TBT: Fire Over England (1937)


One of the most extravagant early films about Queen Elizabeth I’s reign is Fire Over England (1937). This is a gorgeous production that plays fast and loose with the story of the Spanish Armada by adding a love story between fictional characters played by actual lovers Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier. They try to steal the show from Flora Robson’s QEI but don’t, IMO, because she’s a bad-ass in giant ruffs and over-the-top gowns designed by Rene Hubert.

Like many ’30s frock flicks, the costumes have a veneer of historical accuracy layered in with as much fanciful trim, bling, decoration, padding, and shiny bits possible. Some of these costume tropes show up in later Elizabethan-era movies, perpetuating costume fantasies, even if the actual costumes aren’t recycled. But it sure does look fabulous on film and especially in black and white!

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About the author

Trystan L. Bass

Twitter Website

A self-described ElderGoth, Trystan has been haunting the internet since the early 1990s. Always passionate about costume, from everyday office wear to outrageous twisted historical creations, she has maintained some of the earliest online costuming-focused resources on the web. Her costuming adventures are chronicled on her website, TrystanCraft. She also ran a popular fashion blog, This Is CorpGoth, dedicated to her “office drag.”

5 Responses

  1. ctrent29

    I wish I had paid more attention to the film’s costumes. Unfortunately, I was too busy being bored and realizing that Laurence Olivier was unsuited for swashbuckler films.

  2. Frannie Germeshausen

    Had to look up Flora Robson’s Tilbury speech. She’s super bad-ass on a horse.

  3. Deborah Parkes

    I have this film, Vivien and Laurence are just beautiful looking. They also fell in love with each other whilst making the film.

  4. Susan Pola Staples

    I remember how incredibly Dame Flora was able to be the center of attention despite the fact that she wasn’t the incandescent beauty of Vivien Leigh or as pretty as Lord Larry. It reminded me of Dame Judi’s Elizabeth in Shakespeare in Love and also Dame Judi stole the show.

    She was also brilliant as the Dowager Empress of China in 55 Days in Peking and she was the only reason to watch it. Well, David Niven was also a reason.


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