Mary of Scotland (film)

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Mary of Scotland
movie poster
Directed by John Ford
Produced by Pandro S. Berman
Written by adaptation of the 1933 Maxwell Anderson play
Screenplay by Dudley Nichols

Katharine Hepburn

Fredric March
Music by Nathaniel Shilkret
Cinematography Joseph H. August
Jack MacKenzie
Edited by Jane Loring
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release dates
  • August 28, 1936 (1936-08-28)
Running time
123 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $864,000[1]
Box office $1,276,000[1]

Mary of Scotland is a 1936 RKO film starring Katharine Hepburn as the 16th century ruler, Mary, Queen of Scots.[2][3] Directed by John Ford, it is an adaptation of the 1933 Maxwell Anderson play. The screenplay was written by Dudley Nichols. It is largely in blank verse. Ginger Rogers wanted to play this role and made a convincing screen test, but RKO rejected her request to be cast in the part[4] feeling that the role was not suitable to Miss Rogers' image.

Plot summary[edit]

Mary (Katharine Hepburn), by assuming her throne as Queen of Scotland, strikes terror into the heart of Queen Elizabeth I (Florence Eldridge). After languishing in jail for 18 years at Elizabeth's command, Mary is offered a pardon if she will sign away her throne. Will she accept the deal, or die instead?[5]


Hepburn in a publicity still from film


The film does not keep close to the historical truth, portraying Mary as something of a wronged martyr and her third husband, James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell (played by Fredric March), as a romantic hero.


The film is highly regarded by a few critics today, but in its time was a box office flop, making a loss of $165,000.[1] This was Katharine Hepburn's second flop in a row causing her to being labeled "box office poison" in the late 1930s, leading to (after a two-year screen absence) her move to MGM for her comeback in The Philadelphia Story.


  1. ^ a b c Richard Jewel, 'RKO Film Grosses: 1931-1951', Historical Journal of Film Radio and Television, Vol 14 No 1, 1994 p. 57.
  2. ^ Variety film review; August 5, 1936, p. 16.
  3. ^ Harrison's Reports film review; July 25, 1936, p. 119.
  4. ^
  5. ^

External links[edit]