Review: ‘The Private Life of Henry VIII’

Unquestionably the perfect pick for the part, it must also be said that Charles Laughton is aided no little by the script, more generous to the character of Henry VIII than most of his biographers. The corpulent ruler is here made rather a jolly old soul and, for those who may have forgotten, it can be said that he had six wives, of whom the picture concerns itself with five. A couple are inclined to beat about the royal bush, so they thereby lose their heads for being promiscuous.

Unquestionably the perfect pick for the part, it must also be said that Charles Laughton is aided no little by the script, more generous to the character of Henry VIII than most of his biographers. The corpulent ruler is here made rather a jolly old soul and, for those who may have forgotten, it can be said that he had six wives, of whom the picture concerns itself with five. A couple are inclined to beat about the royal bush, so they thereby lose their heads for being promiscuous.

Laughton is happily supported right down the line, especially by Merle Oberon, Binnie Barnes, Robert Donat and Elsa Lancester. The fair Barnes shares with Lanchester the major portion of footage devoted to the wives while Oberon is a British edition of Fay Wray.

Of comedy highlights audiences will probably like best the card game between Henry and Anne of Cleves (Lanchester), in which she takes him for almost half his kingdom, and the ruler at the banquet table. It being the open season for belching, Laughton demonstrates that he is equally as adept in this as at giving the ‘berry [If I Had a Million, 1932].

1932/33: Best Actor (Charles Laughton).

Nomination: Best Picture

The Private Life of Henry VIII

UK

Production

London. Director Alexander Korda; Producer Alexander Korda; Screenplay Lajos Biro, Arthur Wimperis; Camera Georges Perinal; Editor Harold Young, Stephen Harrison; Music Kurt Schroeder; Art Director Vincent Korda

Crew

(B&W) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1933. Running time: 96 MIN.

With

Charles Laughton Binnie Barnes Merle Oberon Elsa Lanchester Wendy Barrie Robert Donat
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