This beautiful and elaborate film gives an intimate portrait of England's long-reigning monarch, following her from the first years of her reign to the celebration of her Diamond Jubilee. Neagle is excellent as Victoria, who assumes the throne at the age of 18. The film details her
courtship and marriage to Prince Albert (Walbrook), and a foiled attempt on the queen's life, thwarted when Albert risks death himself to shield Victoria from the would-be assassin. The story then concentrates on the royal couple's domestic life, with such figures as Disraeli, Wellington, and
Lincoln introduced peripherally. Closing with the Jubilee, the film switches from black and white to a brilliant Technicolor.
Fictionalizing the lives of the royal family has long been a touchy issue in England, but producer-director Wilcox treats his subject respectfully, avoiding treacly sentiment. Neagle (who would later marry Wilcox) is completely believable as she takes her character from young girl to octogenarian,
and is a marvel to watch as she transcends her craft and becomes the character. Released 100 years after Victoria began her reign, the film was enormously popular in England, prompting Wilcox, Neagle, and Walbrook to make a sequel, SIXTY GLORIOUS YEARS (l938), an all-color production that
concentrated more on the political events of Victoria's rule. In 1942, Wilcox cut the first portion of VICTORIA THE GREAT into the latter half of SIXTY GLORIOUS YEARS to create a single feature, simply titled QUEEN VICTORIA.
Wilcox began production on VICTORIA THE GREAT after Edward VIII (who later abdicated to marry American divorcee Wallis Warfield Simpson) personally requested that the filmmaker produce a feature about the queen. It took an amazingly short five weeks to film. Attention to period detail was
immaculate; Neagle's costumes were copied from Victoria's actual dresses, which were kept at the British Museum. Released in America through RKO, VICTORIA THE GREAT was popular in its initial run at Radio City Music Hall, where it turned a handsome profit, but it did not fare as well in smaller
cities. Both Neagle and Wilcox toured the US to promote the film, though this too was not as successful as its backers hoped. However, Wilcox's association with RKO did result in a lucrative agreement with the studio, under which the independent producer was to turn out a number of features under
the American company's banner, an arrangement that helped reduce the burden of the United Kingdom's restrictive quotas on domestic screenings of imported films. VICTORIA THE GREAT also features Paul Henreid in his first British film, appearing in a small role under his real name.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: This beautiful and elaborate film gives an intimate portrait of England's long-reigning monarch, following her from the first years of her reign to the celebration of her Diamond Jubilee. Neagle is excellent as Victoria, who assumes the throne at the age o… (more)