An admirable glutton. And a resurrection for England's film industry, with palms going to Korda, and French cinematograper Georges Perinal. Many costume epics were made in the silent years and some even touched upon the life of the monarch, but this is the one that will be remembered.
Laughton's performance was outstanding and won the first Oscar ever for a British-made movie. Korda called upon his brother Vincent to be set designer and the nepotism was worthwhile, as Vincent managed to make this picture look far more expensive than the 60,000 pounds it cost to produce it in
just five weeks. The attitude taken was to dispense with the public utterances and show the intimate side of the monarch, a technique Korda was to use again in the less fulfilling THE PRIVATE LIFE OF DON JUAN.
There is a great deal of humor in this picture, which details the life of Henry VIII and five of his six wives. The first wife, Catherine of Aragon, is dispensed with in a prologue that explains that she was far "too respectable to be included." Merle Oberon is Anne Boleyn, his first spouse
pictured, who is soon beheaded after failing to give Henry a male heir. Wendy Barrie plays Jane Seymour and dies giving birth. Henry next marries Lanchester (Anne of Cleves), wearing an odd wig and doing her best to look terrible in order to justify the film's most famous line, uttered by Laughton
with a regal sigh as he enters the bedroom, "The things I've done for England." Lanchester, using a German accent, is the only performer to come close to Laughton in scene-stealing, nearly swiping their sequences entirely. That marriage leads to divorce, and Henry next marries Binnie Barnes, who
loses her head after losing her heart to Laughton's pal, Robert Donat. At the finale, after raving and roaring and ranting, eating like an animal, ruling his roost like a cock of the walk, Laughton is shown to be a tranquil, almost whipped man at the hands of his last mate, Everley Gregg, a
Laughton was only 33 at the time this film was made but already a veteran of nine movies and many stage productions. There are several standout scenes, not the least of which are the "eating" sequences with Laughton chewing on a chop, then tossing the remains over his shoulder. Actually, the
eating bits are sexier than the bedroom scenes, and one wonders if Tony Richardson didn't study them for his directing of TOM JONES. Until this movie was released, there had been a mild recession in costume epics, but they came back with a flurry when the totals were in on the profits, about 10
times the cost. Korda's sets, which were poverty-stricken at best, were photographed so well by Perinal that no one realized how frail they were.
Cast & Details See all »
- Rating: NR
- Review: An admirable glutton. And a resurrection for England's film industry, with palms going to Korda, and French cinematograper Georges Perinal. Many costume epics were made in the silent years and some even touched upon the life of the monarch, but this is the… (more)