Film, Media and Music

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The Queen has two bodies

Amateur film, civic culture and the rehearsal of monarchy

Karen Lury

Dating from as early as 1906, a large number of amateur films commemorate royal visits to Scotland's town halls and schools. They capture- in lise Hayden's terms - the 'minor events' of British royalty where the monarchs' physical presence and symbolic embodiment are balanced on a 'knife's edge' as both their 'ordinariness' and uniqueness must be maintained simultaneously. This tension explains why the choreographing of these events is often (wearily) similar and the films boring. Nonetheless, these amateur films sometimes capture moments of contingency (the look at the camera, the unseemly exuberance of children) that expose the limits of this balancing act and the 'work' that underpins the perfonnance of monarchy. Conversely, in many cities across Scotland these royal encounters have been re-imagined in pageants and gala days also commemorated in amateur films. In these films, children take on royal functions, becoming fleshy 'effigies' of the monarch in ritualistic performances that dramatize the ambiguous origins of royal pageantry, whether the monarchs involved are 'real' or 'fake'.

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Mandy Merck

In the midst of Princess Margaret's 1950s romance with RAF Captain Peter Townsend, Malcolm Muggeridge wamed that the new celebrity coverage of the royal family would end in tears. But in 2006, Stephen Frears' The Queen proved that tears could enhance the popularity of the British monarchy, creating what film critic David Thomson called 'the most sophisticated public relations boost HRH had had in 20 years'. In this depiction of the fateful week after the death of Diana in 1997, docudrama - the by melodrama, with its pathos, its appeal for moral recognition and its highly expressive mise-en-scene. The fanner (represented by actual news footage) is the genre of the film's 'queen of hearts', Diana. The latter (represented by the dramatic fiction written by Morgan) is that of its ' queen of a nation', Elizabeth II. In its opposition oftwo ambitious queens, one romantic, one worldly, the film echoes Friedrich Schiller's 1800 proto-melodrama, Mary Stuart. More than two centuries later, the older genre triumphs, rendering the Queen's fictional world more vivid and affecting than the actual images ofthe real-life Diana. Much of this triumph can be attributed to Helen Mirren, who brings the prestige of her star persona to a monarch in danger ofbeing overshadowed by the celebrity of her rival. In an unusually forthright discussion of royalty and celebrity, The Queendraws the two regimes of power together in a single figure, who finishes the film with a declamation on 'glamour and tears'.

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The King’s Speech

An allegory of imperial rapport

Deirdre Gilfedder

This chapter will consider Tom Hooper's award-winning film, The King's Speech, in terms of its allegorical references to imperial relations in the inter-war period. It concentrates on the pairing of George VI (Colin Firth) and his Australian speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) as lord and vassal, both caught in bonds of loyalty and trust but also defined by the imperial centre's need for the fealty of the periphery. This evokes the traditional ties that were drawn upon in the First World War and would be again in the Second, touching upon the work of Ernst Kantorowicz in his history of pro patria mori. King George VI could be seen as Britain's last emperor and the use of media power to enhance the distribution not of 'the body of the King' but ofhis voice provides some of the incongruous magic the film elicits between ancient and modem concepts of monarchy and citizenship. The historically-based character Lionel Logue is represented as an ambiguous imperial subject - he is both loyalist and a presumptive colonial. The play between Logue and the King ski1is around a 'majesty' which is both unfonned (the stuttering) and challenged, figured most explicitly by the scene set around King Edward's Chair. Deftly deploying both pathos and comedy, the narrative serves to re-establish this majesty through the life-giving support of unorthodox colonial ingenuity.

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Mandy Merck

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Her Majesty moves

Sarah Bernhardt, Queen Elizabeth and the development of motion pictures

Victoria Duckett

Sarah Bernhardt's Queen Elizabeth (Henri Desfontaines and Louis Mercanton, 1911) was an international popular success, released in the US as a headline attraction for the Famous Players company founded by Charles Frohman and Adolph Zukor in order to distribute the film. It drew other theatrical stars to the cinema and helped to inaugurate the longer playing narrative film, furthering a new category of spectacle in cinema itself. Yet scholars and historians have long denounced Queen Elizabeth as anachronistic and stagey, material proof of its star's inability to engage with film. Examining specific scenes and shots, this chapter will show that the film's appropriation of a rich history of the stage, painting and literature challenges us to think of early cinema in new and provocative ways. The aim is not to uncover a lost masterpiece, but to demonstrate that only today, at a point at which we can discuss intermediality, transnational art forms and feminism as related undertakings, is it possible to explore Bernhardt's 'moving' Tudor Queen.

