World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Mary of Scotland (film)

Mary of Scotland
movie poster
Directed by John Ford
Produced by Pandro S. Berman
Written by adaptation of the 1933 Maxwell Anderson play
Screenplay by Dudley Nichols

Katharine Hepburn

Fredric March
Music by Nathaniel Shilkret
Cinematography Joseph H. August
Jack MacKenzie
Edited by Jane Loring
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release dates
  • July 30, 1936 (1936-07-30)
(New York)[1]
  • August 28, 1936 (1936-08-28)
Running time
123 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $864,000[2]
Box office $1,276,000[2]

Mary of Scotland is a 1936 RKO film starring Katharine Hepburn as the 16th century ruler, Mary, Queen of Scots.[3][4] Directed by John Ford, it is an adaptation of the 1933 Maxwell Anderson play. The screenplay was written by Dudley Nichols. It is largely in blank verse. Ginger Rogers wanted to play this role and made a convincing screen test, but RKO rejected her request to be cast in the part[5] feeling that the role was not suitable to Miss Rogers' image.


  • Plot summary 1
  • Cast 2
  • Accuracy 3
  • Reception 4
  • Notes 5
  • External links 6

Plot summary

Mary (Katharine Hepburn), by assuming her throne as Queen of Scotland, strikes terror into the heart of Queen Elizabeth I (Florence Eldridge). After languishing in jail for 18 years at Elizabeth's command, Mary is offered a pardon if she will sign away her throne. Will she accept the deal, or die instead?[6]


Hepburn in a publicity still from film


The film does not keep close to the historical truth, portraying Mary as something of a wronged martyr and her third husband, James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell (played by Fredric March), as a romantic hero.


Contemporary reviews were generally positive. Frank S. Nugent of The New York Times said it had a "blend of excellence and mere adequacy." He wrote that the film had "depth, vigor and warm humanity" but had scenes which "lack the vitality they possessed in the play", and considered Hepburn's characterization of the title role rather too soft in comparison with the historical Mary.[7] Variety praised the "extra-strong cast" and Ford's "sure-footed" direction. Hepburn's performance was described as "not really Mary Stuart but rather Katie Hepburn. And that is all in the film's favor because it humanizes it all and makes it that much more nearly acceptable." However, the review also found the film too long and the ending too sad, while conceding it could not end any other way without "completely corrupting history."[8] "Impressive historical drama finely acted and produced with all-around distinction", reported Film Daily.[9] Motion Picture Daily called the film "a splendidly powerful drama" with a "sincere, intelligent and genuine" performance by Hepburn.[10] Russell Maloney reviewed the film negatively in The New Yorker, writing that despite its high production values, "it has little or nothing to do with Maxwell Anderson's play. Any other historical drama of the period could have been sandwiched in between these scenes and it wouldn't have made a bit of difference." Of Hepburn's performance Maloney wrote that she had "the cards stacked against her from the very start, because pageantry naturally interferes with characterization."[11]

The film is highly regarded by a few critics today, but in its time was a box office flop, making a loss of $165,000.[2] This was Katharine Hepburn's second flop in a row causing her to being labeled "box office poison" in the late 1930s, leading to (after a two-year screen absence) her move to MGM for her comeback in The Philadelphia Story.


  1. ^ "The Broadway Parade".  
  2. ^ a b c Richard Jewel, 'RKO Film Grosses: 1931-1951', Historical Journal of Film Radio and Television, Vol 14 No 1, 1994 p. 57.
  3. ^ Variety film review; August 5, 1936, p. 16.
  4. ^ Harrison's Reports film review; July 25, 1936, p. 119.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^  
  8. ^ "Mary of Scotland".  
  9. ^ "Reviews of the New Films".  
  10. ^ "Looking 'Em Over". Motion Picture Daily (Quigley Publishing Company, Inc.): 8. July 23, 1936. 
  11. ^ Maloney, Russell (August 8, 1936). "The Current Cinema".  

External links

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.