Queen Christina (film)

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Queen Christina
Poster - Queen Christina 02 Crisco restoration.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Rouben Mamoulian
Produced by Walter Wanger
Written by S. N. Behrman (dialogue)
Ben Hecht
Screenplay by H. M. Harwood
Salka Viertel
Story by Margaret P. Levino
Salka Viertel
Starring Greta Garbo
John Gilbert
Music by Herbert Stothart
Cinematography William H. Daniels
Edited by Blanche Sewell
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • December 26, 1933 (1933-12-26)
Running time 97 mins.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1,114,000[1]
Box office $2,887,285[1]

Queen Christina is a Pre-Code Hollywood biographical film, produced in 1933 and directed by Rouben Mamoulian. It starred Swedish-born actress Greta Garbo and John Gilbert.

Background[edit]

The film was directed by Rouben Mamoulian in 1933, and written by H. M. Harwood and Salka Viertel, with dialogue by S. N. Behrman, based on a story by Salka Viertel and Margaret P. Levino. Leading roles are played by Greta Garbo and John Gilbert, whose career heavily declined with the rise of talkies.[2] Garbo herself insisted on Gilbert as her co-star.[3] It was the fourth and the last time they starred together in the same film. Queen Christina was billed as Garbo's return to cinema after an eighteen-month hiatus. Prior to the shooting, while on holiday in Sweden, the actress read a treatment by Salka Viertel about the life of Christina and became interested in the story.[3] At the time of shooting the film, Garbo was 28, the age of her character.[4]

Queen Christina is a historical costume drama, loosely based on the life of 17th century Queen Christina of Sweden. Apart from her, a number of other authentic historical characters appear in the film, such as Charles X Gustav of Sweden and Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie. Some events that took place in history, like the Thirty Years' War, are represented in the work, although Queen Christina is not a film closely depicting facts.[5] In this historical fiction account, Queen Christina of Sweden falls in love during her reign but has to deal with the political realities of her society. In real life, Christina's main reason for abdication was her determination not to marry and to be able to convert to Catholicism.[6] Another fictitious element is the romantic affair between Christina and Antonio. However, the queen's habit of dressing as a man in order to broaden the options available to her as a person is clearly marked in the film: "I shall die a bachelor!" she declares, wears manly clothes and even disguises herself as a man.[7] The film itself is remembered for no less than two cult scenes.[8][9] The first one, over three minutes long, shows Christina walking around the room, having spent a night with Antonio at the inn. She touches various objects to imprint the space on her memory. The second one, arguably the most famous image in the film, is the closing shot, showing Christina standing as a silent figurehead at the bow of the ship bound for Spain. With the wind blowing through her hair, the camera moves into a tight close-up on her face. Prior to shooting the final scene, Mamoulian suggested that Garbo should think about nothing and avoid blinking her eyes, so that her face could be a "blank sheet of paper" and every member of the audience could write the ending of the film themselves.[10]

Plot[edit]

Queen Christina of Sweden (Greta Garbo) is very devoted to her country and the welfare of her people. As queen, Christina favors peace for Sweden. At one point in the film she argues for an end to the Thirty Years' War, saying:

Spoils, glory, flags and trumpets! What is behind these high-sounding words? Death and destruction, triumphals of crippled men, Sweden victorious in a ravaged Europe, an island in a dead sea. I tell you, I want no more of it. I want for my people security and happiness. I want to cultivate the arts of peace, the arts of life. I want peace and peace I will have!

Christina, who first took the throne at age six upon the death of her father in battle, is depicted as so devoted to both governing well and educating herself that she has spurned any kind of serious romance or marriage despite pressures from her councilors and court to marry her hero-cousin Karl Gustav (Reginald Owen) and produce an heir. One day, in an effort to escape the restrictions of her royal life, she sneaks out of town, disguised as a man, and ends up snowbound at an inn, where she has to share a bed with also stranded Spanish envoy Antonio (John Gilbert) on his way to the capital. After befriending, and upon revealing that she is a woman, then sharing the same bed, the two fall in love; however, she still has not revealed that she is the queen. After a few idyllic nights together, Christina and Antonio are compelled to part, but Christina promises to find him in Stockholm – which she does, when the Spaniard presents his embassy to the Queen, whom he recognizes as his lover. Antonio is angry as he has come to present an offer of marriage from the King of Spain to Queen Christina and feels that his loyalty to the king has been compromised. She makes clear that she will not accept the king's proposal and Christina and Antonio patch up their differences.