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Steven Fielding

Queen Victoria has been depicted on the screen on over a hundred occasions, by some of our leading actors. Her film depictions, while ostensibly about history, may also help to 'reorganise the present', in Pierre Sorlin's description. This chapter will assess the changing - and not so changing - ways in which Victoria has been represented on the screen. Victoria the Great (1937) and (the second version of) Sixty Glorious Years (1938) show the Queen as embodying the imperial consensus of the time. Yet those made after the outbreak of the People's War - such as The Prime Minister (1941) and The Mudlark (1950)- present the monarch as more concerned with her people's economic welfare, as the social democratic consensus emerges. Recent examples have pushed politics into the background and focused on Victoria's emotional life - as in Mrs. Brown (1997) and The Young Victoria (2009). Such works present the Queen as a victim of birth, tradition, politicians and popular expectations - and explore the personal tensions inherent in being the national figurehead. Yet, while increasingly portraying the personal dilemmas of a monarch caught within an unforgivinginstitution, these films also stress the central importance of the monarchy to the nation. Such dramatic licence might annoy historians, but it suggests a vigorous faith in a monarchy that allegedly transcends petty party politics and enjoys direct communion with the people. As such, film representations of Victoria bolster the continuing popularity of an inherently undemocratic institution.

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From political power to the power of the image

Contemporary ‘British’ cinema and the nation’s monarchs

Andrew Higson

The quarter century since Kenneth Branagh's Henry V(1989) has seen numerous representations of English and Scottish monarchs, both legendary and historical, in 'British' films. Some of these films function as biopics, some as dramas in which the monarch is the protagonist and some as costume dramas or historical films in which monarchs appear only briefly. At one level these films are more or less conventional products, designed to appeal to particular global markets, and often UK-US co productions. Here the relevant questions are the circumstances of production and circulation, and the extent to which the films rework established genre conventions. At another level, the representation of monarchy in these films plays a key role in the maintenance and renewal of the national institution. In this context, this chapter will examine how these films negotiate the shift from the absolutist power of the pre-modem and early modem monarchy to the 'postpolitical' constitutional monarchy of the contemporary period. As they move toward the present day, the monarch becomes both an ordinary person, the private individual in the family and household, and an extraordinary figure, surrounded by all the ceremony and pomp of royal1itual and costume drama, a spectacular image for a global brand.

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Elizabeth I

The cinematic afterlife of an early modern political diva

Elisabeth Bronfen and Barbara Straumann

Elizabeth I anticipated the enmeshment between celebrity culture and political power that characterizes the modern diva. This chapter explores the ways that the body of the queen and its theatricalization intersect with the body of the modern film star, focusing on Flora Robson, Bette Davis and Cate Blanchett in their highly diverse enactments of this early modern monarch. Highlighting the double-voicing at play in cinema's historical reimagination of Elizabeth I, it considers the political contexts in which she becomes culturally significant again (1930s national sovereignty, 1940s war eff01i, 1990s spin-doctoring). If the queen's two bodies bring together her physical being and her symbolic mandate, the mediality of her material embodiment becomes foregrounded. Addressing the conflict between private person and public persona particular to female sovereignty, each of these film divas differently embodies the historical queen as a figure of twentieth century celebrity culture.

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Edited by: Mandy Merck

Moving images of the British monarchy, in fact and fiction, are almost as old as the moving image itself, dating back to an 1895 dramatic vignette, The Execution of Mary Queen of Scots. Led by Queen Victoria, British monarchs themselves appeared in the new 'animated photography' from 1896. Half a century later, the 1953 coronation of Elizabeth II was a milestone in the adoption of television, watched by 20 million Britons and 100 million North Americans. At the century's end, Princess Diana's funeral was viewed by 2.5 billion worldwide. Seventeen essays by international commentators examine the portrayal of royalty in the 'actuality' picture, the early extended feature, amateur cinema, the movie melodrama, the Commonwealth documentary, New Queer Cinema, TV current affairs, the big screen ceremonial and the post-historical boxed set. These contributors include Ian Christie, Elisabeth Bronfen, Andrew Higson, Steven Fielding, Karen Lury, Glyn Davis, Ann Gray, Jane Landman, Victoria Duckett, Jude Cowan Montague, James Downs, Barbara Straumann, Deirdre Gilfedder, Jo Stephenson, Ruth Adams, Erin Bell, Basil Glynn and Nicola Rehling.

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‘A very wonderful process’

Queen Victoria, photography and film at the fin de siècle

Ian Christie

As moving pictures became a reality during 1895-6, Europe's crowned heads discovered the new medium and what it could do for their image. The earliest royal films made in Britain showed Victoria's extended family with a new informality, and were eagerly viewed by their subjects. However, it was the staging of Victoria's 1897 Diamond Jubilee as a vast procession through London, filmed by 18 companies whose products were distributed throughout Britain and the distant territories of the Empire, that showed how powerfully film could project the monarchy in a new way - immediate, accessible and impressive. Victoria's successors, her sons Edward and George, came to the throne having grasped the potential of film. Meanwhile, two of her relations Kaiser Wilhelm and Tsar Nicholas, were also the subjects of early filming Nicholas's coronation in 1896 was the first such event to be recorded on film, but a record of the disaster that followed, when thousands were killed in a crowd panic, was quickly suppressed. Nicholas would remain suspicious of film as a mass medium, while enjoying it as a private family record, until he gave permission for a film to celebrate the tercentenary of the Romanov dynasty in 1913 - the same year that a full-scale acted tribute to Victoria, Sixty Years a Queen, appeared.