Undoubtedly, you’ve seen Lady Jane (1986), starring a young Helena Bonham Carter and Carey Elwes. But that’s not the first movie to tell the story of the ill-fated Jane Gray, who was Queen of England for a mere nine days after Edward VI and before Mary I in 1553. The first talkie film to focus on this topic was Tudor Rose in 1936, which was also titled Nine Days a Queen, starring Nova Pilbeam (who had been a popular child actress) as Jane, John Mills (who went on to have a long film career) as Guildford, and Cedric Hardwicke as bad guy Earl of Warwick/Northumberland (he subsequently played a lot more movie baddies).
Interestingly, this version spends a good third of the film on Edward’s reign and the machinations behind his throne. It’s a highly relevant build up to show how Jane is thrust onto the throne and actually gives this movie a bit more of a historical and less romantic bent than the 1986 story (which, yes, we loved to bits, but omg, the fall-in-love-overnight thing? the “our coin” stuff? puh-leeze, I’m not 17 anymore). Interesting touch, we see John Knox preaching fire and brimstone for Edward VI at his Lord Protector Edward Seymour’s behest — which is historically accurate, and in fact, Knox met his wife during this brief trip to England around 1550. Another good historical bit is Frances Grey, Jane’s mother, being a nasty piece of work, shipping off her daughter as she does (though I doubt her father was really such a doofus).
Despite a generally historical plot, the costumes are very 1930s Tudor-bethan. Wacky fabric choices married with goofy silhouettes. The one standout is Mary Tudor, who, when she meets Jane in the Tower of London, looks right out of a portrait. How they could get that Tudor gown correct yet the ones worn by Jane look so freaky, I don’t know. Either rental stock or a conscious choice to make the ingenue look that way.