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The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex

USA 1939
produced by
Hal B. Wallis for Warner Brothers
directed by Michael Curtiz
starring Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Donald Crisp, Alan Hale, Vincent Price, Henry Stephenson, Henry Daniell, James Stephenson, Nanette Fabray, Ralph Forbes, Robert Warwick, Leo G.Carroll, Guy Bellis, John Sutton, Holmes Herbert
screenplay by Norman Reilly Raine, Aeneas MacKenzie, based on the play by Maxwell Anderson, music by Erich Wolfgang Korngold

Elizabeth I

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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England, 1596: Queen Elizabeth (Bette Davis) is madly in love with the Earl of Essex (Errol Flynn), and he loves her back, actually, despite the fact that she's much older than he is - but he also wants her power, and that makes him her enemy. And thus, even though he has proven himself a competent army commander, she treats him like dirt. Others on her court, like Sir Walter Raleigh (Vincent Price) and Sir Robert Cecil (Henry Daniell) know that and want try to play Elizabeth and Essex against each other with the help of Sir Francis Bacon (Donald Crisp), who claims to be Essex' mentor and Elizabeth's good friend, but is actually nothing but a treacherous turncoat. So when Essex is off on a campaign to Ireland, the conspirators have Elizabeth's letters to Essex and Essex' letters to Elizabeth intercepted so Essex has to think she has abandoned him and Elizabeth is led to think he is planning a rebellion against her. As a result, she cuts off his supply chain and orders him back, and when Essex returns with his army to usurp the throne, she ultimately plays a trick on him to make him give himself up, then condemns him to death, which breaks her own heart as well.

 

This historically rather inaccurate period picture is a film that's ambitious rather than actually good: Behind the high production values, the star-studded cast and the wonderfully eccentric performance of Bette Davis in old woman's makeup (she was 31 when this was made, her character was 63), this film tells a rather feeble romance that lacks depth and is populated by disappointingly flat characters. And while Bette Davis at least is great, Errol Flynn pales in her shadow giving a competent but hardly impressive performance as Earl of Essex.

That said, I wouldn't classify this film as a total trainwreck, just a bit of a disappointment.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD

 

 

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