Tag Archives: British Films

The Anna Neagle Blogathon: Victoria The Great(1937) & Sixty Glorious Years(1938)

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Anna Neagle was one of Britain’s greatest and most popular film stars. She is best remembered today for her screen collaborations with her husband – the director and producer Herbert Wilcox – and for her portrayals of several historical figures including actress Nell Gwyn and pilot Amy Johnson. 

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Victoria prepares to be crowned Queen in Victoria The Great. Screenshot by me.

In 1937 and 1938, Anna starred in two films in which she would take on what has become her most famous screen role. She played Queen Victoria. The first film was Victoria The Great(released in the UK on the 16th of September, 1937), and the second was Sixty Glorious Years(released in the UK on the 14th of October, 1938). Both films were directed by Anna’s future husband Herbert Wilcox.

Both films were written by Miles Malleson and Charles de Grandcourt, with the then Permanent Under-Secretary Of State For Foreign Affairs Robert Vansittart, contributing dialogue for the second film. 

Victoria The Great wasn’t the first film about Queen Victoria which had been approved by the Crown – the first was the 1913 Silent film Sixty Years A Queen directed by Bert Haldane. However during the inter-war years screen depictions of this monarch were banned by her grandson King George V. In 1937(the 100th anniversary of Victoria’s ascension to the throne)that ban was overturned. 

At the time of the first film going into production the British Monarchy was in crisis. In December 1936, King Edward VIII had chosen love over crown and duty, and had abdicated from the throne in order to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson. Victoria The Great can therefore be seen as a brilliant piece of PR to try and help secure the image of the British royal family as devoted individuals living only for their duties to the people and nation, as well as also celebrating the life of the then longest-reigning British Monarch. 

                     Screenshots from Victoria The Great and Sixty Glorious Years by me.

When I first heard about these two films I assumed that the first would focus on Victoria’s childhood and the early years of her reign, while the second would focus on her marriage and the rest of her reign. What’s weird about these films is that that isn’t the case at all. 

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A happy moment for the Queen and her husband Prince Albert. Screenshot by me.

Victoria The Great follows the eighteen year old Victoria from the moment she is told she is now the new ruler of England. We see her coronation, her courtship and marriage to Prince Albert(wonderfully played by Anton Walbrook), and see many key events from her personal life and reign. The film is shot in black and white, but features a stunning Technicolor finale depicting the celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. 

Although both films do focus on Victoria’s royal duties and her public life, it’s fair to say that the main focus is on the relationship between Victoria and Prince Albert. The pair were deeply in love and Victoria was extremely dependent on her husband and always looked to him for advice. Albert in turn did what he could to ease his wife’s burdens and try and allow her to be a wife and mother as much as a Queen. Both Anna and Anton do a superb job of capturing the passion these two had for each other. Anna and Anton have real chemistry and are so tender with one another.  There are some lovely moments between the two in this first film. I especially love the scene where they are both sitting under a tree on the palace grounds. I also love the scene where Albert comforts his wife following the assassination attempt on her life. 

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Victoria in Technicolor in Sixty Glorious Years. Screenshot by me.

Sixty Glorious Years differs to the first film by being shot entirely in Technicolor and filmed on location at various royal palaces. The second film has an almost identical structure to the first. Sixty Glorious Years plays out to me like a collection of extended or deleted scenes from the first film. To make two films so similar to each other in the space of a year is a strange decision to say the least. I can’t understand why Herbert Wilcox didn’t just make one film of between say three and a half to four hours long which covered Victoria’s whole life and reign. He could have shot it all in Technicolor too in order to create a real spectacle for audiences. 

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Victoria and Albert watch the Highland Games. Screenshot by me.

I do like that there is more focus on Victoria and Albert’s relationship and their children in the second film than in the first though. It’s also nice to see so many scenes in the second being filmed in and around the real royal palaces and gardens. It’s also nice to be able to see all of Tom Heslewood and Doris Zinkeisen’s beautiful costumes in colour too. 

