be bored with Joan Collins!"

The New York Times review by Bosley Crowther...
"Here in this bold and splendid pageant of Queen Elizabeth's court, which producer Charles Brackett has assembled in colour and Cinemascope, Bette Davis repeats as the monarch that she was to a regal degree in "The Private Lives Of Elizabeth And Essex" back in 1939. Again she is the royal person, stuffed into puffy costumes and striding through swarms of low-gowned ladies in waiting and mincing courtiers! How Miss Davis finds the courage to do again a role that she did with such memorable perfection, when we were all much younger than we are? Well! Miss Davis has assembled such a complex of make-up for this job, that is isn't really herself but a facade that she animates on the screen. From behind all this ornamentation, Miss Davis projects a thing that seems part man, part woman, part monster, part suppliant and part freak! Also as further inducement, she has in Richard Todd, a fine and more aggressive leading man, than she had in Errol Flynn. As for Joan Collins as the court lady whom Raleigh secretly weds, she is pretty and mildly vivacious, adequate to the plot. Henry Koster's direction is consistent with the size of the Cinemascope screen. This is the biggest drama of Elizabeth yet paraded. Perhaps that is why Miss Davis wanted to play the Queen again."

Bette Davis is her usual excellent self in the role of the monstrous old Queen, while Joan is as lovely as ever in the role of her rival. "The Virgin Queen" is classic Hollywood fare and always worth a screening!

(c)  2010  Mark Mc Morrow..

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