The Private Life of Henry VIII

The Private Life of Henry VIII

DVD - 2009
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"Alexander Korda's first major international success is a raucous, entertaining, even poignant glimpse into the bedrooms of the infamous king and his six wives." -- Container.

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Nursebob
Dec 05, 2014

As one of cinema’s quintessential Tudors Charles Laughton alternately bellows and coos (and burps and belches) his way towards a well deserved best actor Oscar in this surprisingly frank historical romp. Starting with the execution of his second wife Ann Boleyn (an intensely moving Merle Oberon) and carrying on through to old age and wife number six, Alexander Korda’s early talkie makes up for its rather modest sets with opulent location shots, intricate costumes, and a marvelous script that goes from courtly formalities to bawdy innuendo in a heartbeat. The cast is in top-notch form including the appropriately dashing Robert Donat as Thomas Culpepper, the man who cuckolded Henry with wife number five. But as the crafty Anne of Cleves, the fourth wife who not only managed to rid herself of Henry but acquired a small fortune and kept her head in the bargain, Elsa Lanchester is priceless. Presented as a toned down mix of royal bad boy, artful statesmen, and perpetually lovesick bachelor, Henry’s blustery rants and clever bon mots betray a man whose crown weighs a little heavier with each passing year as personal desires and demands of the realm seem to be at odds more often than not. Despite a comparatively meagre budget (the castle interiors are mostly limited to a few whitewashed chambers) Korda nevertheless offers some inspired visuals as when a raucous crowd gathers for yet another execution or wrestlers cast splayed shadows across an immense tapestry. Even though more pedantic scholars may balk at the film’s bit of historical license this is still a hugely entertaining picture from filmdom’s burgeoning golden age.

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richibi
Dec 03, 2011

a delightful romp through the several amours of Henry Vlll, with Laughton delivering a still definitive performance despite all the intervening years, attended by an equally admirable supporting cast, who easily surmount any technical disavdvantages to be expected from so early a production

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