Saturday, August 22, 2009

Queen for Today: Katharine of Aquitaine

"I dressed my maids as Amazons and rode bare-breasted halfway to Damascus. Louis had a seizure and I damn near died of windburn... but the troops were dazzled..."

Monarchs have long provided the Big Hollywood Ladies with some of their plummiest roles - it's a tradition that dates back at least as far as 1912 and Bernhardt's Elizabeth I, and one that still intrigues - just ask Helen Mirren or Kirsten Dunst, both of whom have assayed (with wildly varying results) crowned heads in recent years.

Kate more or less played herself as Eleanor in The Lion in Winter - imperious, vulnerable, catty, and supremely wry. There are those who argue that was always the case with Hepburn's acting, just as those who would make the case - and a fairly plausible one, I think - that there's no reason not to think that Eleanor of Aquitaine was, in fact, fairly Hepburnische.

So I think we shall occasionally be looking in at these cases when celluloid royalty meets, in various ways, the real thing. This is one of my favorites; what are yours?


  1. Another Kate...
    Cate Blanchett as Eleizabeth 1 & Helen Mirran as Elizabeth 2.

    Julie Christy as Queen Gertrude

  2. Big, sweeping bow to Great Kate for one of of my fave screen charcters of all time. She was termndously aided by Goldman's dialogue which is delicious.

    And, of course, Bette's Virgin Queen also springs to mind.

    Not to mention Mr. Brynner as both King Mongkut of Siam and Ramesses II.

    And Helen Hayes as the Dowager Empress, Maria Feodorovna, deserves mention.

  3. Utterly with you on Miss H., Bill, and she will likely be making an appearance.

    Cate's Elizabeth has the disadvantage of the films in which she plays her, combined with the challenge of living up to Bette Davis, Glenda Jackson, and Quentin Crisp, among others.

    Mirren's Elizabeth II, as a I've noted previously, fills me with awe.

    And as for Julie C. - is there any moment in which she is not, just about, perfect?