by Bethany Latham
Publication Date: April 27, 2011
This analysis of how filmmakers have portrayed England's Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603), and the audience's perception of Elizabeth based upon these portrayals, examines key representations of the Tudor monarch in various motion pictures and television miniseries. It appraises of the productions themselves and the actresses who have portrayed Elizabeth, among them Bette Davis, Glenda Jackson, Vanessa Redgrave, Judy Dench, Cate Blanchett and Helen Mirren, as well as Quentin Crisp's cross-dressing appearance as the Queen in Orlando (1992). The text focuses on the historical context of the period in which each film or miniseries was made; the extent of the portrayals of Elizabeth; and how these representations have influenced the characterization of Elizabeth on film, as well as popular understanding of the historical Queen.
In my quest to gobble up anything related to Queen Elizabeth I, I jumped at the chance to further my obsession and check out Bethany Latham’s book, Elizabeth I in Film and Television: A Study of the Major Portrayals.
From the first film to feature Elizabeth, the silent movie Les Amours de la Reine Elisabeth with the Divine Sarah Bernhardt portraying the famed monarch to the more recent Elizabeth: The Golden Age, with the stunning Cate Blanchett as the Virgin Queen, Latham covers the map of Elizabeth portrayals. Elizabeth I in Film and Television explores the major Hollywood productions, television mini-series and even a few of the smaller roles, such as Judi Dench in Shakespeare in Love and Tim Burtons’ Alice in Wonderland.
Readers are given a back-stage pass and a behind the scenes look at each work. Bethany delves into the actress portraying Elizabeth, the historical accuracy of the film, status of the film industry, entertainment factor, people’s sentiments of Elizabeth at the time of production, picture making capabilities of the day, and the director’s vision/purpose of the movie. I was seriously impressed by the amount of research and at how thorough and in-depth her analysis was and have since began a mission to watch every movie covered in the book. For a non-fiction work I can tell you that this did not read dry at all! I had an inkling that I would enjoy the read, but I was quite surprised on how absorbed I became in it and not only because of Elizabeth, but even learning about the actresses, directors, the film industry in general and the history of picture making was fascinating!
So for those of you like Bethany and me, who continue to still be fascinated by Elizabeth and share a love of historical & period films, you will not want to miss this excellent read!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bethany Latham is an associate professor and electronic resources/documents librarian at Jacksonville State University in Alabama. Her articles have appeared in such publications as Reference Reviews and Library Journal. She is the managing editor of The Historical Novels Review.