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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Love Is Snow-Blind

Queen Christina (1933) on IMDb

Plot Overview

1632. “Sweden to banners!” A fallen warrior on the battlefield turns out to be, (“I was the king of Sweden”) King Gustavus Adolphus (C. Montagu Shaw.) The Swedes “fight on for the Protestant cause of our country.” His six-year-old daughter Christina (Cora Sue Collins) has been raised as a boy to take over his ruler­ship. She's crowned, promising “to be a good and just King with God's help.”

Years pass and Sweden has proven strong in battle. Christina's cousin & war hero Prince Charles Gustavus (Reginald Owen) returns triumphant. The hawks want more blood. The people want a royal marriage. Lord Treasurer Count Magnus (Ian Keith) wants Christina. The Arch­bishop (David Torrence) wants war continued “for our faith and for our God.” Queen Christina (Greta Garbo) “wants to cultivate the arts of peace.” A Peace Congress ensues.

Historian J.M. Roberts tells us, “the Thirty Years' War were prolonged until the Peace of West­phalia ended the fighting in 1648. ¶“The peace confirmed and extended (by including Calvinists) the religious pluralism of the empire. It made Sweden a power on the southern coasts of the Baltic and gave her votes in the Imperial Diet. It marked the end of Spanish military supremacy and of the dream of recon­sti­tuting the empire of Charles V. It closed an era of Habsburg history” (251).

The historical Queen Christina was a bluestocking rejecting the “staleness” of the university and studying instead with the learned Jesuits. She thought Lutherans were boring, so she converted to Catholicism necessitating her abdication the throne. The Holly­wood­ized Queen Christina, how­ever, on a lark (“In my home I'm very constrained”) travels the country­side incognito as a man. She happens upon Spanish envoy Don Antonio De La Prada (John Gilbert) en route to the royal court, and they engage in unlikely tryst. They fall in love, and Christina abdicates the throne to go off to Spain.


The queen encounters much opposition to her love interest (“The Church will never permit such a marriage!”), but the movie indicates by analogy it's not her fault. The carriage of the envoy itself falls into a snow-covered rut getting stuck, and the Swedes correct the Spanish ambassador telling him it isn't the coach­man's fault, the rut was covered with soft snow, it happens all the time. Similarly, the wise Solomon tells us, (Eccl. 11:3) “If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth: and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be.” Falling in love is by nature sudden and unexpected, and the direction one's heart takes is where it will abide. Christina had four suitors if one counts by proxy a “king [who] asks your hand in marriage.” She's in love with the Spanish envoy. Tough!

Some word of mouth yellow journalism (“The queen disports herself with a Spaniard”) gets her subjects up in arms against her. She reasons with them picking a black­smith as their spokes­man. He's a self-proclaimed good smithy as was his father and grand­father before him. Similarly, Christina's father and grand­father were kings, and she is a good leader. She doesn't tell him how to run his smithy. He shouldn't tell her how to lead. This line is supported by one of the apocryphal wisdom books: (Sirach 38:24–39:12)

The wisdom of a learned man cometh by opportunity of leisure: and he that hath little business shall become wise. How can he get wisdom that holdeth the plough, and that glorieth in the goad, that driveth oxen, and is occupied in their labours, and whose talk is of bullocks? He giveth his mind to make furrows; and is diligent to give the kine fodder. So every carpenter and work­master, that laboureth night and day: and they that cut and grave seals, and are diligent to make great variety, and give themselves to counter­feit imagery, and watch to finish a work:

The smith also sitting by the anvil, and considering the iron work, the vapour of the fire wasteth his flesh, and he fighteth with the heat of the furnace: the noise of the hammer and the anvil is ever in his ears, and his eyes look still upon the pattern of the thing that he maketh; he setteth his mind to finish his work, and watcheth to polish it perfectly:

So doth the potter sitting at his work, and turning the wheel about with his feet, who is alway carefully set at his work, and maketh all his work by number; He fashioneth the clay with his arm, and boweth down his strength before his feet; he applieth himself to lead it over; and he is diligent to make clean the furnace: All these trust to their hands: and every one is wise in his work. Without these cannot a city be inhabited: and they shall not dwell where they will, nor go up and down: They shall not be sought for in publick counsel, nor sit high in the congregation: they shall not sit on the judges' seat, nor under­stand the sentence of judgment: they cannot declare justice and judgment; and they shall not be found where parables are spoken. But they will maintain the state of the world, and [all] their desire is in the work of their craft.

