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Henry VIII (1979)

The Famous History of the Life of King Henry the Eight (original title)
Not Rated | | TV Movie 25 April 1979
Henry VIII is a proud and wilful monarch who defies Rome's ban on divorce to marry his mistress Anne Boleyn. Cardinal Wolsey, the Powerful Lord Chancellor of England, attempts to bend Rome ... See full summary »


Kevin Billington


William Shakespeare (play)
1 nomination. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
John Stride John Stride ... Henry VIII
Claire Bloom ... Katharine of Aragon
Ronald Pickup ... Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury
Barbara Kellerman ... Anne Bullen
Timothy West ... Cardinal Wolsey
Julian Glover ... Duke of Buckingham
John Rowe ... Cromwell
Lewis Fiander ... Duke of Suffolk
Alan Leith Alan Leith ... Sergeant-at-Arms
Tony Church Tony Church ... Prologue
John Bailey John Bailey ... Griffith, Gentleman-Usher
David Troughton ... Surveyor
John Nettleton ... Lord Chamberlain
Charles Lloyd Pack Charles Lloyd Pack ... Lord Sandys
Nigel Lambert Nigel Lambert ... Sir Thomas Lovell


Henry VIII is a proud and wilful monarch who defies Rome's ban on divorce to marry his mistress Anne Boleyn. Cardinal Wolsey, the Powerful Lord Chancellor of England, attempts to bend Rome to the king's wishes in the matter of the divorce of Catherine of Aragon so he can marry Anne Boleyn. Later, near death, he repents his unpriestly activity. After Henry divorces her, Catherine is sent to Kimbolton Castle. Anne marries Henry and becomes his queen. Written by GusF

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Not Rated | See all certifications »






Release Date:

25 April 1979 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Henry VIII See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The entire film was shot on-location at Leeds Castle, Penshurst Place, and Hever Castle; each of which bears associations to some of the historical figures in the play. See more »


Version of Catherine Howard (1911) See more »

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User Reviews

Not the Greatest Shakespeare, but 'Twill Serve (and Serves Well)
11 July 2018 | by joe-pearce-1See all my reviews

Henry VIII has never been considered one of Shakespeare's greatest plays (he wrote only about half of it), thus I have never seen a production of it before, nor had I ever even read it. It appears I have missed much. Watching this BBC production, I was fully enveloped in all of the action from beginning to end, despite the play's being quite episodic in nature. The main thing is that all of the lead characters (and there are a good seven or eight) are, to my mind, fully developed within the confines of the drama, with Cardinal Wolsey, Katherine of Aragon, the ill-fated Duke of Buckingham, and the Archbishop of Canterbury particularly so. The production is beautiful to see, as well, having been where possible filmed in the actual locations where the drama took place. However, the glory of this production is in its performances. There is not one, even of the most minor characters, that does not ring totally true. While John Stride does not have the imposing physical stature and rather overwhelming personality one might want of a still-young Henry (for that, you really need a Robert Shaw), he does impart a sense of command to all his utterances. As Henry seems to be somewhat less well-drawn by the author, that is a considerable achievement. But Julian Glover as Buckingham and Ronald Pickup as the Archbishop of Canterbury could hardly be bettered, both noble characters nobly interpreted. However, the true stars of this production are Timothy West as Cardinal Wolsey, and Claire Bloom as Katherine. West, always a powerful actor and surely one of the unsung heroes of his profession, is almost mesmerizing in all of the Cardinal's myriad moods and actions, some near heinous in nature, but all, we learn, intended for the greater good of both Henry and himself. When he falls from grace, there is no groveling or beating of breast, simply an understanding that he has attempted too much, gone too far, and is now (he thinks) consigned to the dustbin of history. That may be Shakespeare's doing, of course, but West impels a certain kind of understanding and even a bit of pity from the viewer. Foremost of all, though, is Claire Bloom's Katherine. This is one of the Bard's best-drawn dramatic female roles, one that dominates every scene she is in, and she does it full justice, as she has done to every role she has touched for the past 70 years (she was only a bit over 30 years into her career when this was done). Although always prized for her acting chops, Bloom seemed to be unrecognized as one of the great screen beauties of her day, so that she managed to almost always appear in superior work, whether it be in film, stage or television. I think the highlights of this entire film consist of her appearance before the judges when accused of possible infidelity and her rather prolonged but most effective death scene. I don't think Ashcroft, Dench, Redgrave or Mirren could have equaled her in those scenes, and they'd probably be the first to admit it. Anyway, this has been a learning experience for a lifelong Shakespeare devotee; now I know that the play is better than has been rumored about, and that it should be performed far more often than it has been. Bravo!

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