19th century Empress Elisabeth of Austria, known as "Sissi", is having a moment! Here are 2 different takes on this mysterious royal:
Corsage (2022), a German film, which depicts one year in her life, the year she turns 40. In this ahistorical depiction, full of intentional anachronisms, she is beautiful, anorexic, depressed, afraid of aging, and rebellious. The marriage is unhappy. While all this is true, there are totally made-up events in this fictionalized history.
The Sissi Collection (1955-57): 17-year old Romy Schneider's defining role in this lavish German language trilogy shows Sissi as the radiant, charming beauty in this historical romance which is far removed from the real Sissi and is a complete fantasy. Also on Kanopy.
What is it about the women? Perhaps the most notable eras in European history were those when these women ruled:
Catherine the Great:
The Great: Elle Fanning is Catherine the Great, the fascinating figure who overthrew her husband the emperor in a coup, ushered in the golden age of the Russian Empire, founded the Hermitage and supported the ideals of the Enlightenment, attempting to bring Russia out of the dark ages. She expanded Russia's borders and made Russia the envy of Europe. This miniseries is satirical, way over the top, raunchy, silly, violent and very funny. It's definitely not a history lesson. To be honest, however, one season was enough for me. With Nicholas Hoult as the emperor.
Catherine the Great with Helen Mirren as the brilliant monarch is a more sobering account. Perhaps more accurate still is the pbs documentary and the Great Courses lecture Catherine the Great and the Enlightenment on Kanopy.
Queen Elizabeth I:
Elizabeth: Cate Blanchett is the young queen who must become a cunning strategist to deal with palace intrigue and enemies In the sequel, Elizabeth, the Golden Age she is a mature ruler who faces her greatest challenges, the betrayal of her cousin Mary Stuart (Samantha Morton) and the invasion of the Spanish Armada. Very entertaining, but not totally historically accurate. For a more accurate dramatization, there is Elizabeth I with Helen Mirren and The Virgin Queen with Ann-Marie Duff. For more about her enemy, Mary Queen of Scots stars Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie.
Like Elizabeth, Victoria was thrust into her role at a young age.
The Young Victoria with Emily Blunt chronicles these early years and her marriage to Prince Albert.
Masterpiece Theater has the miniseries Victoria which also covers the years from insecure teenager to the head of a global empire and the most powerful woman in the world.
Another film about royals that I really liked is a Danish movie, A Royal Affair, with Alicia Vikander and Mads Mikkelsen. The romantic triangle between a mentally unbalanced Danish king, the royal physician and the strong-willed queen leads to a progressive but brief revolution in Denmark.
The King of Comedy - Though this film isn't technically about royalty, I thought it would be a fun addition to this list because of the title and the subject matter. This film deals with the darker consequences of how far one might go in the quest for fame and adoration, despite lacking any discernible talent or skills. Though this was released in the 80's, the message is still incredibly relevant.
The Princess Bride - This is considered one of the best for a reason. Robin Wright and Cary Elwes have you rooting for them from the moment they show up on the screen. This film is epic, heart wrenching, and ridiculously funny!
Donkey Skin - Jacques Demy films are always so visually stunning and thematically engaging, this one also has an amazing score done by Michel Legrand (he has worked with Demy on several other films as well).
The Princess Diaries - An extremely delightful film! This is one I grew up watching at sleepovers and it is still just as enjoyable watching it now. Anne Hathaway is so charming in her breakout role as Mia Thermopolis.
Here are some of my favorite "royal" songs and albums!
The King is Dead by The Decemberists
Killer Queen by Queen
Queen of the Surface Streets by DeVotchKa
The King of Limbs by Radiohead
Queen of Peace by Florence + the Machine
The Queen is Dead by The Smiths
King of the Road by Roger Miller
Our chosen theme for this week is Royalty. Following a 50-year musical career and a 20-year acting career, Vicente Fernandez is one of the most well-known ambassadors of ranchera music. His award-winning music earned him the title, El Rey de la Musica Ranchera, a nickname which would often be evoked throughout his career in movies, song titles, and publicity materials. Check out his extensive oeuvre from SCCLD’s physical collection or use freegal to access his music digitally.
A small sample of his music connoting our Royalty theme:
It seems like the idea of royalty fascinates us from fairy tale kingdoms to the strife of the people who hold these titles.
The "Disney Princesses" have been a marketing juggernaut and a big part of childhood for many of us. They also come from some genuinely enchanting films.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs - The first full length animated feature film still towers as an artistic and technical achievement. The oft told story of a princess' birthright being stolen by the evil machinations of her vain stepmother is embellished by gorgeous hand drawn animation, hauntingly dark and complex backgrounds, stunning direction and charming songs. Remarkable voice work by Lucille La Verne as the wicked queen as well as some incredible animated sequences cement her as an iconic villain for the ages. The remarkable restoration of this film have preserved this landmark creation for all of us to enjoy.
Sleeping Beauty - Again a princess' life and birthright are threatened by villainous forces, this time a powerful and evil fairy who curses the daughter of a King over a perceived social slight. The angular animated style and beautiful widescreen compositions along with the Tchaikovsky score make this a treat for the eyes and ears. Eleanor Audley delivers such a memorable voice performance as the evil Maleficent that she is the best known character from this film.
The Princess and the Frog - One of the last traditionally animated films by Disney, it is also one of the most charming. The only princess movie set in the United States, the film is set against the backdrop of the Roaring Twenties, New Orleans and the "princess", Tiana, is initially a waitress attempting to open her own restaurant. A visiting prince, an evil voodoo magician complete an original and exciting variation on classic fairy tale elements. Keith David as the villainous Dr. Facilier steals the movie from a talented voice cast.
The Scarlet Empress - Visual wonderment, mystery and star power rather than historical accuracy are the reasons to check out the 1934 Josef Von Sternberg directed classic. The innocent and timid Princess Sophia Frederica is transformed by the end of the film to the triumphant Catherine the Great, reigning empress of Russia. The film is known especially for the intricate (and creepy) production design, costumes, lighting and cinematography. The boxed set Dietrich & Von Sternberg in Hollywood from Criterion includes five other films
Oscar winning and nominated royalty. A few favorite films with Oscar recognized performances.
The Favourite - The tortured world of the court of Queen Anne is explored in this unique take on personal power games amid the royal court with an Oscar winning performance by Olivia Colman and nominated support from Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone.
The King's Speech - King George VI must rally the people of England against the tides of war sweeping Europe before World War II. The aid and friendship of an unconventional speech therapist forms the heart of this humanistic look into the royal family. Colin Firth won an Oscar in the lead and the wonderful Geoffrey Rush received a nomination as the therapist.
The Queen - Helen Mirren won an Oscar for her moving performance as Queen Elizabeth II facing intense public scrutiny and private grief after the death of her daughter-in-law, Princess Diana. The writer of the film, Peter Morgan would further scrutinize the life of Queen Elizabeth in the Emmy winning television series The Crown.
The Madness of King George - Helen Mirren's first Oscar nomination for playing a Queen (in this case the beleaguered Queen Charlotte) and in the lead, Nigel Hawthorne's alternately infuriating, sad and funny monarch who sets off several internation incidents with his madness.
The Man Who Would be King - The privilege of colonialism looms large over this splendid adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's story of two British soldiers who try to set themselves up as royalty in Kafiristan in the 1880's. A passion project of director John Huston who tried to get this made through several decades, the film boasts great performances from both Michael Caine and Sean Connery.
Movies & Music - Question of the Week
There is no official royalty in the United States, however one of these directors made a film about a "Royal" family living in New York.
David O. Russell0
Last Week's Trivia Answer: Journey - Escape