Top 10: Movies and the monarch
Madonna and the monarchy make for strange bedfellows (so to speak). But they are being nevertheless linked this week as the singer makes her directorial debut with "W.E.," the film she debuts at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Always one to swim against the current, Madonna sets up to tell the story of the much maligned, throne-busting Wallis Simpson, who lured her lover King Edward VIII into giving up the throne in the 1930s.
Simpson's story was, of course, a subplot of much acclaimed 'The King's Speech,' which got us thinking about other films of a royal nature. In almost every case, some of the better one have tended to deal with the dark, almost human side of royalty, where they are revealed to have some very commoner-type reactions to their trials.
Plenty of good one out there, but here are 10 regal movies which ought to be included on any best-of list by royal watchers. Other suggestions, of course, are welcome.
The Queen (2006)
Helen Mirren gives an Oscar-winning performance as the Elizabeth II, following the trials and royal tribulations following the dealth the Diana in 1997. Dealing with recent history on film is always a risky business, but Mirren's puts some real flesh on bones on the mystique of the monarch. It wasn't until almost two years after the film was made that the real Queen and Mirren met face to face. Both, it seems, were mutually admiring to each other, although Mirren once admitted that she was brought up in an "anti-monarchist household."
Peter O'Toole (Henry II) and Katharine Hepburn (Queen Eleanor) put a fictional spin on this dysfunctional family of yore, to great public appeal. The film earned seven Academy Award nominations and won three, including Hepburn as best actress. She actually shared the Oscar with Barbra Streisand ('Funny Girl'), the only time their was a tie in the category.
This tale of the doomed Anne Boleyn in the clutches of Henry VIII isn't everyone's cup of tea, but the production has a handsome quality. Besides, there's some Canadian content, with Montreal-born Genevieve Bujold vainly attempting to not to lose her head in the title role.
The King's Speech (2010)
The stuttering King George VI never sounded so good in this excellent re-telling of the story of the King and his speech coach Lionel Logue. This story puts a human touch on a monarch in an age when they were still regarded with reverent awe and earned Colin Firth a well-deserved Oscar. The film was also selected best of the year.
This was the role of a lifetime for Nigel Hawthorne, playing the mentally off-balance king as he endures the primitive attempts to make him right ... or as right as any royal can hope to be.
This is the first of two movies that had Cate Blanchett donning the persona of Elizabeth I. This one covered the early years of her reign and while it plays loose with the truth, the overall effect is powerful. Blanchett was rightfully nominated for an Oscar, but lost out to Gwyneth Paltrow in another Elizabethan-era movie, 'Shakespeare in Love.'
Henry V (1989)
Kenneth Branagh wrote the screenplay and starred in this Shakespeare version of the king's adventures. Among all the films about kings named 'Henry,' this one stands out with the best and Branagh's performance is at least on par with the interpretations of Laurence Olivier.
Who knew that the prim and proper Queen Victoria may have had a man in her life after Prince Albert. Well, we're still not exactly sure, but the film gives an interesting glimpse into the life of the widow Queen and her Scottish servant, John Brown. Dame Judi Dench gives a performance that was Oscar-worthy (she lost to Helen Hunt of 'As Good As It Gets').
The main character here, William Wallace, was never British royalty (far from it), but the film deserved a royal nod with its look at the evil cunning of King Edward I, played with snivelling gusto by Patrick McGoohan. Mel Gibson got his Oscars for acting and directing, but the real star is the story itself for shedding some light on the days when kings were much more than sideshows.
Of course this tale is not true, but who can resist a little send-up on the charm of medieval England, virgin princesses, swashbuckling heroes and even a gentle giant (played by no less than Andre the Giant). Nothing here pretends to stay true to royal history, but who cares? Just plain fun.