According to Binnie Barnes, Charles Laughton was a method actor, and when Wendy Barrie giggled during a scene to the actor's aggravation, he bit her on the arm, breaking her skin, exactly as the real Henry often did when angry with his wives.
While he was on a tour of Europe, American professional wrestler Man Mountain Dean was hired to be Charles Laughton's uncredited stunt double. This would be the first of Dean's appearances in motion pictures.
Because of the film's modest budget, director Alexander Korda had to shoot on actual locations instead of the studio. Some sets were half-built out of necessity, so if an actor moved off his mark, the slats would show the sides.
First non-U.S. film to receive a Best Picture Oscar nomination, and Charles Laughton's portrayal of Henry VIII was the first foreign performance to win both an Academy Award nomination and the statuette itself.
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.
After meeting Merle Oberon when she came to Hollywood, Rouben Mamoulian remarked about her role, "I don't think in the history of the theater or the movies, has such a small part made such a great impression."
This film inaugurated the first syndicated television presentation of a package of major studio feature films on USA television; it premiered in St. Louis Sunday 30 May 1948 on KSD (Channel 5), in Chicago Monday 7 June 1948 on WGN (Channel 9), in Cleveland Sunday 27 June 1948 on WEWS (Channel 5), and in New York City Sunday 11 July 1948 on WPIX (Channel 11); in Philadelphia, it first aired Friday 19 November 1948 on WFIL (Channel 6), in Los Angeles Sunday 19 December 1948 on KTLA (Channel 5), in Atlanta Wednesday 12 January 1949 on WSB (Channel 8), and in Cincinnati Monday 30 May 1949 on WKRC (Channel 11). The package consisted of 24 Alexander Korda productions originally released theatrically between 1933 and 1942.
Because the narrative begins with the execution of Anne Boleyn (Merle Oberon), the pivotal character of Thomas More doesn't appear in The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933). More, of course, is prominently featured in A Man For All Seasons (1966), and also appears peripherally in Anne of the Thousand Days (1969) and Henry VIII and His Six Wives (1972).
Though they appeared in many of the same films over the course of decades, real-life couple Charles Laughton and Elsa Lanchester were seldom teamed. The extraordinary chemistry they manifest in this film would not be reprised until their equally dynamic pairing in Witness for the Prosecution (1957).
Had the Best Supporting Actor and Actress categories been established by 1933, it is all but assured that Elsa Lanchester would have copped the award for her riotous, eccentric portrayal of Anne of Cleves. But the supporting Oscars were not initiated until 1936.
The role of Henry VIII has traditionally been catnip to Academy voters. Charles Laughton won an Oscar for the role, and both Robert Shaw and Richard Burton achieved nominations for, respectively, A Man for All Seasons (1966) and Anne of the Thousand Days (1969).