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Queen Christina (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Queen Christina
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRouben Mamoulian
Written byS. N. Behrman (dialogue)
Screenplay byH. M. Harwood
Salka Viertel
Story bySalka Viertel
Margaret P. Levino
Produced byWalter Wanger
StarringGreta Garbo
John Gilbert
CinematographyWilliam H. Daniels
Edited byBlanche Sewell
Music byHerbert Stothart
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • December 26, 1933 (1933-12-26)
Running time
99 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$2,887,285[1]

Queen Christina is a pre-Code Hollywood biographical film, produced for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1933 by Walter Wanger and directed by Rouben Mamoulian. It stars Swedish-born actress Greta Garbo and John Gilbert in their fourth and last film together.

The film portrays the life of Queen Christina of Sweden, who became monarch at the age of six in 1632 and grew to be a powerful and influential leader. As well as coping with the demands of ruling Sweden during the Thirty Years' War, Christina is expected to marry a suitable royal figure and produce an heir. When she falls in love with a visiting Spanish envoy, whom she is forbidden to marry because he is a Roman Catholic, she must choose between love and her royal duty.

The film was a major commercial and critical success in the United States and worldwide.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • THE GIRL KING Trailer US final



Queen Christina of Sweden (Greta Garbo) is devoted to her country and the welfare of her people. As queen, she favors peace for Sweden and argues convincingly for an end to the Thirty Years' War, saying:

Spoils, glory, flags and trumpets! What is behind these high-sounding words? Death and destruction, triumphals of crippled men, Sweden victorious in a ravaged Europe, an island in a dead sea. I tell you, I want no more of it. I want for my people security and happiness. I want to cultivate the arts of peace, the arts of life. I want peace and peace I will have!

Christina, who first took the throne at age six upon the death of her father in battle, is depicted as being so devoted to both governing well and educating herself that she has spurned any kind of serious romance or marriage, despite pressure from her councilors and court to marry her heroic cousin Karl Gustav (Reginald Owen) and produce an heir. One day, in an effort to escape the restrictions of her royal life, she sneaks out of town and ends up at the same inn as Antonio (John Gilbert), a Spanish envoy on his way to the capital. The two talk and become friends, though Antonio thinks Christina is a man because of the way she is dressed. When the innkeeper, who is also unaware of Christina's identity, asks if she will let Antonio share her bed because there is no room available for him, Christina is unable to come up with a suitable reason to deny the request. In her room, she reveals to Antonio that she is a woman, but not that she is a queen, and they spend the night together. Their tryst is extended by a few days when they become snowbound at the inn.

When the time comes for Christina and Antonio to part, Christina assures Antonio that they will reunite in Stockholm. To his surprise, this occurs when the Spaniard is presented to the Queen, whom he recognizes as his lover. Antonio is initially somewhat hurt and annoyed because he thinks Christina has played a trick on him and compromised his loyalty to the King of Spain, who sent Antonio on this mission to Sweden to present Christina with an offer of marriage on his behalf. She makes it clear that her feelings for Antonio are genuine and that she regularly receives such offers from foreign royalty and has no intention of accepting the King's proposal, and she and Antonio patch things up.

When the scheming Count Magnus (Ian Keith), who had previously had some romantic liaisons with the Queen, rouses the people against the Spaniard, Christina is able to ease tensions for a time, but ultimately, she decides to name Karl Gustav as her successor and, in a move that shocks the entire court, abdicates the throne to be with Antonio. When she gets to the boat that is to take Antonio and her to Spain, she finds him gravely wounded from a sword duel with Magnus, which he lost. Antonio dies in her arms, but Christina resolves to proceed with the voyage. She envisions residing in the home Antonio described to her as sitting on white cliffs overlooking the sea.



