The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex is a lavishly-produced historical drama, the first picture to be released using the new fast Technicolor negative, and improved processing methods.
Bette Davis dominates the production at every turn as Elizabeth, virgin queen of England. Her delineation would indicate that Davis did much personal research.
Picture is a film version of Maxwell Anderson’s [stage play] Elizabeth the Queen. Story details the intimate May-and-December love affair of youthful Lord Essex (Errol Flynn) and matronly Queen Elizabeth. Both are headstrong and stubborn; each is ambitious to rule England.
Picture has its slow spots, particularly the excursion of Essex to Ireland to subdue Tyrone (Alan Hale). At times the dialog becomes brittle, and direction grooves into stagey passages that could have been lightened. Minor shortcomings, however, in the general excellence of the production.
1939: Nominations: Best Color Cinematography, Color Art Direction, Score, Sound, Special Effects