The King’s Screen: Elizabeth I

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Cate Blanchett in ‘Elizabeth: The Golden Age’ (source: Knoxville News)

It seems that every actress has played or has wanted to play Elizabeth I, beginning with Flora Robson, who appeared as the Virgin Queen in several adventure movies. Bette Davis made the first serious stab at this role in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939), and her jumpy, mannered, passionate performance in that film is still probably the definitive rendition of the part. Davis’s return to the role in The Virgin Queen (1955) is clearly a second best for her, though it too has its vivid moments of queenly displeasure.

Cate Blanchett has played the Virgin Queen twice; she was a bit too careful in Elizabeth (1998) and quite over the top in Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2006), both of which won her Oscar nominations for Best Actress (to her credit, Blanchett cringed at her own performance in the second movie when watching a clip from it on the Oscar telecast). In the latter case especially, the talented Blanchett proved that she is often incapable of using her own talent in any but the most self-indulgent of ways.

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