The film was released in December 1933. It was directed by Rouben Mamoulian and written by H. M. Harwood and Salka Viertel, with dialogue by S. N. Behrman, based on a story by Viertel and Margaret P. Levino. The leading roles are played by Greta Garbo as Christina and John Gilbert as Don Antonio, an emissary from Spain. Laurence Olivier originally was cast as Antonio, but was fired during rehearsals.[2] It was billed as Garbo's return to cinema after an eighteen-month hiatus. While on holiday in Sweden, the actress read a treatment by Viertel about the life of Christina and became interested in the story.[3] At the time of shooting the film, Garbo was 28, the same age as her character.[4]

Garbo herself insisted on having Gilbert as her co-star.[3] It was the fourth and last time that they were in a film together, and it was Gilbert's penultimate film. He had been a huge star in the silent era, but the enmity of studio head Louis B. Mayer cast a pall over his career, and he died in January 1936 from heart attacks exacerbated by alcoholism.[5][6]

The film is remembered for two iconic moments.[7][8] The first is a scene in which, having spent two nights with Antonio in her room at the inn, Christina spends over three minutes walking around and examining and caressing various objects to imprint the space on her memory. The second, and arguably the most famous image in the film, is the closing shot, in which Christina stands as a silent figurehead at the bow of the ship bound for Spain, the wind blowing through her hair, while the camera moves into a tight close-up on her face. Prior to shooting the final scene, Mamoulian suggested that Garbo should think about nothing and avoid blinking her eyes so her face could be a "blank sheet of paper" and every member of the audience could write the ending of the film themselves.[9]

Critical reception and box office

The film premiered in New York City on December 26, 1933, and opened in the rest of the world throughout 1934.[10] It was nominated for the Mussolini Cup award at the Venice Film Festival in 1934, but lost to Man of Aran.[11]

Queen Christina turned out to be a success with the critics, gathering many positive reviews. Critic Mordaunt Hall, writing for The New York Times, gave the film a positive review and liked the screenplay, calling the dialogue "a bright and smooth piece of writing" and referred to Mamoulian's direction as "entrancing". Positive opinions came also from Modern Screen's Walter Ramsey, who proclaimed it a "triumph for Garbo", and a reviewer for Photoplay, who acclaimed Garbo's "glorious reappearance".[12]

Motion Picture Daily called the film "creaky in spots", but reported that Garbo "does beautifully" and that the film was "well above the average in content and value."[13] The New York Daily News wrote: "The picture moves a little slowly, but with grace, from one lovely setting to another. It is a picture that must not be missed, because Garbo is at her best in some of its scenes."[14]

Some reviews were mixed. "Garbo overwhelms the picture", wrote John Mosher in The New Yorker. "The story, the setting, her support cannot live up to her."[15] Variety found the film "slow and ofttimes stilted", though it wrote that Garbo's "regal impression is convincing, which counts for plenty."[16] The Sun of New York wrote that "Garbo seems to be suffering from an acute case of glamour. And that is probably not her fault. Gilbert tried very hard, but his performance is a little stilted. Queen Christina misses fire, somehow, and that is disappointing."[14]

According to the AFI Catalog, despite the critical acclaim, the film did not do well at the American box office.[17] TCM's Frank Miller stated: "It would be years before foreign revenues and reissues brought the film into the profit column."[18] In 1994, Barry Paris wrote that final tally was: "Cost: $1,144,000. Earnings: domestic $767,000; foreign $1,843,000; total $2,610,000. Profit: $632,000".[19]

As of June 2020, Queen Christina had a 90% "Fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes, based on 21 reviews.[20] Leonard Maltin gave the film 4 out of 4 stars, calling it "Probably Garbo's best film, with a haunting performance by the radiant star as 17th-century Swedish queen who relinquishes her throne for her lover, Gilbert. Garbo and Gilbert's love scenes together are truly memorable, as is the famous final shot...”[21]

The part of Queen Christina is regarded as one of the better in Garbo's filmography,[22] and the film is especially notable for resoundingly disproving rumors that John Gilbert's lack of success in the sound era was due to his having an unsuitable voice.[23]

Historical accuracy

The film is a historical costume drama based loosely on the life of 17th-century Queen Christina of Sweden, and still more loosely on August Strindberg's history play Kristina. A number of historical characters appear in the film (such as Axel Oxenstierna, Charles X Gustav of Sweden, and Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie), and some historical events are depicted (such as the Thirty Years' War and Christina's abdication), but Queen Christina is not a film that adheres closely to the facts.[24] In this highly fictionalized account, it is falling in love that brings Christina into conflict with the political realities of her society, whereas, in real life, Christina's main reasons for abdication were her determination not to marry, to live as she pleased, and to openly convert to Catholicism.[25]

