These historical films only just missed becoming historic
films that take an orderly place in the memory. The settings of galleries and gardens, looking like contemporary prints in stiff formality, in Marie Antoinette. The rare restraint in Sixty Glorious Years, of " gorgeous pageantry " which so many historical films use merely as its own justification additional to the picture's action, rather than as an integral part of the film's development.
The superb, objective, wholly un.sentimentalised, entirely individual characterisation of Robert Morley as Louis XVI, Through clumsiness; through absolute lack of the glimmerings of charm; through a weak hesitancy that ought to be despicable, still Mr. Morley pulls all our sympathies towards him till his halting goodness is as captivating and compelling as the virility and positiveness of a lesser person. it is Robert Morley who ',takes the greatness of Marie Antoinette. His individuality has never compromised, and he could remind no one of his grandfather. This was a character Not so much can be said for either Norma Shearer as his queen, or for Anna
Neagle as ours, The Two Queens although Anna is
controlled but spirited, like a high-bred horse. and full of dignities that suggest more queenliness than the giddy, popularised antics of the Shearer's Antoinette. Perhaps it is not fair to compare the performances of these two because assuredly Anna Neagle had the better chance. In England we can take our history unsugared, or at least we manage on two lumps in our historical tea, whereas evidently America likes a little tea with her sugar, In Sixty Glorious Years we shall remember that magic lantern show in the presence of the whole Royal family, and how by a single word the Queen stopped a prophecy of the movies; we will remember that Albert took two lumps of sugar with his 5 o'clock tea; that Victoria's sharp tempers were short-lived; that she could not resist giving a prize to her own son for dancing at the Braemar games; that her weariness after the diamond jubilee celebrations could not prevent her stumping off to talk to her dress-model, Maggie, before resting.
We will remember, too, thanks to Technicolour, how scarlet the Victorian age was. How plush glowed everywhere with half-strength of neon lighting today. How the soldiers blazed in red tunics, and the mahogany seemed as rich and overwhelmingly heavy as the marble.
There is so much else in the richness of these two films to chronicle, but the litany must end with an Towards Reality invocation — let us not neglect Marie Antoinette nor Sixty Glorious Years. although their achievement is less than the groping they show towards a new direction right away from historical news-reel and towards historical imaginative reality— and let us hope that too much emphasis on intimacy won't spoil reality.