Fire Over England


16th century adventurer Michael Ingleby (Laurence Olivier)goes undercover as a dead traitor to foil a plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth (Flora Robson). Vivien Leigh plays Cynthia, an absent-minded lady-in-waiting who makes the aging monarch jealous when she falls for the young Ingleby. Flora Robson .... Queen Elizabeth I of England Raymond Massey .... King Philip II of Spain Leslie Banks .... 'Robin', the Earl of Leicester Laurence Olivier .... Michael Ingolby Vivien Leigh .... Cynthia Morton Selten .... Lord Burleigh Tamara Desni .... Elena Lyn Harding .... Sir Richard Ingolby George Thirlwell .... Mr. Lawrence Gregory Henry Oscar .... Spanish Ambassador Robert Rendel .... Don Miguel (as Robert Rendell) Robert Newton .... Don Pedro Donald Calthrop .... Don Escobal Charles Carson .... Adm. Valdez rest of cast listed alphabetically: Evelyn Ankers .... Lady-in-Waiting (uncredited) Noel Brophy .... Irishman (uncredited) Graham Cheswright .... Mr. Joseph Maddison (uncredited) Francis De Wolff .... Sir James Tarleton (uncredited) Howard Douglas .... Lord Amberley (uncredited) Pam Downing .... Courtier (uncredited) Franklin Dyall .... (uncredited) A. Corney Grain .... Hatton (uncredited) Laurence Hanray .... French Ambassador (uncredited) Herbert Lomas .... (uncredited) Cecil Mainwaring .... Lord Illingworth (uncredited) James Mason .... Hillary Vane (uncredited) Roy Russell .... Sir Humphrey Cooper (uncredited) Norma Varden .... Elena's Governess (uncredited)

Fire Over England is a 1937 London Film Productions film drama, notable for providing the first pairing of Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh. It was directed by William K. Howard and written by Clemence Dane from the novel Fire Over England (novel) by A. E. W. Mason. Leigh's performance in the movie helped to convince David O. Selznick to cast her as Scarlett O'Hara in his production of Gone with the Wind (film).


The film is a historical drama set during the reign of Elizabeth I, focusing on England's victory over the Spanish Armada. In 1588, relations between Spain and England are at breaking point. With the support of Queen Elizabeth I (Flora Robson), English privateers such as Sir Francis Drake regularly capture Spanish merchantmen bringing gold from the New World.
Elizabeth's chief advisers are the Lord High Treasurer, William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley (Morton Selten), and her longtime admirer, Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester (Leslie Banks). Burleigh's beautiful granddaughter Cynthia (Vivien Leigh) is one of Elizabeth's ladies-in-waiting, and the ageing queen is plagued by jealousy of the girl's attractiveness and vitality.
In a sea battle between the Spanish, led by Don Miguel (Robert Rendel), and the English, led by his old friend Sir Richard Ingolby (Lyn Harding) the English are captured. Miguel allows Richard's son Michael (Laurence Olivier) to escape. Michael washes ashore on Miguel's estate, and his wounds are tended to by Miguel's daughter Elena (Tamara Desni), who quickly becomes enamoured of the handsome Englishman. As the months pass, Michael recovers and laments being apart from Cynthia, his sweetheart, but is nonetheless impressed by Elena's charms.
Miguel brings Michael the sad news that Sir Richard, his father, has been executed as a heretic. The grieving Michael denounces his rescuers and flees to England in a small fishing boat. When he is granted an audience with the Queen he urges her to fight the Spanish menace by whatever means necessary, and swears undying loyalty to her. Elizabeth is flattered by the young man's fervent devotion and later has an opportunity to take advantage of his offer of service when Hillary Vane (James Mason), an Englishman spying for Spain, is killed before the names of his English co-conspirators can be uncovered.
Michael, disguised as Vane, goes to the court of King Philip II of Spain (Raymond Massey) to get the letters that will set into motion a plan to assassinate Elizabeth. At the palace Michael meets Elena. Her father has been killed by the English and she is now married to Don Pedro (Robert Newton), the palace governor. Elena keeps Michael's identity a secret as long as she can, but finally must tell her husband out of loyalty to him.
Philip sees through Michael's disguise and orders his arrest. Pedro helps him escape so that it will not be discovered that his wife aided a heretic. While Michael is returning home, the Spanish Armada sails against England and Elizabeth addresses her army in Tilbury. Michael meets her there and reveals the names of the traitors. Elizabeth knights Michael before confronting the six traitors, inviting them to fulfill their plot and kill her. Overwhelmed with shame, they agree to accompany Michael on a mission to deploy fire ships in a night attack on the Armada, massed off the coast of England.
The tactic succeeds, and Elizabeth allows Michael and Cynthia to be wed.


  • Flora Robson as Queen Elizabeth I of England
  • Raymond Massey as King Philip II of Spain
  • Leslie Banks as 'Robin', Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester
  • Laurence Olivier as Michael Ingolby
  • Vivien Leigh as Cynthia
  • Morton Selten as William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley
  • Tamara Desni as Elena
  • Lyn Harding as Sir Richard Ingolby
  • George Thirlwell as Mr. Lawrence Gregory
  • Henry Oscar as the Spanish Ambassador
  • Robert Rendel as Don Miguel
  • Robert Newton as Don Pedro
  • Donald Calthrop as Don Escobal
  • Charles Carson (actor) as Admiral Valdez
  • James Mason as Hillary Vane, an English traitor

See also

  • List of films in the public domain
  • Notes


  • The Great British Films, pp 36–38, Jerry Vermilye, 1978, Citadel Press, ISBN 0-8065-0661-X

  • Category:1937 films
    Category:1930s drama films
    Category:British drama films
    Category:Black-and-white films
    Category:English-language films
    Category:Denham Film Studios films
    Category:Films directed by William K. Howard
    Category:Films set in Tudor England
    Category:London Films films
    Category:Films about Elizabeth I of England
    Category:Films based on actual events
    Category:Films based on novels
    Erich Pommer, Alexander Korda

    More Public Domain Movies