Young Bess

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Young Bess
Young Bess .jpeg
Lobby card
Directed byGeorge Sidney
Produced bySidney Franklin
Written byJan Lustig [de]
Arthur Wimperis
Based onYoung Bess
1944 novel
by Margaret Irwin
StarringJean Simmons
Stewart Granger
Deborah Kerr
Charles Laughton
Music byMiklós Rózsa
CinematographyCharles Rosher
Edited byRalph E. Winters
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
Running time
112 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$4,095,000[2]

Young Bess is a 1953 Technicolor biographical film made by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer about the early life of Elizabeth I, from her turbulent childhood to the eve of her accession to the throne of England. It stars Jean Simmons and Stewart Granger as Thomas Seymour, with Charles Laughton as Elizabeth's father, Henry VIII, a part he had played twenty years before in The Private Life of Henry VIII. The film was directed by George Sidney and produced by Sidney Franklin, from a screenplay by Jan Lustig [de] and Arthur Wimperis based on the novel by Margaret Irwin (1944).


Following the execution of her mother, Anne Boleyn (Elaine Stewart), for infidelity, King Henry VIII (Charles Laughton) exiles the child Elizabeth (Noreen Corcoran) to Hatfield House, after declaring her illegitimate and removing her from eligible succession to the throne. Over the years, her position rises and falls according to the whims of her father. The child is periodically summoned to return to London to become acquainted with each of Henry's latest spouses. When Henry marries his last wife, Catherine Parr (Deborah Kerr), the now-teenage Elizabeth (Jean Simmons) rebels against her latest summons but is persuaded by the handsome, tactful Lord Admiral Thomas Seymour (Stewart Granger) to change her mind. She meets Catherine, and the two become good friends. Meanwhile, Henry is impressed and amused by the resolute defiance of his daughter, and he declares her once again a legitimate heiress to the crown.

When Henry dies, Thomas's scheming brother Ned (Guy Rolfe) takes over as Lord Protector and guardian of King Edward VI (Rex Thompson), overriding Henry's dying wish that Thomas raise the boy. Ned's fear of his brother's ambition grows with each of Thomas's naval triumphs. In the meantime, Elizabeth realizes she is in love with Thomas, but graciously persuades her brother, King Edward, to issue a royal decree sanctioning the marriage of Thomas and Catherine. Despite the union, Thomas grows close to Elizabeth without realizing it until he witnesses Elizabeth being kissed by Barnaby, a servant. Prompted by jealousy, Thomas kisses Elizabeth, who declares her love for him. Catherine, who has noticed the closeness between her husband and Elizabeth, asks Elizabeth to make a choice, and the princess moves back to Hatfield.

Soon after, Catherine sickens and dies. After months of Thomas being away at sea, he returns and finally sees Elizabeth. Ned has him arrested and charged with treason. He also accuses Elizabeth of plotting with Thomas to overthrow her brother, the king. She goes to see Edward, but is too late to save Thomas from execution. The film then shifts forward to 1558. Having survived the perils of her early life, and with Edward deceased and her elder sister Mary dying, Elizabeth is about to become Queen of England.


Jean Simmons as Princess Elizabeth Stewart Granger as Thomas Seymour Deborah Kerr as Catherine Parr Charles Laughton as Henry VIII


MGM bought the rights to the novel in 1945. Katherine Anne Porter and Jan Lustig signed to write the script and Sidney Franklin was producer.[3] Early on Elizabeth Taylor was mentioned for a role.[4] However she was young; Deborah Kerr signed with MGM and she was announced as star, and the part written older.[5] MGM announced filming in England in 1948, with Kerr to make it after Edward, My Son.[6] Filming ended up being postponed.

Then Jean Simmons was announced as lead. This was partly at the behest of J. Arthur Rank who had Simmons under contract and thought the role would be perfect for her.[7] Simmons had married Stewart Granger and he signed to co star. Deborah Kerr wound up joining the cast as Catherine Parr and Charles Laughton played Henry VIII.[8]

Filming took place in Hollywood. Producer Sidney Franklin said:

We're telling an intimate story against a background of sixteenth century court life, as opposed to a historical pageant about royal intrigues. We feel the love story between the Princess and Seymour - actually he was 25 years older than Elizabeth - will be more valid to audiences than a lot of historical detail which has no relation to our customers lives.[9]


Contemporary reviews were positive. A. H. Weiler of The New York Times wrote in a favorable review that "if faint strains of soap opera occasionally filter through the pomp and circumstance, Elizabeth of England and some of the storied figures who crowd this beautiful Technicolored tapestry, emerge as human beings."[10] Variety called it "a remarkably engrossing motion picture" and "a human story, sensitively written, directed and played."[11] "A strong romantic costume drama," declared Harrison's Reports. "The direction is faultless, the production values lavish, and the color photography exquisite."[12] John McCarten of The New Yorker wrote that the plot "may sound like a Madison Avenue concept of history, but as directed by George Sidney, the piece doesn't churn up too much sudsy bathos to be intolerable, and, indeed, the cast goes about its work with such sincerity that you can enjoy the thing as a handsome costume exercise even though you're skeptical about Miss Irwin's history."[13]

The film was Stewart Granger's favourite of all those he made for MGM "for the costumes, the cast, the story."[14]

Box Office[edit]

According to MGM records, the film earned $1,645,000 in North America and $2,450,000 elsewhere, leading to a loss of $272,000.[2]

In France, the film recorded admissions of 1,465,207.[15]


The film was nominated for two Academy Awards; for Best Costume Design and Best Art Direction (Cedric Gibbons, Urie McCleary, Edwin B. Willis, Jack D. Moore).[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Of Local Origin". The New York Times: 39. May 21, 1953.
  2. ^ a b c 'The Eddie Mannix Ledger', Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study, Los Angeles
  3. ^ Special to The New York Times. (1945, Feb 09). SCREEN NEWS. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  4. ^ H. (1948, Aug 28). Girl star shines on in teens. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  5. ^ Hopper, H. (1947, May 04). Debut for deborah. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) Retrieved from
  6. ^ By THOMAS F BRADY Special to The New York Times. (1948, May 19). LEAD IN TWO FILMS FOR DEBORAH KERR. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  7. ^ Schallert, E. (1950, Dec 14). Jean Simmons heralded for 'young bess;' enemy agent film activated. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  8. ^ By, T. M. (1952, Aug 24). HOLLYWOOD SURVEY. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  9. ^ By WILLIAM, H. B., Jr. (1952, Dec 21). SPOTLIGHTING SEVERAL RE-CREATED 'TUDORS'. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  10. ^ Weiler, A. H. (May 22, 1953). "The Screen In Review". The New York Times: 31.
  11. ^ "Young Bess". Variety: 6. April 29, 1953.
  12. ^ "'Young Bess' with Jean Simmons, Stewart Granger, Deborah Kerr and Charles Laughton". Harrison's Reports: 71. May 2, 1953.
  13. ^ McCarten, John (May 30, 1953). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker: 59.
  14. ^ Brian MacFarlane, An Autobiography of British Cinema, Methuen 1997 p 231
  15. ^ Box office information for Stewart Granger films in France at Box Office Story
  16. ^ "NY Times: Young Bess". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-21.

Further reading[edit]

  • Monder, Eric (1994). George Sidney:a Bio-Bibliography. Greenwood Press. ISBN 9780313284571.

External links[edit]