Young Bess

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Young Bess
Young Bess .jpeg
Lobby card
Directed by George Sidney
Produced by Sidney Franklin
Written by Jan Lustig
Arthur Wimperis
Based on Young Bess
1944 novel 
by Margaret Irwin
Starring Jean Simmons
Stewart Granger
Deborah Kerr
Charles Laughton
Music by Miklós Rózsa
Cinematography Charles Rosher
Edited by Ralph E. Winters
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • May 21, 1953 (1953-05-21)
Running time
112 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2,423,000[1]
Box office $4,095,000[1]

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. The film starred 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 and Arthur Wimperis based on the novel by Margaret Irwin (1944).


Following the execution of her mother, Anne Boleyn (Elaine Stewart), for infidelity, Elizabeth (Jean Simmons) is exiled to Hatfield House and declared illegitimate (thereby losing her place in line for the throne) by her father, King Henry VIII (Charles Laughton). She is accompanied by her loyal servants, Mr. Parry (Cecil Kellaway) and her governess Mrs. Ashley (Kay Walsh). Over the years, her position rises and falls on the whim of her father.

The child is periodically summoned back to London to become acquainted with Henry's latest spouse. When Henry marries his last wife, Catherine Parr (Deborah Kerr), the now-teenage Elizabeth finally rebels against her latest summons. However, the suave, handsome Lord Admiral Thomas Seymour (Stewart Granger) persuades her to change her mind, and Elizabeth and Catherine become good friends. Meanwhile, Henry is impressed and amused by the resolute defiance of his daughter (once again declared legitimate).

When Henry dies, Thomas's scheming brother Ned (Guy Rolfe) takes over as Lord Protector and guardian of King Edward VI (Rex Thompson) during his minority, overriding Henry's wish that Thomas raise the boy. Ned and Thomas do not like each other, and Ned's fear of his brother's ambition grows with each of Thomas's naval triumphs.

By now, Elizabeth realizes she is in love with Thomas. She refuses to believe Mrs. Ashley's warning that he loves someone else until she sees Thomas and Catherine embrace in secret. Ned had blocked Thomas from marrying into the royal family, but Elizabeth graciously persuades her brother to issue a royal decree sanctioning their marriage. As they live in the same household in Chelsea, Thomas grows too close to Elizabeth without even knowing it, until one day he sees 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. 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.[2] Early on Elizabeth Taylor was mentioned as a star.[3] However she was young; Deborah Kerr signed with MGM and she was announced as star, and the part written older.[4] MGM announced filming in England in 1948, with Kerr to make it after Edward, My Son.[5] Filming ended up being postponed.

Then Jean Simmons was announced as lead. This was partly at the behest of J. Arthur Rank who ha Simmons under contract and thought the role would be perfect for her.[6] Simmons had married Stewart Granger and he signed to co star. Deborah Kerr wound up joining the cast as Katherine Parr and Charles Laughton played Henry VIII.[7]

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 ad 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.[8]


The film was Stewart Granger's favourite of all those he made for MGM "for the costumes, the cast, the story."[9]

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.[1]

In France, the film recorded admissions of 1,465,207.[10]


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).[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c 'The Eddie Mannix Ledger’, Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study, Los Angeles
  2. ^ Special to THE NEW,YORK TIMES. (1945, Feb 09). SCREEN NEWS. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  3. ^ H. (1948, Aug 28). Girl star shines on in teens. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  4. ^ Hopper, H. (1947, May 04). Debut for deborah. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) Retrieved from
  5. ^ By THOMAS F BRADYSpecial to THE NEW,YORK TIMES. (1948, May 19). LEAD IN TWO FILMS FOR DEBORAH KERR. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  6. ^ Schallert, E. (1950, Dec 14). Jean simmons heralded for 'young bess;' enemy agent film activated. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  7. ^ By, T. M. (1952, Aug 24). HOLLYWOOD SURVEY. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  8. ^ By WILLIAM, H. B.,Jr. (1952, Dec 21). SPOTLIGHTING SEVERAL RE-CREATED 'TUDORS'. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  9. ^ Brian MacFarlane, An Autobiography of British Cinema, Methuen 1997 p 231
  10. ^ Box office information for Stewart Granger films in France at Box Office Story
  11. ^ "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]