Fire Over England (1937) DVDRip (SiRiUs sHaRe).avi
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Fire Over England (1937)
Queen Elizabeth is running this show. The men in her court should be thinking about how to add to the glory of the Elizabethan Age and how to foil those pesky Spanish who got far too much influence in England when her older sister Mary was on the throne after their father Henry VIII was succeeded by their sickly half brother. Elizabeth thinks Michael Ingolby can do great things. Michael is mostly thinking about one of Elizabeth's ladies in waiting, Cynthia. Soon his mind is on survival when Elizabeth sends him on a voyage to Spain.
Flora Robson ... Queen Elizabeth I of England
Raymond Massey ... King Philip II of Spain
Leslie Banks ... 'Robin', the Earl of Leicester
Laurence Olivier ... Michael Ingolby
Vivien Leigh ... Cynthia
Morton Selten ... Lord Burleigh
Tamara Desni ... Elena
Lyn Harding ... Sir Richard Ingolby
George Thirlwell ... Mr. Lawrence Gregory
Henry Oscar ... Spanish Ambassador
Robert Rendel ... Don Miguel (as Robert Rendell)
Robert Newton ... Don Pedro
Donald Calthrop ... Don Escobal
Director: William K. Howard
Codecs: XVid / MP3
Even considering the 1937 production here, this is a classy effort on every front: acting, sets, script, plot, historical accuracy, etc.
My major reason for seeking out this film was a compilation of the works for the incomparable Vivien Leigh. While she is stunning here, adding her usual vitality to any of her roles, there are many other strengths to admire in "Fire Over England." This is certainly the best of her early works with Laurence Olivier.
The film only runs about 90 minutes but moves quickly with a plot that makes perfect sense. The whole production is quite believable, and Olivier is stronger here than in "That Hamilton Woman." Flora Robson steals the show. Her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth I reveals a complex woman with a big heart. She is brilliant, wise, cunning, ruthless, and forgiving all in one package. These terms describe both Robson and the Monarch she played.
Go out and get this one. You will be glad you did.
Sir Laurence Olivier once said that he thought his work before Wuthering Heights markedly inferior to that after because it was William Wyler who taught him the art of film acting and the difference between that and the stage. Although he overacts in spots in Fire Over England, even with that it comes natural because the character he's playing is an impetuous youth.
England did not have the big navy and the empire it boasted of in later centuries. Spain was the big kid on the European block in 1587 when this story takes place. It's Hapsburg King, Philip II either directly or through his Hapsburg relations lay claim to about half of western Europe and about 3/5 of the North and South American continents combined.
And Spain was driven by a religious ideology in the Roman Catholic faith with its Inquisition determined to stamp out diversity of thought in it's wake. England had broken away from the Roman Church and the Pope and was asserting its own religious sovereignty.
England didn't have a navy, but it did have privateers, although the Spanish called them pirates. They raided Spanish commerce and exacted a heavy toll in life and property. That got Philip II pretty mad and he set out to build the biggest fleet anyone ever saw to wipe these upstarts out. He called it the Armada.
These upstarts had a female ruler in Elizabeth I, played by Flora Robson. Over 400 years before Germaine Greer and Betty Friedan were writing about feminism, in that most masculine of ages Queen Elizabeth devoted her very existence to her people and sacrificed a lot of personal happiness in doing so. Flora Robson gives the definitive portrait of Elizabeth of England in this film. She did it so well that when she came to America, Warner Brothers had her play Queen Elizabeth again in The Sea Hawk. Elizabeth in this writer's humble opinion was the greatest monarch the English have ever had.
Raymond Massey plays Philip II, a dour humorless man who also unceasingly worked for his country. He's a cunning adversary for Elizabeth.
Fire Over England was the first film that Olivier did with his future wife Vivien Leigh. On this film they started the affair that was the Taylor-Burton romance of it's day. I'm sure the publicity helped the box office here. Vivien Leigh is one of Elizabeth's ladies in waiting and she falls big time for Olivier who has been captured, escapes Spain and then sent on a confidential mission by Elizabeth to find out about some English fifth columnists she suspects. How Olivier escapes the first time and what happens on the mission, well that's for you to see Fire Over England for.
Two other main characters are Lord Burleigh played by Morton Selten and the Earl of Leicester played by Leslie Banks. Leicester in his youth was the lover and chief confidant of Elizabeth even before she became Queen. Their story is a part of the rich tapestry of pageant that was Elizabeth of England's life. Why they didn't marry is a whole film in and of itself and Banks's anguish is captured well here.
Grand entertainment and a grand historical pageant tribute to one of the most heroic times in English history.
I wasn't expecting too much from this one- I had read some rather unfavorable reviews that basically said it was dated, melodramatic fuzz. Yes, it is dated and melodramatic, but it is also very good value.
The great Flora Robson is first-billed as Queen Elizabeth I of England. Set in the late 1500's, this historical drama revolves around the strained relations between Spain and England. I'm not too good on the history, but like most historical re-tellings it has it's inaccuracies and flaws. Bear with them, as this is an entertaining and worthy film. Flora Robson is magnificent and dominates the whole production.
Stage actor Olivier is Michael Ingolby, and a young Vivien Leigh is lady-in-waiting Cynthia. In the handful of scenes that they share together (Olivier actually has more opportunities for romance with Tamara Desni), you can feel that these two are really in love, on and off-screen. Olivier was courting Leigh at the time of the making of 'Fire Over England', so watching them falling in love as Michael and Cynthia is a rather voyeuristic experience. Leigh handles her small role very well, yet it is hard to tell that this young lady would be fiery Scarlett O'Hara in just a few years. Of course, Vivien looks great in the costumes, as always. Olivier is good, if a little stage-bound. Still relatively unexperienced with the film medium, Larry is over-the-top in quite a few scenes. He's very handsome here, and we even get to hear him sing and play the lute! His swashbuckling manner reminds me of Douglas Fairbanks, who Larry was an admirer of. Olivier does all his own stunts here (as he would do in later roles such as Henry V), perhaps inspired by Fairbanks.
It's a good attempt at historical drama, and the production values are high-class for an English 1930's film.
Worth your time.
* When Korda re-released this film circa 1944, he commissioned a new trailer which implied that James Mason (by then a huge box office star for rival studio Gainsborough) was a major star of the film. In fact, Mason plays a tiny role in “Fire Over England” and his name does not even appear in the credits!