The Heart of the Queen
1940

The Heart of the Queen

Das Herz der Königin (Original Title)

As the title "The Queen's Heart" suggests, this German version of Mary Queen of Scott's eventful reign and death focuses on her emotional perception rather lyrically. Starting in the Tower, awaiting and receiving her sentence to the axe from the English court, we flash back to Mary's arrival after a long exile at the sophisticated, splendidly hedonistic French royal court, where she was raised as a Catholic. In her people's eyes, she is effeminate and depraved; an elegant pleasure-accustomed lady at utter odds with the stern Scottish Protestantism of John Knox as well as England's Anglicanism. No less rugged and troublesome, even turning bloody, are Mary's affairs with Lord Henry Darnley, a Scottish-born dandy Elisabeth sent her, who becomes Mary's unfaithful king-consort to give Scotland a male heir. Scottish Lord Bothwell, like most of the all-male royal council, a cesspit of aristocratic intrigue, is envious of the influence of the Italian musician and poet David Riccio, her private secretary, alleged lover -maybe James's biological father- and the voice of the Pope. Yet the major power-player on the isle of Albion is Elisabeth I of England, who wants control over its thorny northern neighbour.

Zarah Leander fans will be pleased with this film, and justifiably so. But let us not forget when it was made and for what purpose. Appearing under the guise of a semi-musical -- like all her films -- this film went beyond simply sending a message of support for the troops, like Die Grosse Liebe. This film was anti-British propaganda at its best, like Ohm Krueger and Das Madchen Johanna. It is left to the educated viewer to decide how much was truth and how much was distorted to serve the message of the Reich's Ministry of Propaganda.

1h 43min
September 8, 1940
Additional materials
Mary of Scotland (1936)

Admin comments

Zarah Leander at her best! Coming as it does from Tempelhof Studios, this film by Carl Froelich boasts superlative art direction, production design, cinematography and score. As a piece of history it is of course absolute tosh and the liberties taken are too numerous to mention. There is also a splendid cameo by Erich Ponto as an nomadic actor who assumes the function of a prophet of doom. The allies (so-called liberal democracies, “freedom of speech etc.”) kept it off the screen until the early fifties. Though Soviets under Stalin edited, dubbed and released it in the Soviet movie theaters.

To compare in contrast, watch a cartoonish 1936 Hollywood version “Mary of Scotland” directed by the “great” American director John Ford and Katharine Hepburn as Queen Mary. Watch the scene between 45th and 48th minutes with Queen Mary (Katharine Hepburn) and Lord Bothwell (Fredrick March). Amateur or borderline ridiculous acting (high school drama class at best) and a primitive dialog (“When my girl won’t see me, I am a storm.”) that reminds the arguments between the working poor (supermarket saleswoman and her plumber husband).

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