Young Bess is a fairly enjoyable "historical" drama. As a typical Hollywood film, of course, historical merely means that it takes place in the past and concerns figures that were actually alive and of some importance. Like many other films of its kind, Bess is much less interested in getting historical facts right, and more concerned with producing a story that would involve the audience, especially if it also could fill the screen with impressive sets and costumes. Certainly, Walter Plunkett's costumes do their job admirably, as does the scenery created by a quartet of art directors. And Charles Rosher Sr.'s cinematography is lovely and, when given a chance, dramatic. Unfortunately, it's Bess' contrived-for-the-screen story that falls a little short. The flashback structure is well handled, but the events that the scenarists have come up with are a little old hat. On the plus side, Bess is played by a luscious, lovely and luminous Jean Simmons, and she's a treat during the very considerable time she is on screen. Also keeping viewers happy is the effortlessly-regal Deborah Kerr and the enjoyable Charles Laughton. Stewart Granger's performance as Simmons' love interest (though eventually wed to Kerr) is unfortunately flat, but the actor certainly looks great. Bess is no great film, but it's a moderately entertaining way to pass a couple of hours.
by Craig Butler review