Saturday, August 31, 2013

“Mary, Queen Of Scots”

Glenda Jackson as Elizabeth I and Vanessa Redgrave as Mary, Queen Of Scots in the 1971 film, “Mary, Queen Of Scots”. The film has no connection to Schiller’s “Mary Stuart”.

When it was released, “Mary, Queen Of Scots” was not a critical or commercial success. Reviewers noted that the direction of Charles Jarrott was impersonal and characterless, and that the excellence of the acting was unable to offset the blandness of the direction.

The film is not distinguished, but it is essential viewing because of Redgrave’s performance. Her Mary is intelligent, impetuous, impassioned, regal—and dangerous. Redgrave’s is a commanding, luminescent performance; the actress’s Mary Stuart stands with her Isadora Duncan as her finest film work.

As for the Elizabeth I of Jackson . . . Jackson is, as always, Jackson: she chews up the scenery and spits it out, often directly at the camera.

I have not seen Redgrave onstage, and my parents have not seen Redgrave onstage.

I have not seen Jackson onstage, either, but my parents have seen Jackson onstage.

My parents contend that one performance of Jackson, in particular, sticks in their minds—and proves the actress’s supreme stature.

It was some gruesome play—one of those “How Dreadful Life Is In The Midlands” plays that populated the British stage from the mid-1950s until the mid-1980s, when the genre finally (and thankfully) died out—yet Jackson single-handedly was able to elevate the material into something endurable, even worthwhile.

According to my parents, Jackson was riveting, and magical; she gave the illusion of keeping a thousand emotions afloat, with another thousand in reserve capable of being summoned at will. It was a complex, multi-dimensional, masterful performance.

My parents further relate that the quality of Jackson’s performance in that long-forgotten play stood in high relief to the performance of a fellow cast member that also possessed an exalted reputation: Jessica Tandy.

Apparently Tandy, quite skilled in her own right, came across as one-dimensional and limited when playing on the same stage as Jackson. My parents say Tandy virtually disappeared alongside her far-more-talented colleague: Jackson was metaphysical; Tandy was from the soaps.

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