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  Sixty Glorious Years Victorian Values
Year: 1938
Director: Herbert Wilcox
Stars: Anna Neagle, Anton Walbrook, C. Aubrey Smith, Walter Rilla, Charles Carson, Felix Aylmer, Lewis Casson, Pamela Standish, Gordon McLeod, Henry Hallatt, Wyndham Goldie, Malcolm Keen, Frederick Leister, Derrick De Marney, Joyce Bland, Miles Malleson
Genre: Historical, BiopicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Queen Victoria (Anna Neagle) reigned for over sixty years, reaching her Diamond Jubilee in the very late nineteenth century, and for around half that time she was wed to Prince Albert (Anton Walbrook), the German royal who became the love of her life. Even so, at the beginning of their journey together he was uncertain about the marriage, not sure whether he was doing the right thing when he felt the British public would have trouble accepting him, and so it was he was correct to a degree, as no matter how seriously he took his duties as the Queen's Consort, there was always the opinion in the population that he would always be "the foreigner" and not one of their own...

Sixty Glorious Years was the fast-tracked sequel to the previous year's Victoria the Great, which had been a huge hit to commemorate the titular monarch's centenary, so you could regard this as a cash-in, particularly when it covered much of the same ground as its predecessor. The difference was that they shot this one in full Technicolor, whereas the first had been mostly in black and white until the grand finale where the screen exploded into a full rainbow of hues, er, in a stately manner at least. Yes, these films were fraightfully polaite for the most part, but that was not to say they ignored anything like a weighty issue, for they were wise enough to know this needed drama.

For a Queen who lasted over sixty years on the throne, much as Queen Elizabeth II, who beat Victoria's record in the twenty-first century, as you can imagine there was plenty of incident to be getting on with, and director Herbert Wilcox (soon to be Mr Neagle) did settle for different takes and new information than he had first time around. Some of the same elements were present: the courtship between Victoria and Walbrook, the Prince's establishing of The Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace to promote British science and invention, his eventual death and his wife's mourning, and Neagle caked in old age makeup to play her nearer the end of her time as Queen, but there were other aspects that were not included before, some more trivial (like judging a Highland dancing contest in Scotland) than others.

Neagle was as good as she was before; she made her name essaying genteel roles, but she always promoted strong female characters and was ever on the lookout for films where she could deliver that kind of entertainment for her adoring fans. She had excellent chemistry with the more diffident Walbrook, who with these two films had finally settled in Britain and would go on to a highly successful stage and screen career in that nation, most notably for the go-to "Good German" character in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp and others for Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, a highly important role in reminding a world beleaguered by war that not everyone from that region of Europe (he was Austrian) supported the Nazis. Here, with the Second World War just around the corner, he was a vital part of cinema of the age, ironically something of an outsider in real life, his homosexuality rarely hinted at in tightly controlled performances capable of significant compassion (unless playing a villain). You can watch this for the history, which has an Empire bias, or you can watch this for the not-inconsiderable, central acting couple. Music by Anthony Collins.

[Network have restored this on Blu-ray as part of their The British Film project. An image gallery is the sole extra, though subtitles are included. The previous effort, Victoria the Great, is also available.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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