The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)

Approved   |    |  Biography, Drama, History


The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939) Poster

A depiction of the love/hate relationship between Queen Elizabeth I and Robert Devereux, the Earl of Essex.

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7.2/10
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  • Errol Flynn in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)
  • Bette Davis and Errol Flynn in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)
  • Bette Davis and Errol Flynn in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)
  • Bette Davis and Errol Flynn in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)
  • Errol Flynn and Donald Crisp in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)
  • The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)

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21 September 2010 | JoeytheBrit
Bette's Ugly Film
Errol Flynn always complained about being typecast in action roles, but the reasons why are clearly evident in this sometimes ponderous, and sometimes affecting historical drama based on the play by Maxwell Anderson. While Flynn's performance isn't bad it looks positively bland when compared to Bette Davis's superlative performance as the ageing Queen Elizabeth I. Davis furnishes the Queen with all sorts of mannerisms and vocal inflections (while banishing all traces of her American accent) which may or may not be factually accurate (as my only other reference point for Elizabeth is Miranda Richardson's madcap turn in Blackadder it's impossible for me to know). Whether it is accurate or not, Davis delivers a performance that is never less than riveting and dominates the entire film.

The film itself is something of a Jekyll and Hyde. The first forty minutes border on tedium as we are subjected to endless conversations between the dowdy queen with fading looks and the dashing young knight who courts her, and it's clear that the writers struggled (and failed) to escape from the material's stage origins. It's all scene-setting for the second half of the film, however, which makes it worth sitting through, because once the political intrigue and back-stabbing begin the film takes off and becomes a richly absorbing slice of history. The supporting cast is straight out of Hollywood's Who's-Who of the 1930s, but my only gripe would be the casting of Alan Hale in the small but important role of an Irish rebel leader. The jolly Hale looks more like a well-fed butcher than a fighting man who's been squelching around Irish bogs for weeks on end!

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Genres

Biography | Drama | History | Romance

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