Mary of Scotland

Mary of Scotland

Director: John Ford, Katharine Hepburn, Fredric March, Florence Eldridge

Cast: John Ford, Katharine Hepburn, Fredric March, Florence Eldridge

Maxwell Anderson's blank-verse play Mary of Scotland was adapted for the screen by Dudley Nichols and directed with a surprising paucity of verve by John Ford. Katharine Hepburn, in one of the "icy" roles that would later earn her


Maxwell Anderson's blank-verse play Mary of Scotland was adapted for the screen by Dudley Nichols and directed with a surprising paucity of verve by John Ford. Katharine Hepburn, in one of the "icy" roles that would later earn her the onus of "box office poison," stars as Mary Stuart, who serves as the Queen of Scotland until she is jealously put out of the way by her British cousin, Queen Elizabeth I (Florence Eldredge). Sold out by the Scots nobles, Mary is sentenced to the chopping block for treason. Elizabeth is willing to pardon Mary if only the latter will renounce all claims to the British throne, but Mary refuses, marching to her death with head held high (the Mary/Elizabeth confrontation scene was purely the product of Maxwell Anderson's imagination; in real life, the two women never met). RKO contractee Ginger Rogers dearly coveted the role of Queen Elizabeth, but the studio refused to allow her to play so secondary a role. To prove to the RKO executives that she would be ideal for the part, Ginger secretly arranged for a screen test, in which she was convincingly made up as Elizabeth (even to the point of cutting her hair into a high-foreheaded widow's peak). Contemporary reports indicate that Ginger's audition was brilliant; still, RKO would not consider casting her in the part, so the role of Elizabeth went to Florence Eldridge, the wife of Fredric March, who was cast in Mary of Scotland as Mary's fearless protector the Earl of Bothwell. On the whole, Mary of Scotland is a snoozefest, save for the scenes featuring Douglas Walton as Mary's cowardly husband Darnley.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
What should have been a powerful and stirring historical drama, Mary of Scotland comes across as rather tepid, if lavishly mounted. Much has been made of the fact that Ginger Rogers dearly wanted to play Elizabeth in the film but was not allowed to; while she would probably have provided a greater spark to the proceedings than the fine-but-no-more Florence Eldridge, the role is too small for such a change to have seriously improved the film. Much of the film's failure is due to the casting of Katharine Hepburn in a role that doesn't suit her. Unlike the actual historical Mary, the film's heroine is too soft and too much a victim; if she had been given the fire, the passion for power and the near-ruthlessness that belonged to the "real" Mary, Hepburn might have been given something to really sink her teeth into. Instead, she wanders through the film without enough backbone, content to be reduced to a romantic heroine rather than a strong-willed would-be ruler. Most of Maxwell Anderson's dialogue has been dispensed with in the screen adaptation, which works both in its favor and to its detriment: the blank verse might have seemed stilted onscreen, but its absence robs the work of a certain amount of grandeur. Fredric March does a good job supplying some of that grandeur, Douglas Walton is quite good as Mary's sleazy husband and John Carradine scores points as the loyal aide. Director John Ford doesn't seem truly at home with the material, but he and cinematographer Joseph H. August give the film a striking visual look, especially in the different manners in which they shoot Mary and Elizabeth. If Mary ultimately is rather boring, it still has a good deal of visual appeal.

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Castaway Pictures
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Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Katharine Hepburn Mary Stuart
Fredric March Earl of Bothwell
Florence Eldridge Elizabeth Tudor
Douglas Walton Darnley
John Carradine David Rizzio
Robert H. Barrat Morton
Gavin Muir Leicester
Ian Keith James Stuart Moray
Moroni Olsen John Knox
William Stack Ruthven
Ralph Forbes Randolph
Alan Mowbray Trockmorton
Frieda Inescort Mary Beaton
Donald Crisp Huntley
David Torrence Lindsay
Molly Lamont Mary Livingston
Anita Colby Mary Fleming
Jean Fenwick Mary Seton
Lionel Pape Burghley
Alec Craig Donal
Mary Gordon Nurse
Monte Blue Messenger
Leonard Mudie Maitland
Brandon Hurst Arian
Wilfred Lucas Lexington
D'Arcy Corrigan Kirkcaldy
Frank Baker Douglas
Cyril McLaglen Faudoncide
Doris Lloyd Fisherman's wife
Robert Warwick Sir Francis Knollys
Murray Kinnell Judge
Lawrence Grant Judge
Ivan Simpson Judge
Nigel de Brulier Judge
Barlowe Borland Judge
Walter Byron Sir Francis Walsingham
Wyndham Standing Sergeant-at-Arms
Earl Foxe Earl of Kent
Paul McAllister Du Croche
Lionel Belmore English Fisherman
Gaston Glass Frenchman
Robert E. Homans Jailer
Neil Fitzgerald Nobleman
Bobby Watson Fisherman's son

Technical Credits
John Ford Director
Joseph H. August Cinematographer
Pandro S. Berman Producer
Mel Burns Makeup
Carroll Clark Art Director
Jane Loring Editor
Dudley Nichols Screenwriter
Walter Plunkett Costumes/Costume Designer
Van Nest Polglase Art Director
Nathaniel Shilkret Score Composer,Musical Direction/Supervision
Darrell Silvera Set Decoration/Design
Max Steiner Score Composer
Vernon Walker Special Effects

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Mary of Scotland
1. Return to Scotland [20:24]
2. Mary Wins Over Her People [21:53]
3. Political Marriage [18:50]
4. Attempted Plot to Usurp Power [22:07]
5. Mary and Bothwell Being Framed [19:39]
6. Queen Mary Executed for Treason [20:11]

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