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The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)

7.2
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 3,180 users  
Reviews: 58 user | 24 critic

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

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(screen play), (screen play), 1 more credit »
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Title: The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)

The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939) on IMDb 7.2/10

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Nominated for 5 Oscars. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
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...
...
...
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Earl of Tyrone
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Henry Stephenson ...
Lord Burghley
...
James Stephenson ...
...
Mistress Margaret Radcliffe (as Nanette Fabares)
Ralph Forbes ...
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

Plot Keywords:

queen | earl | throne | ireland | nobility | See more »

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

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

11 November 1939 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Elizabeth and Essex  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Vitaphone)

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

"The Screen Guild Theater" broadcast a 30 minute radio adaptation of the movie on October 20, 1947 with Bette Davis reprising her film role. See more »

Goofs

When the horseman rides up to the "Red Lion" inn, a gorgeous sunset is behind him; the shadow he casts is inconsistent with the placement of the sun, revealing this sunset to not have been in the original shot. See more »

Quotes

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

Connections

Featured in Hollywood: The Great Stars (1963) See more »

Soundtracks

The Passionate Shepherd to His Love (Come Live With Me and Be My Love)
(posthumous 1599) (uncredited)
Written by Christopher Marlowe
Music by Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Played on piano by Erich Wolfgang Korngold and sung by Nanette Fabray
See more »

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User Reviews

 
A stunning tour de force by Davis and Flynn.
17 June 1999 | by (Australia) – See all my reviews

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.


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