The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939) DVDRip (SiRiUs sHaRe).avi
The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939).rtf
The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939) (Color Version)
Director Michael Curtiz's period drama frames the tumultuous affair between Queen Elizabeth I (Bette Davis) and the man who would be King of England, Robert Devereux (Errol Flynn), the Earl of Essex. Ever the victor on the battlefield, Devereux returns to London after defeating Spanish forces at Cadiz. Middle-aged Elizabeth, so attracted to the younger Devereux but fearful of his influence and popularity, sends him on a new mission: a doomed campaign to Ireland. When he and his troops return in defeat, Devereux demands to share the throne with the heirless queen, and Elizabeth, at first, intends to marry. Ultimately sensing the marriage would prove disastrous for England, Elizabeth sets in motion a merciless plan to protect her people and preserve her throne.
Bette Davis ... Queen Elizabeth I
Errol Flynn ... Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex
Olivia de Havilland ... Lady Penelope Gray
Donald Crisp ... Francis Bacon
Alan Hale ... Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone
Vincent Price ... Sir Walter Raleigh
Henry Stephenson ... Lord Burghley
Henry Daniell ... Sir Robert Cecil
James Stephenson ... Sir Thomas Egerton
Nanette Fabray ... Mistress Margaret Radcliffe (as Nanette Fabares)
Ralph Forbes ... Lord Knollys
Robert Warwick ... Lord Mountjoy
Leo G. Carroll ... Sir Edward Coke
One of my top 10 best movies of all time! This has to be Davis' best dramatic performance ever - the voice, the mannerisms, the psychological torment between Queen and woman. Never have I seen a character performance like Davis' where she literally shakes with the emotion and tension she feels! Even her eating habits are a source of fascination.
Flynn gives another dashing performance of an emotionally shallow, politically incorrect Essex - he never really quite understands just what he is dealing with until towards the very end. To Essex (and probably to Flynn too!) a woman is just a woman ready to acquiesce to her man at his whim and his detractors at court are simply disgruntled competitors for the affections of his woman. Honest and trustworthy, he has no time patience or comprehension of the treacheries of Raleigh and Cecil or the political considerations of Elizabeth.
Though the plot is quite straightforward it is the absorbing script that allows this actors' tour de force - this is one of the few movies ever where the lead characters are allowed to talk from their hearts. Davis portrays a bitingly intelligent woman in desperate need of one honest voice she can trust and depend upon in a sea of political plots and assorted self-interests. Her determination to rule her people wisely avoiding senseless wars is constantly assailed by her great doubts to continue to command respect and love of her people as she ages and must seek impartial counsel amongst a court of self-seeking, two-faced advisors. She walks the razor's edge of lonely command and tormented despair.
DeHavilland's Penelope is a pivotal character whose envy of the queen and discounting by Essex drives her to attempt to destroy their relationship but finally realises where her loyalties lie.
But the highlight of the film is the intimate exchanges between Essex and Elizabeth that bring out the very best and the very worst in each as they explore their true intentions and their boundaries. The quality of these exchanges are so good that they rival today's psychological thrillers as Elizabeth finally uncovers Essex's true ambitions. It makes you realise how few relationships today could withstand such sincere probing as to the real character of the couple. And the dramatic finale is truly heart-wrenching when Essex becomes the true unselfish hero Elizabeth has been seeking upon finally realising what he would do to England if he shared her throne and that even Elizabeth herself is prepared to sacrifice everything she holds most dear for the man she desperately loves.
They just don't write movies like this any more and it is an excellent example of a masterpiece that can never age.
Until her death, at 81, in 1989, screen legend Bette Davis would express a combination of bitterness and disappointment over the Maxwell Anderson play that came to the screen as THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ELIZABETH AND ESSEX. She had lobbied hard for the WB to buy the rights, certain that, at age 31, it would be her greatest acting triumph to date (quite a prediction from an someone who'd already won two 'Best Actress' Oscars). ELIZABETH THE QUEEN was a Broadway sensation, but the studio was reluctant to gamble on it; the few Hollywood attempts to do royal epics had failed (MARY OF Scotland, with Katharine Hepburn in the lead, and John Ford directing, had been a major flop, and helped the actress gain the title 'Box Office Poison'), and it appeared that only the British could make this kind of film work.
Nevertheless, when your biggest (and most headstrong) female star wants something, you GET it for her, so the rights were purchased, and ELIZABETH THE QUEEN was announced as 'prestige' production to be filmed with Davis as the lead. Then the problems began...
For the pivotal role of Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, the ambitious lover who nearly costs Elizabeth her crown, Davis wanted Laurence Olivier, who, at 32, had already established himself as one of the finest actors on two continents. Darkly handsome, and renowned for his interpretations of Shakespeare, the future British lord had created quite a stir in Hollywood, aided by the fact that his lover was Vivien Leigh, who'd won the coveted role of 'Scarlet O'Hara' in GONE WITH THE WIND.