When Count Magnus (Ian Keith), who wants the Queen's affections for his own, riles up the people against the Spaniard, Christina abdicates the throne, nominating her cousin Karl Gustav as her successor while declining to marry him. She leaves Sweden to catch up with Don Antonio who has just left for a neighboring country, but she finds him gravely wounded from a sword duel he had with Magnus, which he lost. Antonio dies in her arms. She resolves to proceed with her voyage to Spain where she envisions residing in Antonio's home on the white cliffs overlooking the sea.

Cast[edit]

Critical reception and box office[edit]

The film premiered on December 26, 1933, in New York City, and throughout 1934 in the rest of the world.[11]

Queen Christina turned out a success, gathering numerous positive reviews. Critic Mordaunt Hall, writing for the New York Times, gave the film a positive review and liked the screenplay, calling the dialogue "a bright and smooth piece of writing" and referred to Mamoulian's direction as "entrancing". Positive opinions came also from Modern Screen's Walter Ramsey, who proclaimed it a "triumph for Garbo", and a reviewer for Photoplay, who acclaimed Garbo's "glorious reappearance".[12] However, a mixed review from Variety found the script "lethargic". Contemporary critics gave Queen Christina positive reviews. It has received a 100% "Fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes, based on twelve reviews.

The film grossed over $2,500,000,[13] recording a profit of $632,000 and becoming one of Garbo’s most commercially successful films.[14] It was nominated for the Mussolini Cup award at the Venice Film Festival in 1934, but lost to Man of Aran.[15] The part of Queen Christina is regarded as one of the best in Garbo's filmography.[16] and it is especially notable for its resoundingly disproving rumours that John Gilbert's lack of success in the sound era was due to an unsuitable voice.[17]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Matthew Bernstein, Walter Wagner: Hollywood Independent, Minnesota Press, 2000 p435
  2. ^ Michael Conway, Dion McGregor, Mark Ricci (1968). The Films of Greta Garbo. New York: The Citadel Press. p. 119. 
  3. ^ a b Corliss, Richard (1974). Greta Garbo. New York: Pyramid Books. p. 110. 
  4. ^ Corliss, Richard (1974). Greta Garbo. New York: Pyramid Books. p. 112. 
  5. ^ "QUEEN CHRISTINA – Greta Garbo, John Gilbert d: Rouben Mamoulian". Alt Film Guide. www.altfg.com. Retrieved 2011-01-19. 
  6. ^ "Queen Christina of Sweden movie with Greta Garbo by Tracy Marks". www.windweaver.com. Retrieved 2007-03-28. 
  7. ^ Hal Erickson. "Queen Christina – Cast, Reviews, Summary, and Awards". AllMovie. www.allmovie.com. Retrieved 2011-01-19. 
  8. ^ Kobal, John (1979). "Garbo". The Movie (Orbis Publishing): 29. 
  9. ^ "Queen Christina (1933)". blogspot.com. Retrieved 2012-02-22. 
  10. ^ Kobal, John (1979). "Garbo". The Movie (Orbis Publishing): 28. 
  11. ^ "Queen Christina (1933) – Release dates". IMDb. Retrieved 2012-02-22. 
  12. ^ Michael Conway, Dion McGregor, Mark Ricci (1968). The Films of Greta Garbo. New York: The Citadel Press. p. 122. 
  13. ^ Robinson, David (2007). Movie Icons: Greta Garbo. Taschen. p. 138. 
  14. ^ Paris, Barry (1994). Garbo. Alfred A. Knopf. pp. 567–573. ISBN 978-0-8166-4182-6. 
  15. ^ "Queen Christina (1933) – Awards". Internet Movie Database. www.imdb.com. Retrieved 2012-02-22. 
  16. ^ Lucia Bozzola. "Queen Christina – Review". AllMovie. www.allmovie.com. Retrieved 2011-01-19. 
  17. ^ Leonard Maltin, commentary. Dawn of Sound: How Movies Learned to talk (documentary). Written by Tim Prokop and Robert Bader. Warner Bros. Entertainment, 2007. DVD.

External links[edit]