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The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933)

The private life of King Henry VIII and his many wives. PD In UK At GATT Date. Not Eligible For GATT U.S. copyright not renewed Mystic Nights Videos

The Private Life of Henry VIII is a 1933 Cinema of the United Kingdom historical film comedy film directed by Hungarian Director-Producer Alexander Korda and starring Charles Laughton, Robert Donat, Merle Oberon and Elsa Lanchester. The film focuses on the reign of Henry VIII of England, King of England, and his various marriages. It was written by Lajos Bíró and Arthur Wimperis for London Film Productions. The film was a major international success, establishing Korda as a leading filmmaker and Laughton as a box office star.


The film takes place 20 years into King Henry's rule. In May 1536, immediately following the execution of his second wife, Anne Boleyn (Merle Oberon), King Henry VIII of England (Charles Laughton) marries Queen Jane Seymour (Wendy Barrie), who dies in childbirth eighteen months later. He then weds a German princess, Anne of Cleves (played by Laughton's real-life wife Elsa Lanchester). This marriage ends in divorce when Anne deliberately makes herself unattractive so she can be free to marry her sweetheart. (In an imaginative and high-spirited scene, Anne "wins her freedom" from Henry in a game of cards on their wedding night). After this divorce, Henry marries the beautiful and ambitious Lady Catherine Howard (Binnie Barnes). She has rejected love all her life in favour of ambition, but after her marriage, she falls in love with Henry's handsome courtier Thomas Culpeper (Robert Donat). Their liaison is discovered by Henry's advisers and the couple are executed. The weak and ageing Henry consoles himself with a final marriage to Catherine Parr (Everley Gregg), who survives her husband.


  • Charles Laughton as Henry VIII of England
  • Merle Oberon as Anne Boleyn
  • Wendy Barrie as Jane Seymour
  • Elsa Lanchester as Anne of Cleves
  • Binnie Barnes as Catherine Howard
  • Robert Donat as Thomas Culpeper
  • Franklin Dyall as Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex
  • Miles Mander as Thomas Wriothesley, 1st Earl of Southampton
  • Laurence Hanray as Archbishop Thomas Cranmer
  • William Austin (actor) as John III, Duke of Cleves
  • John Loder (actor) as Thomas Peynell
  • Everley Gregg as Catherine Parr
  • Helen Maud Holt as The King's Nurse
  • John Turnbull (actor) as Hans Holbein
  • Frederick Culley as Duke of Norfolk
  • William Heughan as Kingston
  • Judy Kelly as Lady Rochford
  • Hay Petrie as The King's Barber
  • Wally Patch as Butcher
  • Arthur Howard as Kitchen Helper
  • Annie Esmond as Cook's Wife
  • Claude Allister as Cornell

File:The Private Life of Henry VIII. 1933.jpg


Alexander Korda was looking for a film to star Charles Laughton and his wife, Elsa Lanchester. Several stories of the film's genesis were from a resemblance between a statue of Henry VIII and Laughton, a cabby singing the music hall song "I'm Henery the Eighth, I Am", and a discussion on a set of one of his previous films. Originally, the story was to focus solely on the marriage of King Henry VIII and his fourth wife Anne of Cleves, but as the project grew, the story was re-modified to focus on five of Henry's six wives. Only the first wife, Catherine of Aragon, was omitted because they had no particular interest, described later as a "respectable lady," as denoted in the film.


=Box office=

It was hugely successful as a commercial film. It made Alexander Korda a premier figure in the film industry at the time; United Artists signed Korda for 16 films. It also advanced the careers of Charles Laughton, Robert Donat, and Merle Oberon. It was also Oberon's first major film role. Laughton would later reprise the same role in 1953 in the film Young Bess, opposite Jean Simmons as his daughter, Elizabeth I of England.
It was the 12th most successful film at the US box office in 1933.<></> The film premiered to record-breaking crowds at New York's Radio City Music Hall and London's Leicester Square Theatre one week later. It earned £500,000 on its first release.


Charles Laughton won the 1933 Academy Award as Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance as Henry. The film was the first British production to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.
Laughton was also voted Best Actor in a British film by readers of Film Weekly.<></>


  • See also

  • Anne Boleyn in popular culture

  • Category:1933 films
    Category:1930s historical films
    Category:British films
    Category:British historical films
    Category:British biographical films
    Category:Black-and-white films
    Category:Denham Film Studios films
    Category:English-language films
    Category:Epic films
    Category:Films directed by Alexander Korda
    Category:Films featuring a Best Actor Academy Award winning performance
    Category:London Films films
    Category:Films about capital punishment
    Category:Films set in Tudor England
    Category:Films about Henry VIII of England
    Category:Films set in London
    Category:Films set in the 1530s
    Category:Films set in the 1540s
    Category:Films set in the 16th century

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