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The Private Life of Henry VIII

November 19th 2006 12:36
The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933)

I don't know what it is, but for some reason I've found the few films I've seen from the 1930s to be a whole lot more entertaining than some of the stuff from the 1950s that is often given 'classic' status. Maybe it's because it's pre-Hayes Code, or maybe the films are less melodrammatic or something? I can't quite pinpoint it. Just an odd thought I thought I might air.

One such 30s film that I've found to be highly entertaining is 'The Private Life of Henry VIII'. Whether you have a passing interest in film history, or actual history, or whatever, I think there's something in this film that will entertain even the most stubbornly modern of film-watchers.

It's a pretty simple premise, the film follows the private life of the infamous 16th century British monarch, King Henry the VIII, and his misadventures in his various marriages. Henry the VIII is wonderfully portrayed by the highly talented and entertaining Charles Laughton, a masterful one-of-a-kind character actor who managed to land many plum roles despite looking like a bloated fish. Laughton portrays the King as a rollicking, impetuous, boozing lover of women. A man equal parts charming, childish and dangerous. The entire film hangs on his performance, so compelling and original is it that any scene without him feels like dead air. Laughton deservedly won the Best Actor Oscar for his loud-but-subtle work here, and it's a shame few characters of this type make it onto the screen today.

The film is an episodic take on the biopic, and we duck in and out of the King's life as we follow his various marriages, his attempts to create an heir, and how his court dealt with his varying moods and helped him rule in both his best interests and the best interests of the country. Henry VIII is sometimes portrayed somewhat unsympathetically by history, this film is by no means one-sided... we get a complex view of a man of his time, and whilst he is sometimes somewhat tyrannical, we also get an understanding of why his subjects loved him so much and why his court always worked for him so loyally.

I was surprised how well 'Private Life of Henry VIII' stood up more than 70 years after it was made. It's a very fun film, and could easily be seen as the progenitor of sly historical drama-comedies such as 'Shakespeare in Love'. If you can find a copy of this, watch it!

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7 Comments. [ Add A Comment ]

Comment by JohnDoe

November 19th 2006 22:34
Wow Luke talk about a blast from the past. Did this sneak onto DVd without me knowing?

You have found one that i have wanted to see for years, Charles Laughton is a fave of mine and I have been recommended Henry VIII a few times over the years.

Time to go on a quest...

Comment by Luke

November 19th 2006 23:44
Video Ezy in Penrith have it, if that helps hahahah.

It's the sort of thing you'd more likely find in a library rather than store.

Comment by Keira

November 20th 2006 07:14
"a rollicking, impetuous, boozing lover of women"

sounds like you Luke...

Comment by Luke

November 20th 2006 07:35
what can I say, he's my hero.

Comment by Anonymous

February 22nd 2007 20:41
Hi Guys,

I'm trying to track down the theme music from an old UK TV series called Best of British Cinema. I think it may have been used in Private Life of Henry VIII. Can anyone tell me who composed the music for the film? I would be incredibly grateful for any help.

very best wishes


Comment by JohnDoe

February 23rd 2007 00:54
Hi Chris,
The music for The Private Life of Henry VIII was by Kurt Schroeder. Visit for more info.

Comment by Anonymous

January 31st 2011 14:00

just thought you might like to know that the picture you've posted as judith lucy is actually helena bonham carter!

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