The romance with Antonio is fiction and can be seen as a typical "Hollywood" distortion of history—unless it is understood as an allegory, with her love for Don Antonio representing her love of the intellectual life and her embrace of the Catholic faith.[citation needed] In reality, Christina was devoted to her maid of honor, friend, and "bedfellow" Ebba Sparre. In the film, Christina kisses Ebba twice, but the kisses are quite chaste, and any suggestion of a romantic relationship between the two women is firmly blocked by a scene in which Christina comes upon Ebba and Count Jakob meeting on a staircase and immediately leaves for what will be her encounter with Antonio. When Christina returns, she apologizes to Ebba and promises she may marry her beloved Count. The real Ebba did marry Count Jakob, but the marriage was an unhappy one.[26][18]

The film is correct in stating that Christina's father had her raised as if she were a boy, with the education and responsibilities expected of a male heir, and in depicting her habit of dressing as a man, which continued throughout her life.[27] The historical Christina was, also, indeed adamant about making peace, and was a patron of science, art, and culture, dreaming of making Stockholm the "Athens of the North".[28]


  1. ^ a b Matthew Bernstein, Walter Wagner: Hollywood Independent, Minnesota Press, 2000 p435
  2. ^ "Sir Laurence Olivier was fired by Greta Garbo | the Dick Cavett Show". YouTube. The Dick Cavett Show. Retrieved 9 June 2022.
  3. ^ a b Corliss, Richard (1974). Greta Garbo. New York: Pyramid Books. p. 110.
  4. ^ Corliss, Richard (1974). Greta Garbo. New York: Pyramid Books. p. 112.
  5. ^ "John Gilbert (actor)", Wikipedia, 2020-06-11, retrieved 2020-06-20
  6. ^ Michael Conway; Dion McGregor; Mark Ricci (1968). The Films of Greta Garbo. New York: The Citadel Press. p. 119.
  7. ^ Kobal, John (1979). "Garbo". The Movie. Orbis Publishing. p. 29.
  8. ^ "Queen Christina (1933)". 8 January 2010. Retrieved 2012-02-22.
  9. ^ Kobal, John (1979). "Garbo". The Movie. Orbis Publishing. p. 28.
  10. ^ "Queen Christina (1933) – Release dates". IMDb. Retrieved 2012-02-22.
  11. ^ "Queen Christina (1933) – Awards". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2012-02-22.
  12. ^ Michael Conway; Dion McGregor; Mark Ricci (1968). The Films of Greta Garbo. New York: The Citadel Press. p. 122.
  13. ^ "Looking 'Em Over". Motion Picture Daily. New York. December 27, 1933. p. 4.
  14. ^ a b "New York Reviews". The Hollywood Reporter. Los Angeles. January 4, 1934. p. 6.
  15. ^ Mosher, John (January 6, 1934). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker. pp. 69–70.
  16. ^ "Queen Christina". Variety. New York. January 2, 1934. p. 13. Retrieved December 8, 2014.
  17. ^ "Queen Christina". Retrieved 2020-06-20.
  18. ^ a b Miller, Frank. "Queen Christina". Turner Entertainment Networks, Inc. Retrieved 18 October 2015.
  19. ^ Paris, Barry (1994). Garbo. Alfred A. Knopf. pp. 567–573. ISBN 978-0-8166-4182-6.
  20. ^ Queen Christina (1933), retrieved 2020-06-20
  21. ^ "Queen Christina (1933) - Overview -". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2020-06-20.
  22. ^ Lucia Bozzola. "Queen Christina – Review". AllMovie. Retrieved 2011-01-19.
  23. ^ Leonard Maltin, commentary. Dawn of Sound: How Movies Learned to Talk (documentary). Warner Bros. Entertainment, 2007. DVD.
  24. ^ "QUEEN CHRISTINA – Greta Garbo, John Gilbert d: Rouben Mamoulian". Alt Film Guide. Retrieved 2011-01-19.
  25. ^ "Queen Christina of Sweden movie with Greta Garbo by Tracy Marks". Retrieved 2007-03-28.
  26. ^ "Ebba Sparre", Wikipedia, 2020-05-26, retrieved 2020-06-20
  27. ^ Hal Erickson. "Queen Christina – Cast, Reviews, Summary, and Awards". AllMovie. Retrieved 2011-01-19.
  28. ^ "Christina, Queen of Sweden", Wikipedia, 2020-06-11, retrieved 2020-06-20

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This page was last edited on 9 June 2024, at 22:36
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