This is a handsomely mounted and forcefully dramatic glorification of Queen Bess. It holds a succession of brilliantly played scenes, a wealth of choice diction, pointed excerpts from English history and a series of impressive tableaux.
It projects Flora Robson in a conception of the British regent which holds the imagination. Her keen aptitude in dovetailing the strong and frail sides of Elizabeth’s nature makes a solid keystone for the production.
Action ranges from cumbersomely dull to sharp, hardhitting flashes of excitement. Where director William K. Howard seems to get in his most telling dramatic effects are the sequences which build up to Laurence Olivier’s undoing as an English spy and his subsequent escape, the queen’s confronting of her coterie of exposed betrayers, and the burning of the Spanish armada.
Sprightly plied are the romantic passages. It’s a two-cornered play for Olivier. First object of his deportment is his childhood sweetheart and lady-in-waiting to the queen, persuasively treated by Vivien Leigh. His other idyllic moments bring him in contact with the daughter of a Spanish nobleman. As the Spanish beauty Tamara Desni blends a compound of charm and sympathy.