Unfortunately, Olivier was committed to play Heathcliff in the Goldwyn production of WUTHERING HEIGHTS. The search for a British actor of equal stature proved fruitless; Robert Donat was filming GOODBYE, MR. CHIPS (for which he'd win an Oscar), Leslie Howard was finishing GONE WITH THE WIND and in preproduction for INTERMEZZO, Ronald Colman was involved in THE LIGHT THAT FAILED, even Cary Grant was busy, shooting GUNGA DIN... ...But Errol Flynn, Warner's biggest male star, WAS available...
Davis had worked with Flynn a year earlier, in THE SISTERS, and it had NOT been a pleasant experience. Prone to taking things as easy as possible, and playing practical jokes on his co-stars, he took advantage of his classic good looks and natural charm to 'get away' with not knowing his lines and frequent tardiness (he was a world-class carouser and womanizer, away from the camera). Davis, who was always punctual, knew everybody's dialog, and could be quite temperamental, considered him unprofessional, and crude.
But Flynn had become a major star, and the WB, trying to insure ELIZABETH would be a success, overrode Davis' objections, and cast him as Essex...and Flynn immediately demanded a title change. He felt he was as big a star as Davis, and that the film title should reflect his status; so ELIZABETH THE QUEEN first became THE KNIGHT AND THE LADY, which Davis vehemently refused to accept, then THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ELIZABETH AND ESSEX, which she disliked, as well, but had to accept.
The filming was an unhappy affair. Both Flynn and Davis had difficulties with director Michael Curtiz, resulting in Davis' performance being 'over-the-top', and Flynn's so underplayed that he failed to grasp Essex's character, often appearing shallow. In one scene, Davis was supposed to slap Flynn; rather than do a 'staged' one, which would barely touch him, she hit him full force, wearing a heavy ring, which brought tears to his eyes, and broke, momentarily, his composure (the moment is in the completed film; watch, quickly, and you can see Flynn 'lose his cool'!) Flynn responded by a series of escalating practical jokes, with Davis threatening to kill him. Even co-star Olivia De Havilland was unhappy, having just completed GONE WITH THE WIND, and back at Warners in a decidedly secondary role. That the film 'worked' at all was a testament to Davis' perseverance, the glorious Technicolor-filmed sets, and Erich Wolfgang Korngold's spectacular musical score.
THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ELIZABETH AND ESSEX garnered mixed reviews for Davis (although she would be praised for how convincingly she portrayed the much older woman), and terrible ones, for Flynn (which would be used against him, in future, whenever he asked for more substantial roles).
Davis would again play Elizabeth, 16 years later, in the British production, THE VIRGIN QUEEN, but she never lost her resentment over the failure of the earlier film.
In a year of 'classics', THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ELIZABETH AND ESSEX would be an exception!
The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex was a personal triumph for Bette Davis in her portrayal of Elizabeth I of England. Davis was 31 when she played the Virgin Queen at the tail end of her regime, Elizabeth herself was 65 in 1601 when the action of this story takes place. It concerns her involvement with Robert Devereaux, Earl of Essex, a last foolish gesture on the part of a great monarch.
Davis hated working with Errol Flynn since doing The Sisters with him a year earlier. She was quoted as saying that when she had to kiss him she'd close her eyes and pretend it was Laurence Olivier. But I think Olivier might have had trouble making Essex a hero.
In point of fact he wasn't any kind of a hero. He was a vainglorious, conceited, egotistical cad of a human being who apparently only had talent in the bedroom. Now the bedroom part would have fit Flynn perfectly. But he became a military commander and leader and he bungled every job he was given.
The real Essex was played like a piccolo by the other members and rivals of the Elizabethan court. His main rival in the film is Robert Cecil played by Henry Daniell. In the film he is incorrectly identified as Lord Burghley's(Henry Stephenson's)son when in fact he was a nephew. Because it's Henry Daniell and he's a clever schemer he has to be the villain. In point of fact Cecil was a patriot in the best tradition. He was very concerned in fact about Essex's military ventures that they were nothing but missions of glory. Cecil's greatest contribution to English history was to come two years later when Elizabeth died, it's due to him that there was an orderly transition from the House of Tudor to the House of Stuart.
My favorite performance in this film is that of Alan Hale as Hugh O'Neill, the Earl of Tyrone who led the Irish rebellion against the English at that time. What happens in court to Essex with his rivals there is nothing compared to the way O'Neill plays him. He leads him deeper into the Irish interior, using hit and run tactics and then cuts him off from his supply base. And then in surrendering O'Neill very cleverly sows the seed of more dissension by telling him what a great leader he was and the Irish could never have beaten him if he'd been backed up better from home. And Essex the rube falls for it.
