Private Life of Henry VIII (The)
Charles Laughton won an Oscar for his masterful portrayal of Henry VIII, one of Britain’s most notorious monarchs, who is better known for his succession of wives than his prowess for ruling the nation. Alexander Korda’s landmark film from 1933 lavishly, and often humorously, charts Henry’s exploits: his hasty marriage to Jane Seymour on the day of the public execution of Anne Boleyn; his remarriage again, in order to maintain European alliances; his infatuation with Katherine Howard whilst awaiting the arrival of his new bride, Anne of Cleves (played by Laughton’s wife, Elsa Lanchester), and he and Anne’s subsequent divorce; and the execution of Katherine following her affair with courtier Thomas Culpeper. Finally, we see King Henry as a bitter, enfeebled old man, persuaded to marry his children’s nurse and lady-in-waiting, Catherine Parr.
Charles Laughton’s portrayal of Henry, from flamboyant womaniser to henpecked glutton, is a wonder to behold and, for many, the definitive depiction of this colossal figure. Deservedly, The Private Life of Henry VIII was the first British film to score a major boxoffice hit in America; it paved the way to Hollywood success for Laughton’s co-star Merle Oberon, and earned Alexander Korda an Oscar nomination for Best Picture.