Mary, Queen of Scots (1971): Oscar Nominated Drama Starring Vanessa Redgrave and Glenda Jackson

Produced by Hall Wallis, “Mary, Queen of Scots” relates in a pedestrian manner the by-now familiar clash between Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth I.

This is the weakest production of Hal Wally’s trilogy of historical epics, which included “Becket,” with Peter O’Toole and Richard Burton, and followed with “Anne of the Thousand Days,” starring Genevieve Bujold.  Both “Becket” and “Anne” were nominated for the Best picture Oscar.

As a tale, it chronicles the era from Mary’s widowhood in France at the age of 18 until her execution by Elizabeth.

As conventionally scripted by John Hale, and decently directed by Charles Jarrott, the film boasts strong performances from Glenda Jackson (as Elizabeth I) and Vanessa Redgrave (as Mary), two of the greatest British actresses of their times.

Neither scribe nor director has a particularly interesting angle on the two strong persona or the religio-political contexts of their clash.

Done in the stale Masterpiece Theater style, the film is earnest, solemn, but nice to look, at due to production values, and great to listen to, due to the stars’ caliber.

The Academy voters are known for favoring such fare, and indeed, the picture received no less than five major Oscar nominations.


Oscar Nominations: 5

Actress: Vanessa Redgrave

Art Direction-Set Decoration: Terence marsh and Robert Cartwright; Peter Howitt

Costume Design: Margaret Furse

Sound: Bob Jones and John Aldred

Dramatic Score (Original): John Bary

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context:

The winner of the Best Actress Oscar was Jane Fonda for Klute.”

“Nicholas and Alexandra,” another Hollywood historical epic, won the Art Direction and Costume Design Oscars.

“Fiddler on the Roof” won the Sound Oscar, and “Summer of ‘42” for Michel Legrand’s Scoring.