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The Private Life of Henry VIII (Alexander Korda, 1933) | by Greenman 2008
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The Private Life of Henry VIII (Alexander Korda, 1933)

Historical comedy-drama. Second reissue. The film starts with the execution of Anne Boleyn, followed at once by Henry's marriage to Jane Seymour, who succeeds in giving Henry the longed-for boy heir; but she has the luck to die safely in bed as a result, while at the height of her popularity with the king. Then follows the ludicrous Anne of Cleves fiasco and the annulment of this marriage. Next comes the flighty young Katherine Howard, who is executed for adultery; and last Katherine Parr, when the old king needs a nurse rather than a wife.


Henry VIII and his matrimonial misadventures have always been considered a joke by all but the sober historian, and this film's direction and script deal with him wittily from the popular angle, giving only the barest hints of the other sides of the all-too-efficient tyrant whose love-life, though spectacular, was only a part of his complex character. However, as the film's point of view stands confessed in the title, only Henry's admirers, if any, will cavil at this well directed and acted production, which is well worth seeing, either again or for the first time, though it does not now stand out from other British films as strikingly as it did when first shown in 1933. Laughton is lifelike as the Henry of the film, a coarse and uncomplicated tyrant; Merle Oberon looks beautiful during her short appearance as Boleyn; Elsa Lanchester is amusing as Anne of Cleves; Robert Donat is an attractive Culpeper, lover of Katherine Howard, who is well played by Binnie Barnes; and the rest of the distinguished cast are all good.


Monthly Film Bulletin Volume 13, No.151, July 1946, pages 94-5


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Taken on May 5, 2008