But he that giveth his mind to the law of the most High, and is occupied in the meditation thereof, will seek out the wisdom of all the ancient, and be occupied in prophecies. He will keep the sayings of the renowned men: and where subtil parables are, he will be there also. He will seek out the secrets of grave sentences, and be conversant in dark parables. He shall serve among great men, and appear before princes: he will travel through strange countries; for he hath tried the good and the evil among men. He will give his heart to resort early to the Lord that made him, and will pray before the most High, and will open his mouth in prayer, and make supplication for his sins.

When the great Lord will, he shall be filled with the spirit of understanding: he shall pour out wise sentences, and give thanks unto the Lord in his prayer. He shall direct his counsel and knowledge, and in his secrets shall he meditate. He shall shew forth that which he hath learned, and shall glory in the law of the covenant of the Lord. Many shall commend his under­standing; and so long as the world endureth, it shall not be blotted out; his memorial shall not depart away, and his name shall live from generation to generation. Nations shall shew forth his wisdom, and the congregation shall declare his praise. If he die, he shall leave a greater name than a thousand: and if he live, he shall increase it. Yet have I more to say, which I have thought upon; for I am filled as the moon at the full.

Coming back to Solomon, (Eccl. 11:4) “He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.” The movie ends with “The wind is with us” filling the sails and blowing out Christina's hair. After having “long[ed] to escape my destiny,” she now perhaps “will long to return to it.” How­ever that may be, after following one's heart, “He that observeth the wind shall not sow” if he be one “that holdeth the plough,” or he “shall not reap” if he be one “sitting by the anvil.” Or the historical Christina “that giveth his mind to the law of the most High, and is occupied in the meditation thereof” won't hold a post at university, and the movie Christina won't be leading a people any more. The real Christina after her abdication traveled to Rome, immersed herself in culture, and later tried to become Queen of a couple of countries. At any rate she made a name for her­self as this movie honoring her attests.

Production Values

The B&W film, “Queen Christina” (1933) was directed by Rouben Mamoulian. Its screen­play was written by H.M. Harwood and Salka Viertel, from the original story by Salka Viertel and Margaret P. Levino, with dialogue assistance from S.N. Behrman, and uncredited help from: Harvey Gates, Ben Hecht, Rouben Mamoulian, Ernest Vajda, and Claudine West. “Queen Christina” is loosely based on the life of Queen Christina of Sweden, daughter of the renowned king Gustavus Adolphus. It stars Greta Garbo, John Gilbert, and Ian Keith. It also features Lewis Stone as Chancellor Oxenstierna, Elizabeth Young as Christina's lady-in-waiting Ebba Sparre, C. Aubrey Smith as Christina's valet Aage, Georges Renavent as the French Ambassador, Gustav Von Seyffertitz as a General, David Torrence as an Arch­bishop, and Akim Tamiroff as the Spanish envoy's attendant Pedro. The acting is superb, particularly from the three leads. Garbo effects a mannish delivery, which is what the role calls for. John Gilbert was handi­capped by his classic stage acting voice now introduced into the talkies. He does okay, depending on how picky you are.

The movie is pre-code, not rated, but it got a PG rating in Australia. William H. Daniels's cinematography is stunning, giving us the gorgeous close-ups of Garbo, while the scenery and costumes are charming. Herbert Stothart's score is hauntingly beautiful and melancholic, complementing a royal story well-told.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

“Queen Christina” is a well-constructed romantic drama played out against an historical back­ground. The gay & Lesbian community has adopted it as poster child for their cultural influence, though it is doubtful either the queen's or the actress's sexual disorientation went any further than a penchant for imitating men. The Treaty of West­phalia spelled out that the conversion of a prince does not necessarily result in the conversion of his people, thus obviating the kind of earlier conflict this movie played into. As a romance it did okay, and there was even some good (racy) humor in it. The history is never­the­less bastardized, but a lot of people could care less. I like all kinds of movies, so I just took it in stride.

Movie Ratings

Special effects: Well done special effects. Suitability for children: Not rated, pre-code. Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day. Suspense: A few suspenseful moments. Action Factor: Weak action scenes. Overall product rating: Four stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture is taken from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Apocryphal scripture taken from The Septuagint with Apocrypha: Greek and English. U.S.A.: Hendrick­son Pub. Originally published by Samuel Bagster & Sons, Ltd., London, 1851. WEB.

Roberts, J.M. A History of Europe. New York: Penguin Press, 1997. Print.