Another good performance is Donald Crisp as Sir Francis Bacon. He's a wily old fox used to court politics Elizabethan style. Bacon tries to give Essex some good advice none of which Essex accepts. In the end Bacon gives up on Essex and just switches sides, lest he be brought down with him.
So what we have here is Bette Davis giving a great performance with a leading man she detested and Flynn trying desperately to breathe life and heroism into a character who wasn't terribly heroic. It would have defeated a better actor than Errol Flynn.
Watching the newly restored DVD version of THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ELIZABETH AND ESSEX gives this viewer a new appreciation of the lavish attention to detail in sets, costumes--and even the performances surrounding BETTE DAVIS in her showcase role as the Queen who is unwilling to let the ambitious Earl of Essex share her throne. Flynn fans won't be disappointed either. He's never looked handsomer as Lord Essex.
Davis seems unwilling to let anyone else steal the thunder from her fidgety display of histrionics. Costumed in the most brilliant array of historically correct costuming ever dreamed up by the Warner costume department, she gives a commanding display of histrionics that will fascinate even those who will undoubtedly accuse her of overacting or chewing the scenery on occasion.
And what scenery! Seldom has the lavishness of a Warner costume epic been captured by cinematographers as here. All of the courtroom scenes have the stately dignity and majesty of inspired paintings. And yet, despite all the rich atmosphere of court settings, the performances stand out as uniquely individual characterizations, thanks to Michael Curtiz's firm direction.
ERROL FLYNN, despite a few weaker scenes in the film's final moments, does a sterling job as Essex, matching Davis' fiery temperament with a strong display of courage, cunning and nobility as Essex.
OLIVIA de HAVILLAND, while demoted to a supporting role by Jack Warner (who never forgave her for outwitting him in her move to play a loan-out role as Melanie in GWTW), is breathtakingly gorgeous and shows that beneath that demure surface lurked an actress with sparks of her own to share with Davis.
The glittering supporting cast includes such stalwarts as Vincent Price (handsomely attired as Sir Walter Raleigh), Henry Stephenson, Donald Crisp--and in an uncredited role as a member of the Queen's guard, John Sutton. Notable in a small but effective scene is Nanette Fabray, at the very start of her career on screen.
Not historically accurate as far as Maxwell Anderson's legend goes (there was no romance between Elizabeth and Essex), but this is a fascinating version of his stage play, "Elizabeth the Queen".
Alan Hale does a superb job in a brief role as Tyrone (with Irish accent), cast as Errol's foe for a change. Watch the color cinematography in the marshes scene--subtle shades of pastel amid the fog shrouded swamps.
A magnificent, pulsating background score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold adds to the intrigue. The film itself is not entirely flawless--there are several scenes that move much too slowly. But all in all, it captures the court intrigue and sympathetically reveals the demands that a Queen must face when her throne is challenged by men just as ambitious (and ruthless) as she is to rule.
Director Michael Curtiz keeps things visually stirring throughout, as is his customary practice.
* To give the illusion of baldness, Bette Davis shaved her head two inches in front to show a high forehead under Elizabeth's red wigs.
* The play, Elizabeth the Queen, originally opened in New York on 3 November 1930 with Lynn Fontanne and Alfred Lunt as Elizabeth and Essex. The title of the movie was to be the same as the title of the play, but Errol Flynn protested that he wanted his presence acknowledged in the title. The choice of "The Knight and the Lady" upset Bette Davis, and "Elizabeth and Essex" was a book title already copyrighted. Thus the final unwieldy title was used.
* For several years, from the time of Errol Flynn's death until the film was issued on videocassette and began to be shown on Turner Classic Movies, the title was changed to "Elizabeth the Queen", the title of Maxwell Anderson's original play on which the film is based.
* As well as shaving two inches off her hairline at the forehead, Bette Davis also had her eyebrows removed. She later complained that they never grew back properly and that ever after she had to draw them in with an eyebrow pencil.
* Bette Davis had originally wanted Laurence Olivier for the role of Lord Essex, claiming that Errol Flynn could not speak blank verse well. She remained extremely upset about this through the entire filming, and Flynn and Davis never worked again together in a film, but according to Olivia de Havilland, she and Davis screened the film again a short while before Davis's stroke. At film's end, Davis turned to de Havilland and declared that she had been wrong about Flynn, and that he gave a fine performance as Essex.
* Errol Flynn and Bette Davis disliked each other, and when Elizabeth slaps Essex in front of the entire court, Davis hauled off and unexpectedly belted Flynn for real. The anger on Essex's face is quite genuine, as is Flynn's visible imposition of self-control to avoid hitting Davis back.
* The real Robert Cecil was apparently a dwarf, and one of Queen Elizabeth's chief counselors, not the supercilious character portrayed in this film, or in Maxwell Anderson's original play. The queen would affectionately refer to him as "my dwarf". He is more accurately portrayed in the 2005 miniseries "Elizabeth I".