Directed by George Sidney
Produced by Sidney Franklin
Written by Jan Lustig and Arthur Wimperis
Based on Young Bess, a 1944 novel by Margaret Irwin
Starring Jean Simmons, Stewart Granger, Deborah Kerr, and Charles Laughton
Historically speaking, this depiction was not very accurate even given for the need to stage scenes for cinematic advantage. Young Bess went way beyond the historical record and attempted to idealize the relationship between a child and grown man—it was creepy not romantic.
As for the characters, Katherine Parr’s (Deborah Kerr was beautiful and did what she could with the script) portrayal did not show her strength and intelligence while Thomas Seymour (one does agree Stewart Granger was handsome) was granted more favorable traits then he deserved. Elizabeth, was courageous, but not foolhardy as to give attitude to her father. She knew better, she understood the politics and distanced herself from her mother’s memory and knew how to impress her father not defy him as her sister Mary did.
For the movie portrayal itself, Jean Simmons, while a respected actress, did not in this reviewer’s opinion, showcase the talents and personality of the true Elizabeth. The young Edward (Rex Thompson) was such a caricature that it was cringe inducing to watch. The huge age difference between the actors was hard to witness as in reality the siblings were only four years apart. Charles Laughton’s role of Henry VIII was entertaining and believable in his intensity but it also waivered on the brink of caricature.
Sorry to say, this movie was not entertaining to me—although the Danish ball was fun—(even if viewed from the idea that it was a modern 1950s Elizabeth) because it was too far from the historical record. Luckily, as a history teacher I will not have to experience students who have watched this (too old-fashioned for their interest) thinking it is accurate. It was enough to undo the perceptions gained from Disney’s Anastasia.
Did the love the lines: Ann Seymour: “Do not attempt to confuse me by using words beyond my understanding.”
Bess: “I am sorry, Madame, but they are difficult to avoid.”