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|Directed by||George Sidney|
|Produced by||Sidney Franklin|
by Margaret Irwin
|Music by||Miklós Rózsa|
|Edited by||Ralph E. Winters|
Young Bess is a 1953 Technicolor biographical film made by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer about the early life of Elizabeth I, from her turbulent childhood to the eve of her accession to the throne of England. It stars Jean Simmons and Stewart Granger as Thomas Seymour, with Charles Laughton as Elizabeth's father, Henry VIII, a part he had played twenty years before in The Private Life of Henry VIII. The film was directed by George Sidney and produced by Sidney Franklin, from a screenplay by Jan Lustig and Arthur Wimperis based on the novel by Margaret Irwin (1944).
Following the execution of her mother, Anne Boleyn (Elaine Stewart), for infidelity, Elizabeth (Jean Simmons) is exiled to Hatfield House and declared illegitimate (thereby losing her place in line of succession the throne) by her father, King Henry VIII (Charles Laughton). She is accompanied by her loyal servants, Mr. Parry (Cecil Kellaway) and her governess Mrs. Ashley (Kay Walsh). Over the years, her position rises and falls on the whim of her father.
The child is periodically summoned to return to London to become acquainted with Henry's latest spouse. When Henry marries his last wife, Catherine Parr (Deborah Kerr), the now-teenage Elizabeth finally rebels against her latest summons. However, the suave, handsome Lord Admiral Thomas Seymour (Stewart Granger) persuades her to change her mind, and Elizabeth and Catherine become good friends. Meanwhile, Henry is impressed and amused by the resolute defiance of his daughter (once again declared legitimate).
When Henry dies, Thomas's scheming brother Ned (Guy Rolfe) takes over as Lord Protector and guardian of King Edward VI (Rex Thompson) during his minority, overriding Henry's wish that Thomas raise the boy. Ned and Thomas do not like each other, and Ned's fear of his brother's ambition grows with each of Thomas's naval triumphs.
Elizabeth realizes she is in love with Thomas. She refuses to believe Mrs. Ashley's warning that he loves someone else until she sees Thomas and Catherine embrace in secret. Ned had blocked Thomas from marrying into the royal family, but Elizabeth graciously persuades her brother to issue a royal decree sanctioning their marriage. As they live in the same household in Chelsea, Thomas grows too close to Elizabeth without even knowing it, until one day he sees Elizabeth being kissed by Barnaby, a servant. Prompted by jealousy, Thomas kisses Elizabeth, who declares her love for him. Catherine, who has noticed the closeness between her husband and Elizabeth, asks Elizabeth to make a choice, and the princess moves back to Hatfield.
Soon after, Catherine sickens and dies. After months of Thomas being away at sea, he returns and finally sees Elizabeth. Ned has him arrested and charged with treason. He also accuses Elizabeth of plotting with Thomas to overthrow her brother. She goes to see Edward, but is too late to save Thomas from execution.
The film then shifts forward to 1558. Having survived the perils of her early life, and with Edward deceased and her elder sister Mary dying, Elizabeth is about to become Queen of England.
MGM bought the rights to the novel in 1945. Katherine Anne Porter and Jan Lustig signed to write the script and Sidney Franklin was producer. Early on Elizabeth Taylor was mentioned for a role. However she was young; Deborah Kerr signed with MGM and she was announced as star, and the part written older. MGM announced filming in England in 1948, with Kerr to make it after Edward, My Son. Filming ended up being postponed.
Then Jean Simmons was announced as lead. This was partly at the behest of J. Arthur Rank who had Simmons under contract and thought the role would be perfect for her. Simmons had married Stewart Granger and he signed to co star. Deborah Kerr wound up joining the cast as Catherine Parr and Charles Laughton played Henry VIII.
Filming took place in Hollywood. Producer Sidney Franklin said:
We're telling an intimate story against a background of sixteenth century court life, as opposed to a historical pageant about royal intrigues. We feel the love story between the Princess and Seymour - actually he was 25 years older than Elizabeth - will be more valid to audiences than a lot of historical detail which has no relation to our customers lives.
Contemporary reviews were positive. A. H. Weiler of The New York Times wrote in a favorable review that "if faint strains of soap opera occasionally filter through the pomp and circumstance, Elizabeth of England and some of the storied figures who crowd this beautiful Technicolored tapestry, emerge as human beings." Variety called it "a remarkably engrossing motion picture" and "a human story, sensitively written, directed and played." "A strong romantic costume drama," declared Harrison's Reports. "The direction is faultless, the production values lavish, and the color photography exquisite." John McCarten of The New Yorker wrote that the plot "may sound like a Madison Avenue concept of history, but as directed by George Sidney, the piece doesn't churn up too much sudsy bathos to be intolerable, and, indeed, the cast goes about its work with such sincerity that you can enjoy the thing as a handsome costume exercise even though you're skeptical about Miss Irwin's history."
The film was Stewart Granger's favourite of all those he made for MGM "for the costumes, the cast, the story."
According to MGM records, the film earned $1,645,000 in North America and $2,450,000 elsewhere, leading to a loss of $272,000.
In France, the film recorded admissions of 1,465,207.
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