When RKO set about the task of transmuting this Maxwell Anderson-Theatre Guild play to the screen, it had two possibilities. Could have softened the story and played up the business of a woman who threw away her kingdom for love and thus sold the picture as sheer entertainment; or it could have taken the hard way, telling the story beautifully, artistically, delicately, with meticulous attention to detail and portrayal. Having decided to do it the latter way, there can be nothing but credit to the production.
The really curious point about the film is its casting. On the face of it, Katharine Hepburn would seem to be the wrong choice for the character of the Scots queen. She is nowhere as hard as she should be, she nowhere shows the strength of courage and decision that the school-books talk of. And that is all in the film’s favor because it humanizes it all.
Fredric March as Hepburn’s vis-a-vis in the role of the swashbuckling Bothwell is a natural and excellent choice, playing the slap-dash earl to the hilt. Florence Eldridge as Elizabeth is again a questionable choice from a strict historical standpoint. She, too, turns in such a fine acting job as to convince quite definitely of the wisdom of it.
In handling the photography and physical production, Ford put emphasis on shadows, several times achieving surprisingly strong effects.