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Discussing the building of the Crystal Palace exhibition. Screenshot by me.

While both films are very good and enjoyable, they each have too much of an episodic format for my taste. Instead of focusing deeply on Victoria’s life and reign we are presented instead with the highlights. The films also never really scratch the surface of Victoria to enable us to learn more about the real woman. Queen Victoria has always struck me as being extremely interesting from a psychological perspective. She had a deeply unhappy and restrictive childhood under the thumb of her mother and Sir John Conroy; then she had a few brief years where she and she alone held all the power in her life and she became a stronger and more confident woman for it; then she married and bore nine children, something which left her unable to be as independent as she had just started to become. When you read about her attitudes to her children, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to learn that the Queen suffered from postnatal depression following her children’s births. Both films also only show us the briefest glimpse of how tempestuous Victoria and Albert’s relationship could be – they loved each other very much indeed but things were not always easy between them at all. 

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Anna Neagle shines as Victoria. Screenshot by me.

Anna shines in both films. She does a great job of portraying the strong-willed Queen from vivacious and beautiful young woman, to the more severe and grief stricken woman we all immediately think of her as being.

Anna dominates each scene she appears in and you can’t take your eyes off her.She is suitably regal and strong willed as the Queen, while also capturing her girlish innocence and her vulnerable side too. 

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Anton Walbrook as Albert. Screenshot by me.

Anton Walbrook is excellent as the loyal and hardworking Prince Albert. He makes Albert gentle, astute, tender and determined. Anton was always a subtle actor who could steal a scene with a mere look alone, and his talents for that are on full display here.

I also like how Anton managed to capture how weary and overworked Albert became in his role as Prince Consort. I also like how the films show his refusal to shut himself away and have no public life because so many at the time considered him to be nothing more than a foreigner interfering in the British government. 

I highly recommend both films to fans of Anna Neagle and Anton Walbrook. If you’re after a deeper exploration of the life and reign of Victoria, then you best check out the many biographies out there about her. 

This is my entry for my Anna Neagle Blogathon being held on the 1st and 2nd of January, 2020. 

Announcing The Anna Neagle Blogathon

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Anna in Spring In Park Lane. Screenshot by me.

As we start to approach the end of 2019, I would like to invite you all to join my next blogathon. 

This one will be held in the New Year and it is going to be dedicated to the great British actress, Dame Anna Neagle. Anna was one of the most talented British actresses working during the classic film era. She is best remembered today for the many films in which she portrayed well known historical figures, including Edith Cavell and Queen Victoria.  She married director and producer Herbert Wilcox, and the pair made many films together. Anna was also a producer herself.

For this blogathon you can write about any of Anna’s films. You can write tributes to Anna. You can write about her partnership with her husband. You can write about her entire career. If you’re not familiar with Anna and her work, why not take this as the perfect opportunity to rectify that and seek out her films? I will allow 2 duplicates per screen title, and a maximum of 3 posts per person. 

The blogathon will be held on the 1st and 2nd of January, 2020. Please have your entries ready on or before those dates. Check the entry list below to see who is writing about what. Take one of the banners below and put them on your site to help promote the event. Have fun writing about Anna and her work!

Participation List

Maddy Loves Her Classic Films:  A Comparison Of Victoria The Great & Sixty Glorious Years

Pale Writer: Maytime In Mayfair

Poppity Talks Classic Film: Irene

Critica Retro: Anna’s Work As A Producer

Screendreams: Nell Gwyn

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Remembering Edward Woodward. 1930-2009

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Edward Woodward in Callan. Screenshot by me.

If the actor Edward Woodward was still with us, he would be celebrating his 89th birthday today.   

Edward Woodward was born in Croydon, London, on the 1st of June, 1930. He would go on to become one of the most beloved British actors. 

Unfortunately you don’t see very much discussion of him today. That’s such a great shame in my opinion. I wanted to write this post in the hope that I can introduce him to some new fans.

