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Posterized: Mary, Queen of Scots

For today's Posterized a little something different - rather than a star or director, a character. Here are all of the films that have told the story or a story involving Mary, Queen of Scots. The latest iteration, Mary Queen of Scots (which we just reviewed) starring Saoirse Ronan opened in movie theaters today. Saoirse's other two movies this year (On Chesil Beach and The Seagull) didn't really register with moviegoers so we're hoping for the best with the third given the Brooklyn/Lady Bird goodwill she's accumulated. But on to the royal question at hand...

How many Mary of Scots movies have you seen? Posters for all eight movies featuring the would be queen are after the jump.

THE LOVES OF MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS (1923) starring Fay Compton as Mary and Ellen Compton as Elizabeth
The first movie version of this  historical tragedy was a British silent. I have no idea if the Compton actresses were related because in all the info about Fay Compton online it says that her sisters name was Viola not Ellen. Hmmmm. 

MARY OF SCOTLAND (1936) starring Katharine Hepburn as Mary and Florence Eldridge as Elizabeth.
Anne-Marie wrote about this movie in her "A Year With Kate" series.

THE HEART OF A QUEEN (1940) starring Zarah Leander as Mary and Maria Koppenhöfer as Elizabeth
This rarity was an anti-British German film made during World War II. The lead actress was a Swedish-German woman. It apparently has musical numbers!

MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS (1971) starring Vanessa Redgrave as Mary and Glenda Jackson as Elizabeth.
The Academy's favorite version of the story (thus far at least). This UK/USA production earned 5 Oscar nominations: Actress, Art Direction, Costume Design, Sound, and Score though it lost them all.

THE MIRROR CRACK'D (1980) starring "Marina Rudd"
Not technically a Mary Queen of Scots movie but Elizabeth Taylor plays an actress named Marina Rudd playing Mary in the film within this film, a Miss Maple mystery.

ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE (2007) starring Samantha Morton as Mary and Cate Blanchett as Elizabeth
Mary was demoted in this version of the story: Off with her head AND HER SCREEN TIME! Nominated for two Oscars: Best Actress and Best Costume Design for Alexandra Byrne. Byrne won the Oscar (it was her fourth nomination) and now she's costuming the same story again in the new 2018 movie!

MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS (2013) starring Camile Rutherford as Mary
In this French film Mary narrates her life to Elizabeth but I believe that Elizabeth does not appear within the film. 

MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS (2018) starring Saoirse Ronan as Mary and Margot Robbie as Elizabeth.
It's fate with the public and Oscar voters is still to be determined but you can read Murtada's review right here.  

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Reader Comments (15)

Mary Queen of Scots is my favourite Redgrave leading performance, I think.

The film is WAY TOO LONG but it's enjoyable if you manage to stay with it.

December 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterYavor

I started watching the Redgrave-Jackson version recently but got distracted by something and never went back to it. But the beginning is intriguing. Love The Mirror Crack'd. Lots of fun with Taylor and Novak as bitchy screen rivals who really crank up the camp and have a ball.

December 7, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

There's also Donizetti's opera Maria Stuarda, which was broadcast live from the Met in early 2013. Joyce DiDonato sang Maria (Mary) and Elza van den Heever sand Elisabetta (Elizabeth). It's wonderful. I saw it in a theater so it should count, shouldn't it?

December 7, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterken s.

Let's not forget the Oscar nominated animated short film The Truth About Mother Goose, which features a large segment on the story of Mary and how it led to the nursery rhyme "Mary Mary Quiet Contrary."

December 7, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterajnrules

The Vanessa/Glenda version is my favorite of the straightforward storytelling. While it plays with the facts, they meet which never happened but the movie would be less without that scene, they are both fantastic in the movie.

Glenda's BBC miniseries Elizabeth R has a strong Mary, Queen of Scots story as well with Vivian Pickles as Mary though she's sidelined to a specific portion because of the construction of the piece.

The Kate Hepburn one is a stolid snooze fest.

The Mirror Crack'd is fun because of the claws out bitchery between Liz and Kim despite the crass exploitation of the tragedy of Gene Tierney's first pregnancy and the resultant birth of her severely handicapped daughter from exposure to German measles.

December 7, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

As an actressexual, I'm ashamed to say thay I have never seen the Redgrave/Jackson version.

December 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterLa Peggy Sue

Only Agatha Christie for this one. 13 year old me thought that "the snitching person", shall we say, died a horrifying death. 13 year old me hadn't seen many ways to die just yet.

December 7, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

Sad to admit I've only seen Redgrave/Jackson version. The movie is flawed, but both actresses were on fire. I especially loved Jackon's 'barren stock' scene.

Can't wait to see Ronan and Robbie in the newest version of the story, despite the reviews and the fact that both actresses cannot count on much awards attention.

December 7, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterpawel

I’be only seen three.

What I remember most about the Redgrave/ Jackson collaboration was how beautifully their styles contrasted.

Redgrave had an elegant entitlement, a confident “I am extraordinary” (which she is), expecting things to be given to her, puzzled when they weren’t, but sure that they would be given soon.

Jackson was “I’ve worked for everything I’ve gotten, and everything was hard won. I’ve had to be smart and learn fast. But what I’ve built is solid, built piece by painstaking piece.”

Was there some of that in the Taylor/ Novak piece? An exasperation that a competitor has gotten things too easily?

December 7, 2018 | Unregistered Commenteradri

Thought I asked this question before here but weren't Meryl and Glenn supposed to play Mary and Elizabeth around the early-/mid-90s? That would have been great to see them spar as monarch queens. Glenn and Meryl didn't meet in Evening because of the specific timelines of their characters, but they spent a lot of time with each other in The House of the Spirits. That was quite beautiful even if ultimately the movie itself came up short.

December 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterOwl

When I saw the opera and they interviewed one of the singers during the intermission, she said the essence of their tragedy was that they were both right and the world could not accomodate that. I think that pretty much sums things up.

I've always had a fond place in my heart for the Redgrave/Jackson film. They are both so brilliant and so perfectly cast.

December 7, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterken s

No poster, but Mary Queen of Scots mania goes back to 1895: The Execution of Mary Stuart

December 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterChris

@nathaniel. At least one source,, says that Fay, Ellen and Viola Compton were sisters.

December 8, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMarcos

Best I ever saw was on stage - Janet McTeer as Mary and Harriet Walter as Elizabeth in a revival of Friedrich Schiller's Mary Stuart on Broadway.

December 8, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJosh R

I didn't Know England had so many blacks in the 16th century. Even had one in the royal court no less. or is this another attempt to rewrite history in the name of diversity.

December 28, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

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