Mary of Scotland
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.