Edward Woodward began his acting career by working in theatre and television. He first gained recognition for his screen work with his performance as Guy Crouchback, in the 1967 BBC television adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s trilogy, Sword Of Honour. He would became a household name here in the UK in the late 1960’s, when he starred in a gritty spy series called Callan. I wrote in depth about this series and Edward’s performance here.  The tough and troubled spy, David Callan is the role with which Edward is still most identified with today here in the UK.

In the 1980’s he also became a household name over in the US, thanks to another hit series about a spy, this one called The Equalizer. In this series he plays Robert McCall, a retired American agent who is now known as The Equalizer. He sets up a helpline for people in desperate need of help in situations where the Police haven’t been able to help them or solve a case. Robert McCall goes after scumbags and dishes out a dose of their own medicine to them. Edward makes Robert McCall into a classy badass, and someone who you really wouldn’t want to mess with at all. It is very difficult to imagine any other actor having played that role in the series.   

Edward also gained recognition for his superb performances in the British horror film The Wicker Man,and also in the powerful Boer War set drama, Breaker Morant; a film based on a true story, in which Edward played the lead role of a British officer accused of war crimes. 

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Edward in Breaker Morant. Image source IMDb.

Edward has become one of my favourite actors. I love him so much because he was so very adept at the subtle style of acting. The majority of his performances work as well as they do because of the little looks, gestures and mannerisms that he displays/conveys. With this man a brief flash of emotion in the eyes can speak volumes. He was also terrific at doing scenes where his characters unleash pent up rage or despair. He had the knack to be able to make audiences really feel and believe what he was going through on stage or screen. I also like him because by all accounts he was a genuinely lovely and down to earth man in real life. I like it when actors don’t give themselves airs and graces and are actually nice people.  

One of my favourite Edward Woodward performances can be found in the little known miniseries called The Bass Player And The Blonde. Here Edward gets to show off his ability to play both comic and serious characters. He plays cynical bass player, George Mangham, who is both in heavy debt and despair. He meets the much younger Theresa(Jane Wymark) and the pair fall in love. It’s a quirky little series with a lot of heart. 

I love how Edward shows George gaining a newfound enthusiasm for life once he falls in love with Theresa. The series also shows us the difficulties inherent in a May/December relationship, and shows us that the course of true love rarely runs smooth. Edward has you laughing one moment and feeling deeply for him the next in this. I love this series because it just sits back and lets the actors do their thing. I also love it due to the mix of comic and poignant moments. 

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Edward in his later years. Image source IMDb.

In addition to being a very fine actor, Edward Woodward was also a marvellous singer. His tenor voice is such a joy to listen to. He recorded a series of albums over the years. I think it’s such a shame that his singing career doesn’t seem to get as much appreciation as his acting career. I especially adore his beautiful version of The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. You can still buy his albums, and several of his songs are also available on YouTube. 

Edward would continue to work steadily in TV, Film and Theatre for decades. His last major film role was his hilarious performance in the film, Hot Fuzz.

Edward suffered a massive heart attack while he was making The Equalizer series and he suffered another in 1994. He underwent triple bypass surgery in 1996. In 2003 he announced that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Edward passed away on the 16th of November, 2009. He had been suffering from pneumonia. 

He had four children: Tim, Sarah, Peter and Emily. All of his children followed in their dad’s footsteps and became actors. Edward was married twice. His first wife was Venetia Barrett, to whom he was married from 1952- 1986. His second wife was the actress Michele Dotrice, to whom he was married from 1987 until his death. 

He left behind such a wonderful body of work for us to enjoy. I urge anyone who isn’t familiar with him to start checking out some of his films and series. I highly recommend watching Callan(TV), 1990(TV), Breaker Morant(Film), The Equalizer(TV), A Christmas Carol(Film, 1984), The Wicker Man(Film), The Bass Player And The Blonde(TV), The House Of Angelo(Film), Common As Muck(TV), Champions(Film).

Happy Birthday and R.I.P to a screen legend. Thanks for all your fine work, Edward. You are missed. 

Are you a fan of Edward Woodward? Please share your thoughts below.