Saturday, March 01, 2014

The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933)

Immensely fun historical drama with Charles Laughton giving one of his very finest performances. He really gets into the character, and it's clear how much fun he's having playing the role. The story of the King's ill-fated marriages is told with a boisterous, bawdy humor. I'm a sucker for these Korda historical biopics and this one is the best.

Laughton is supported here by an impressive cast including Robert Donat as Culpeper, and Merle Oberon, Wendy Barrie, Elsa Lanchester, Binnie Barnes, and Everley Gregg as his wives. Lanchester in particular stands out as the clever Anne of Cleves, who bargains with Henry to get out of their marriage during a card game on their wedding night, and it's especially fun watching her and Laughton playing off of each other so well in their scenes together.

This film has been a very favorite of mine since seeing it for the first time when I was 10 or 11, when I came across a video copy in the "foreign" section at Blockbuster Video (back when they still existed, and had a "foreign" section). I had read about the movie in Ann Lloyd and David Robinson's "Movies of the Thirties" and it became one of those classics that I knew I had to see. I was only allowed to rent one movie that night, and it came down to a selection between this one or Fellini's I CLOWNS - not an easy choice for a budding film buff - and chose HENRY VIII, which quickly became a favorite (I wouldn't have a chance to finally see the Fellini film until last year).

It became the first British film nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, and Laughton took home the Best Actor Oscar for his performance -- a well-deserved win.

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