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The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)

Approved | | Biography, Drama, History | 11 November 1939 (USA)
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A depiction of the love/hate relationship between Queen Elizabeth I and Robert Devereux, the Earl of Essex.

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Writers:

(screen play), (screen play) (as Aeneas MacKenzie) | 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 5 Oscars. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
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Henry Stephenson ...
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Mistress Margaret Radcliffe (as Nanette Fabares)
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Robert Warwick ...
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Sir Edward Coke
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Storyline

This period drama frames the tumultuous affair between Queen Elizabeth I and the man who would be King of England, Robert Devereux, 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 heir-less 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. Written by IMDb Editors

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Elizabeth I's love for the Earl of Essex threatens to destroy her kingdom.


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

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Release Date:

11 November 1939 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Elizabeth and Essex  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Vitaphone)

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This was an adaptation of the play "Elizabeth the Queen" by Maxwell Anderson. The stage production opened at the Guild Theatre in New York on November 3, 1930 starring legendary married couple Lynn Fontanne and Alfred Lunt. The play ran for 147 performances. The title of the movie was to be the same as 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. "The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex" was chosen to fit in the motif of The Private Life of Henry VIII. (1933) and The Private Life of Don Juan (1934). 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", after which it was restored to "The Private Lives...". See more »

Goofs

Essex twice compares Elizabeth to her father, speaking of nm3430975 as if from personal acquaintance, though Henry died in 1547 and Essex was born in 1565. See more »

Quotes

Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex: And now, may I go? This dying sticks in my mind and makes me poor company.
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Connections

Featured in The Adventures of Errol Flynn (2005) See more »

Soundtracks

The Passionate Shepherd to His Love (Come Live With Me and Be My Love)
(posthumous 1599) (uncredited)
:yrics by Christopher Marlowe
Music by Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Played on piano by Erich Wolfgang Korngold and sung by Nanette Fabray
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User Reviews

 
The Elizabeth of legend
7 December 2005 | by (New York, NY) – See all my reviews

This picture, based on Maxwell Anderson's play (written entirely in blank verse!) portrays the Elizabeth of legend, not the historical Elizabeth, in this case based on Lytton Strachey's book, "Elizabeth and Essex". In other words, this is more a theatrical than a strictly accurate presentation of the great queen and her times.

And what a presentation! Lynn Fontanne portrayed Elizabeth in the play's original Broadway run; Judith Anderson played her in the 1968 television presentation (opposite Charlton Heston!). Davis takes the part (re-written for the picture, discarding the blank verse) over the top. Her overactive, explosive performance might seem too much to some, but it definitely matches the style of the play itself, the sumptuous settings, gorgeously photographed, the historically accurate costuming, and Korngold's splashy, brilliant score, one of his best creations.

The supporting cast matches her at every turn. Even Flynn's performance, dismissed at the time as being lightweight, comes across as the ideal foil to the tempestuous, aging queen he's playing against.

Quite a treat, even after almost seventy years. Definitely of its time, but, understanding this, it can be thoroughly enjoyed.


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