Well, if the movie’s title doesn’t tell you this is not a happy movie, the opening intertitle further tells you that you’re about to see a tragic historic tale. And if that doesn’t clue you in that there’s no rainbows and flowers, then the depressing opening scene (which is really the end of the story), just hammers it home even more. Most of the movie is told in flashback form.
This movie is the story of Sophie Dorothea of Celle, who was forced into an unhappy marriage for political reasons with George Louis, Elector of Hanover, (and isn’t Elector a great title?), who eventually became king of Great Britain. After she met a Swedish foreigner, Count Philip Konigsmark, she was locked away in a castle for thirty years. This movie is a fictional account of that unhappy marriage and how she fell in love with the Count.
The Count is, of course, played by Stewart Granger. And you know the minute he sees Sophie Dorothea, played with desperate vulnerability by Joan Greenwood, that he's as doomed as she is.
Despite the doom and gloom, I rather enjoyed this film, mostly because the cast is so superb. My favorite character was the Electress, played with steely, unforgiving resolve by Francoise Rosay. She is so cold and determined to get one thing - the British throne for her family. And yet, in one one beautiful scene, she softens just enough to show that she, too, is as miserable as the heroine, she's just learned to hide it behind a wall of ruthlessness. Politics and happiness have nothing to do with each other in this court, and she counsels the young woman to give up all thoughts of happiness. There is some very fine dialogue between the characters.
Another fascinating character is the Countess Clara Platen, played with delicious manipulative slyness by Flora Robson. She does a lot of the political manuevering behind the scenes, and she also has an eye for Granger's character. (Who wouldn't?) When he falls for Sophie, you know Clara's not going to take that too well.
Peter Bull makes George Louis into quite the callous, despicable future king, and Anthony Quayle, as Durer, lurks in the shadows biding his time to strike for power. It really is a perfect cast for these historic roles. They're all very believable and fitting. The costumes are magnificent, the castle sets look great.
Stewart Granger gets one sword fight, a little too short for me, but still a good one, as he takes on four men alone.
This film tells of a historical time period I'm not particularly familiar with, so I enjoyed it from that aspect as well. A sad time, a sad story, and I admit, one moment at the end got me a wee bit teary-eyed. My favorite scene, besides the sword fight, is when a deliciously angry Stewart Granger attempts to get George Louis riled up enough to duel him. Granger, all storm clouds and challenge, Bull as George Louis all bored and I-really-don't-give-a-damn-about-your-insults. It's a fun, intense scene.