Film: Queen Christina

Queen Christina is a 1933 Hollywood film starring Greta Garbo as the eponymous queen of Sweden who ruled during the 17th century. Christina was very much a proto-feminist figure in many ways; not only was she an authoritative ruler, but she also dressed in men's clothes and had a generally androgynous manner. The movie plays into Garbo's ability to exploit those qualities while wrapping the whole thing in a conventional love story between Christina and her Spanish envoy (John Gilbert), where she must ultimately make the choice between duty and love.

Garbo and John Gilbert had been lovers for a while in The Twenties, and had been co-stars in hit films like Flesh and the Devil back when Gilbert was the biggest romantic leading man in Hollywood. Unfortunately for Gilbert, his career went down the crapper when talkies came in. Garbo insisted on Gilbert as her leading man in this film in an effort to revive Gilbert's career. It didn't work, and Gilbert made only one more movie before drinking himself to death in 1936.


Queen Christina contains the following tropes:

  • Ambiguously Gay: Christina, before Antonio arrives. This is most obvious in the scene where her pretty and conventionally feminine lady-in-waiting, Countess Edda, arrives and complains that the queen hasn't been paying attention to her. Christina takes hold of Edda's face with both hands, kisses Edda square on the mouth, and promises that they'll go away for a weekend in the country together.
    Chancellor: But your majesty, you cannot die an Old Maid!
    Christina: I have no intention to, chancellor! I shall die a bachelor!
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: Certainly a cute one, as little Christina is given a crown at court, is hailed as king, and gives a speech.
  • Bifauxnen: Garbo as Christina is one of the earliest film examples.
  • The Chains of Commanding: Christina can't deal with being queen anymore when it stands in the way of true love and happiness.
    Christina: I'm tired of being a symbol, chancellor. I long to be a human being.
  • Downer Ending: Antonio is killed in a duel and Christina goes off alone.
  • Duel to the Death: Between Antonio and Magnus.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Not too much of a challenge in the days before The Hays Code; still, it's surprising to see Antonio's servant seeing him go into a room with what he thinks is another man but find them later huddled under the bed canopy. And ordering chocolate.
  • Hollywood History: Big time. While many of the story's elements were based on real history (Christina's propensity for men's clothing, her reluctance to marry, her courtiers' working against her to prolong the Thirty Years' War), the romance between Christina and Antonio was, if not entirely fabricated, at least loosely based on events that happened years later. And it was definitely not the reason for her abdication, which had much more to do with her conversion to Roman Catholicism.
  • Meet Cute: Christina and her attendant Aage come across Antonio and his company as Antonio and his carriage are breaking down in the snowdrifts. Antonio is complaining loudly about the Swedish winter when his attention is distracted by Christina.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: Christina as a child being crowned upon the death of her father, before cutting forward a couple of decades to Greta Garbo.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Everyone but Garbo. And of course since Garbo actually was Swedish, she didn't have to worry about an accent anyway.
  • Raised as the Opposite Gender: King Gustavus Adolphus, lacking a male heir, raises Christina to act like a boy. She dresses in men's clothing, generally acts masculine and assertive, and is addressed as "king".
  • Royal "We": Christina uses this when addressing her court.
  • Sexy Scandinavian: The very Swedish Greta Garbo playing the Swedish queen Christina, set in a romanticized past all play in on the stereotype.
  • Shaming the Mob: Christina lets the mob into her palace and does this to them, basically saying that she doesn't tell them how to do their jobs so they shouldn't tell her how to do hers.
  • Smug Snake: Count Magnus.
  • Take a Third Option: Christina is forced to choose whether to marry Antonio and arouse the outrage of her people or marry Prince Charles, in whom she has no interest. She chooses to abdicate.
  • Torches and Pitchforks: Count Magnus whips up an angry, torch-wielding mob that opposes the proposed Spanish alliance and wants Antonio to go home.
  • Translation Convention: Notable in that while most of the dialogue is in English, the chatter of the Spanish envoys is in Spanish.