The Virgin Queen 1955 – Richard Todd and Bette Davis

After his great success in The Hasty Heart, Richard Todd was signed up on a One-Film-a Year Contract with 20th Century Fox – and this film was one of those. It was made in Hollywood and directed by Henry (Bobby) Koster in Cinemascope.

Also cast of course was Bette Davis as Queen Elizabeth in a role she had played before opposite Errol Flynn in 1939.    Co-starring with the other two was Joan Collins who at that time was also with Fox during the years she spent in Hollywood in the 50s.    I heard Joan being interviewed about this period many years later and she said that in the fifties she went to Hollywood, made a great deal of money and ‘spent it all’.

Above – Bette Davis and Joan Collins in a scene from the film.

The Virgin Queen was filmed in around 30 days which is very quick for a major Hollywood picture but Bette Davis insisted that she had a strict time limit because of other projects she had on the go.  She must have been reasonably friendly with Richard Todd because a few years later in a visit to England she did visit him at his dairy farm Near Henley on Thames.

Richard Todd related one little story that when he came to make the picture and realised that Bette Davis was playing opposite he was initially somewhat  daunted by the prospect because she had quite a fearsome reputation with other actors who maybe she felt weren’t quite up to the job. However the two of them  seemed to get on fairly well and he seemed able to avoid her displeasure- other than on one famous occasion when Bette had to make a long haranguing speech to her courtiers which she did word perfect and the scene would have been ok.  However the script girl pointed out that Richard Todd had forgotten to put on his garter chain which was part of the costume – so he had to go to Bette and explain what he had done and that the scene would have to be redone and she would have to make this long speech all over again. Her reaction was ‘You Bastard’ but she just got back in and  did the speech again  perfectly.

Another very strange incident occurred during this picture. There was among the courtiers in this same scene, an old actor who had just one line of intervention but for whatever reason the poor old chap just couldn’t get it right – he would either come in too early or too late or maybe not at all – and it became obvious to Bobby Koster that he was not able to do it.   So rather than humiliate him – on the next take – Bobby said ‘Good, Cut and Print’ implying he was happy with it but secretly he knew that he would have to get another actor in to do the scene.   He then thanked the old actor who left the studio a little later.   About 20 minutes after this there was a call from the gate and the caller asked ‘ Do You have a xxxxx  working on your film ? Bobby says ‘Yes We do he has just left’.   Then the gateman said ‘ I am sorry to tell you but he has just dropped down dead.’

So Bobby Koster had been very kind to him at the very end of his life and avoided any discord and the actor had left happily.

Above – A Man Called Peter – Richard Todd and Jean Peters.

Out of the five contracted films Richard Todd made this film and D Day the Sixth of June were good but the best one was by far ‘A Man called Peter’ in which he gave probably the best acting performance of his film career as Peter Marshall the inspirational  Scottish vicar who went out to the USA and created quite a following with his stirring sermons.    Whilst rehearsing one of these from the pulipt of the set he later found Marilyn Monroe watching from a seat at the very back and crying at the words she heard.    This film is much better known in the USA than England but it was a very good film indeed. 

Jean Peters and Richard Todd above

Richard Todd’s  co-star in A Man Called Peter was Jean Peters – the very beautiful film actress – and in his autobigraphy he said that she was very good with her acting but once her scenes were done she would retire to her caravan or dressing room and she seemed always to be accompanied by another woman. She flew in just before filming started and flew out when she had completed the film and never socialised at all.  It later became clear as to why.    Not long after she married Howard Hughes and didn’t make another film.   The woman with her had been a sort of minder and the plane she travelled in was belonging to Howard Hughes.

Someone said of  A Man Called Peter that it was the best film ever made dealing with this subject and Richard Todd’s portrayal of Peter Marshall was wonderful.

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