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FRIDAY-WEDNESDAY, MAY 7
John Madden did manage to pull Mrs. Brown out of the long but dreary reign of Queen Victoria. Other than that, England’s queens have been pretty much a loss cinematically. The exception is Elizabeth I, who became a cinematic heroine some 350 years after her 44 years of rule. Skipping 1998’s Elizabeth in favor of earlier fare, this series complements the Folger Theater’s production of Maxwell Anderson’s Elizabeth the Queen with four vintage swashbucklers. In William K. Howard’s 1937 Fire Over England (at 6:30 p.m. Friday, April 25; at 4 p.m. Sunday, April 27), Flora Robson plays the queen and Raymond Massey her Spanish nemesis, Philip II, but Laurence Olivier actually stars, as a young man who seeks information about the Spanish Armada. Robson played Elizabeth again in Michael Curtiz’s The Sea Hawk (at 3:45 p.m. Sunday, May 4; at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 7), in which English sailor Errol Flynn battles Spain while falling for the Spanish ambassador’s daughter. Curtiz also directed Flynn in 1939’s The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (at 4:15 p.m. Saturday, April 26; at 5:45 p.m. Sunday, April 27; at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 30), a tale of the political and romantic machinations of Elizabeth (Bette Davis) and the Earl of Essex (Flynn), adapted from Anderson’s play. The most recent of the films, George Sidney’s 1953 Young Bess (pictured, at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 29; at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 1), fictionalizes the ascension of Elizabeth (Jean Simmons) to the throne. The series runs to Wednesday, May 7, at the American Film Institute’s Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring. (301) 495-6700; see Showtimes for details. (Mark Jenkins)