Young Bess

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Drama, USA, 1953, 112 min.

Synopsis At Hatfield House in England, in 1558, royal governess Mrs. Ashley tells steward Mr. Parry that word has come from London that their mistress Elizabeth's half-sister, Queen Mary, is on her deathbed. Ecstatic at the prospect of "Young Bess" inheriting the throne, the servants share a celebratory drink and recall Elizabeth's childhood: King Henry VIII and his wife, Anne Boleyn, present their infant daughter Elizabeth to the court. When Anne is executed for infidelity three years later, Elizabeth loses her claim to the throne and is sent to live in Hatfield with Mrs. Ashley. The young princess is brought back to court to meet Henry's fourth and fifth wives, but returns to Hatfield when these marriages end. Years pass, and dashing Lord Admiral Thomas Seymour arrives at Hatfield one day to bring Elizabeth, now a headstrong young woman, back to court. At the palace, Elizabeth meets the gracious Catherine Parr, Henry's sixth wife, and is immediately won over by her warmth. Elizabeth also is reunited with her younger half-brother Edward, who speculates that Catherine may not last long because of her outspoken ways. One day, on one of Thomas' ships, Henry accuses Catherine of heresy when he learns that she authorized an English translation of the Bible. Elizabeth comes to her stepmother's defense, and Henry is impressed by her spirit and likeness to him. The king soon falls ill, and on his deathbed warns Thomas to be on guard against Thomas' cold, ambitious brother Ned. Henry dies, and Elizabeth realizes that she is in love with Thomas. Young Edward is crowned king and placed under the guardianship of Ned, who has been named Lord Protector of the Realm, and his wife Ann. When Ann accuses Elizabeth of having behaved inappropriately with Thomas, the princess hurls an inkwell at her and is ordered to return to Hatfield. Thomas instead has Elizabeth and Catherine moved to Chelsea, to Ned's annoyance. Elizabeth confesses her feelings for Thomas to Mrs. Ashley, who replies that he is in love with another woman. Elizabeth vehemently denies this, but late one night, she hears a horse approach and from her window sees Thomas and Catherine embrace. Mrs. Ashley gently tells the crestfallen Elizabeth that Thomas and Catherine were secretly engaged before Henry decided to take Catherine for his wife, and that Ned would never permit his brother to marry into the royal family. Elizabeth goes to see Edward, who complains of Ned and Ann's oppressive control over him. Elizabeth urges Edward to stand up for himself, and gives him the idea of authorizing a marriage between Catherine and Thomas. Edward commands the lovers to marry, and gives Thomas more ships. After a successful campaign against pirates, Thomas' popularity soars, arousing Ned's jealousy. One day, Thomas takes Elizabeth sailing, and she impresses him with her nautical knowledge and her dreams of global supremacy for England. Elizabeth's unrequited love for Thomas continues to torture her, and she agrees to Ned's request that she consider marriage to a Danish prince. At a banquet for the Danish envoy, Elizabeth slips away and kisses Edward's infatuated valet, Barnaby Fitzpatrick, hoping that Thomas will discover them. They are instead seen by the Danish envoy, who departs at once. Thomas is furious with Elizabeth, but they kiss and she declares her love for him. The following day, Catherine confronts Elizabeth, having divined the young woman's feelings, and Elizabeth agrees it is best that she return to Hatfield. Catherine soon becomes ill and dies. A year later, Elizabeth appears at court during Edward's birthday celebration. Edward privately tells Elizabeth that Ned has intercepted Thomas' letters to her, and warns that Thomas' life is in danger. When she returns to Hatfield, Elizabeth learns that Parry and Mrs. Ashley have been taken to London for questioning. Thomas comes to Elizabeth in the middle of the night, and they talk together until dawn. Later, Elizabeth is summoned by Ned, who informs her that Thomas has been arrested and taken to the Tower. Ned accuses her of conspiring with Thomas to commit treason, but Elizabeth defiantly accuses Ned of plotting to kill his brother and vows to enlist Edward's support. Thomas is executed before Edward can intervene, however, and Elizabeth comforts the weeping young king. Back in the present, Mrs. Ashley tells Parry that she has dressed specially in anticipation of Elizabeth's becoming queen, explaining that she wore the same gown to Edward's funeral and Ned's execution. As the crowds outside cheer and her servants look on with pride, a poised Elizabeth steps out on the balcony to greet her subjects.

Directed by George Sidney  

Starring Jean Simmons, Stewart Granger, Deborah Kerr, Charles Laughton, Kay Walsh, more...

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