The Private Life of Henry VIII. (1933)

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Reviews: 31 user | 25 critic

Tells how King Henry VIII came to marry five more times after his divorce from his first wife.



(story) (as Lajos Biro) , (story), 1 more credit »
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Won 1 Oscar. Another 1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Franklin Dyall ...
Laurence Hanray ...
Archbishop Cranmer (as Lawrence Hanray)
William Austin ...
Claud Allister ...
Cornell (as Claude Allister)
Gibb McLaughlin ...
The French Executioner
Sam Livesey ...
The English Executioner
Everley Gregg ...


This movie tells the story of King Henry VIII and the last five of his six wives. Set almost entirely within the royal castle, it begins just before the death of his second wife (Anne Boleyn) and ends just after his sixth wedding (to Catherine or Katherine Parr). Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


HE GAVE HIS WIVES A PAIN IN THE NECK And did his necking with an axe. Henry, the Eighth Wonder of the World! And this picture...the wonder of all time! See more »


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Release Date:

21 September 1933 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Das Privatleben Heinrichs VIII.  »

Box Office


£60,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The failure of the original copyright holder to renew the film's copyright resulted in it falling into public domain, meaning that virtually anyone could duplicate and sell a VHS/DVD copy of the film. Therefore, many of the versions of this film available on the market are either severely (and usually badly) edited and/or of extremely poor quality, having been duped from second- or third-generation (or more) copies of the film. See more »


When Henry has Wriothesley on the table, Wriothesley's hand goes from the table to his throat between shots. See more »


King Henry VIII: [on being told a son has been born] It's a boy! A boy!
See more »

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User Reviews

Alexander Korda and his history lessons
22 March 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Born in Hungary, Alexander Korda became a leading figure in British cinema. He would approach Hollywood in his production, casting, and vision of how movies should be made. And he was quite aware of what he was facing in his struggles. Britain's film industry was never as wealthy as it's American cousin (or it's German cousin, for that matter). But due to language it had inroads to the United States as well as the empire. If it could not meet Hollywood's (or Ufa's) best production values, it had a stable of actors that were hard to match. In fact, many of them ended up in Hollywood (much to Korda's disgust). This was not only those born in the British Isles like Olivier, Leigh, Laughton, but also those who were foreign born who ended up in British films as stars (like Veidt).

Korda also had European history and culture to play with, and in the 1930s would do a series of films that involved both. They centered on some historical or legendary character: Henry VIII, Don Juan, Catherine the Great, Rembrandt, the Roman Emperor Claudius. Laughton appeared in three of these, as Henry, Rembrandt, and Claudius. Douglas Fairbanks Sr. would be Don Juan and his son would be Catherine's husband Peter III of Russia. There were also "foreign" or "imperial" settings for some of these epics. Sabu became Kipling's Mowgli in "The Jungle Book". The Arabian Nights were the basis for "The Thief of Baghdad".

Henry VIII is really not filling in the entire monarch's life or reign. It barely notices wife #1 (Catherine of Aragon), who it considers dull. It begins with the conclusion of the second marriage with Anne Boleyne in 1536, and then jumps rapidly into the brief third marriage, the comedy of the fourth marriage in 1541, the deep tragedy of the fifth marriage in 1544, and the last marriage, wherein Henry seems to have married a nurse and a scold (not really historically correct). Laughton is superb as a man, seeming with everything, who can't (for one reason or another) find the happiness he seeks in a content home life. But the film does not delve into his policies, and it really does not get into the personality conflicts within Henry's character. He does act the bully and the gallant and the buffoon (such as when discoursing on fine table manners), but the parts (if analyzed) do not hold together as well as say Robert Shaw's sly and sinister monarch in "A Man For All Seasons", but Shaw is playing a younger man in a period of only six years, while Laughton is dealing with nearly twelve years as the same man fights to retain youth and yet ages badly due to ill-health. Laughton did deserve his Oscar, but Shaw needed two more films of Henry at later stages to fill in his first rate junior portrait.

Laughton did well with Henry, as Korda did by selecting Laughton. We are the richer for both of their visions.

31 of 34 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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