Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. United Kingdom, 1933. London Film Productions. Scenario by Arthur Wimperis, story and dialogue by Lajos Biro, Arthur Wimperis. Cinematography by Georges Perinal. Produced by Alexander Korda, Ludovico Toeplitz. Music by Kurt Schroder. Production Design by Vincent Korda. Costume Design by John Armstrong. Film Editing by Stephen Harrison. Academy Awards 1932/1933.
Spirited film features beautiful sets and costumes and a zippy historical runthrough of King Henry VIII’s six wives. In his desire to be wed to Anne Boleyn, King Henry (Charles Laughton) manages to create the Church of England, institute divorce and get rid of his first wife Katharine of Aragon. The film starts well after these events, when Boleyn’s inability to bear Henry a son gains her an execution on the chopping block. Then it moves on to his airheaded third wife Jane Seymour, who died in childbirth, his fourth wife Anne of Cleves (a delightful Elsa Lanchester) who wittily got a quick divorce out of him through a clever card game, his fifth wife Katharine Howard who also went to the block and his sixth, Katharine Parr, who lasted as his companion until his death. The film is entertaining, surprisingly honest for its time in its discussion of sexual matters, and brilliantly performed. Laughton is especially hilarious in his overly theatrical portrayal of the great monarch, and Alexander Korda’s direction is full of verve.