The cinematic afterlife of an early modern political diva
Elisabeth Bronfen and Barbara Straumann
Elizabeth I anticipated the enmeshment between celebrity culture and political power that characterizes the modern diva. This chapter explores the ways that the body of the queen and its theatricalization intersect with the body of the modern film star, focusing on Flora Robson, Bette Davis and Cate Blanchett in their highly diverse enactments of this early modern monarch. Highlighting the double-voicing at play in cinema's historical reimagination of Elizabeth I, it considers the political contexts in which she becomes culturally significant again (1930s national sovereignty, 1940s war eff01i, 1990s spin-doctoring). If the queen's two bodies bring together her physical being and her symbolic mandate, the mediality of her material embodiment becomes foregrounded. Addressing the conflict between private person and public persona particular to female sovereignty, each of these film divas differently embodies the historical queen as a figure of twentieth century celebrity culture.