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The Private Life of Henry VIII Movie Review

laughton binnie elsa barrie

International audiences (and especially Hollywood industry types) started paying attention to British films after they saw The Private Life of Henry VIII. Charles Laughton and Elsa Lanchester were welcomed to California with outstretched arms, and so were Binnie Barnes, Merle Oberon, and Wendy Barrie. Laughton created such an indelible impression as Henry VIII that every actor who portrays the much-married monarch has had to cope with the everlasting influence of his Oscar-winning interpretation. The film focuses on the subject of most concern to 1933 audiences: not politics, not religion, but WIVES, the last five of them, anyway. The most prominent one here is Binnie Barnes as Catherine Howard. Elsa Lanchester is the funniest as Anne of Cleves, since she is trying her darndest to look ghastly, because Henry isn't her type and she doesn't want to lose her head. We only get a quick look at lovely Merle Oberon as Anne Boleyn before she DOES lose her head, but Wendy Barrie is a zestier Jane Seymour than most of the pale young things who have to die giving birth to King Edward VI. Robert Donat is so attractive and kind as Thomas Culpepper and SO necessary since Laughton's Henry is such an oaf. The sixth wife? That would be Everley Gregg as Catherine Parr, a good woman, and consequently of no interest to this lively narrative!

1933 97m/B GB Charles Laughton, Binnie Barnes, Elsa Lanchester, Robert Donat, Merle Oberon, Miles Mander, Wendy Barrie, John Loder, Lady Tree, Franklin Dyall, Claud Allister, William Austin, Gibb McLaughlin, Sam Livesey, Lawrence Hanray, Everley Gregg, Judy Kelly, John Turnbull, Frederick Culley, Hay Petrie, Wally Patch; D: Alexander Korda; W: Arthur Wimperis, Lajos Biro; C: Georges Perinal. Academy Awards ‘33: Best Actor (Laughton); Nominations: Academy Awards ‘33: Best Picture. VHS, LV

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