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The Private Life of Henry VIII. (1933)

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



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Title: The Private Life of Henry VIII. (1933)

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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 ...
John Loder ...
Claud Allister ...
Cornell (as Claude Allister)
Gibb McLaughlin ...
The French Executioner
Sam Livesey ...
The English Executioner
Wendy Barrie ...
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: [gobbling down chicken and then casually tossing the legs off to one side as Cromwell looks on disgustedly] There's no delicacy nowadays. No consideration for others. Refinement's a thing of the past! Manners are dead!
See more »


Version of The Tudors: Something for You (2010) See more »

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User Reviews

Henry Was Hard On His Ladies
7 May 2005 | by (Greenwich, CT United States) – See all my reviews

Love and absolute power are two things that bring out the worst in people. For most of history, men enjoyed the better of the bargain, and King Henry VIII of England was perhaps the most representative example of that. Between his many dalliances he had six wives, a cast of very different women who spoke to his love of variety if not constancy.

"The Private Life Of Henry VIII" is a merry recounting of five of those marriages, with a passing nod in the opening titles to first wife Catherine of Aragon: "Her story is of no particular interest. She was a respectable woman." It's a funny line that sets up what will be the film's cheerfully cynical tone.

Director Alexander Korda and his writers Lajos Biro and Arthur Wimperis made several brave choices, like the episodic structure of the story as it focuses on each wife in turn, and how it concentrates most on the last four rather than the second and most famous of Henry's wives, Anne Boleyn, played by Merle Oberon for what only amounts to a cameo as she awaits her execution. By doing this they acknowledge Henry VIII's cruelty without giving us the kind of details that would make us not like him, even as he is played by Charles Laughton.

Laughton is the best thing in the movie, winning an Oscar for a performance undimmed by time. He struts wide-legged from scene to scene, playing up his character's vanity and vulgarity and finding an emotional core that draws us to like him despite his legendary faults. When we first see him, after a few minutes of exposition around his court, he has caught one of his ladies-in-waiting, Katherine Howard, making comment about how unfair this whole Boleyn business is. Why if he were not a king, she would call him...

"What would you call me?" Henry demands as he appears from the shadows of the doorway.

Katherine trembles, and manages to blurt: "Why, I would call you...a man!"

A big laugh from the big man. "So I am, and glad of it. And you may be glad of it too, one day."

As played by the lovely Binnie Barnes, Katherine Howard gets the lion's share of attention among the wives, as we first see her as a court lady who soon becomes ambitious for Henry's attentions even as one of Henry's knights, Thomas Culpeper, pleads for her love. She gets Henry eventually, lives to regret it, then doesn't, in a nice story arc Barnes carries off well with her beauty and charm, well enough to not make us wonder about her sudden turnabout in character from the sensible, decent woman we see in the beginning. About the only negative of her performance, and of the film, is her scenes with Culpeper slow down the story and take too much time away from Henry.

Elsa Lanchester, Laughton's real-life wife, makes a strong impression as the least romantic of Henry's partners, a German duchess he marries for politics but comes to grief when he gets a load of her face. Lanchester actually is lovely, but Anne figures her only way to avoid Henry's attentions is to push out her jaw and act dense when he talks about what her wifely duties entail. She and Laughton have a wonderful comic chemistry as they spend their wedding night playing cards; and its especially fun to watch Laughton as his character gets some of his own back for all his serial marrying.

"If you want to be happy...marry a stupid woman!" Henry tells Culpeper at one point. That's not exactly true; stupid women can break your heart, too. True marital happiness may in fact be a fallacy, but at least "The Private Life Of Henry VIII" makes such failure fun.

14 of 16 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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