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Wednesday, February 3, 2021

"The Private Life of Henry VIII" (1933)

A nursery rhyme spoiler: “King Henry VIII, To six wives he was wedded, One died, one survived, Two divorced, two beheaded.” And even if you know how it all plays out this movie is not a dry ‘Masterpiece Theatre’ history lesson. It’s surprisingly zippy, funny, and— because it was made in Pre-Code 1930’s—downright bawdy. The story of the revolving door marriages plays almost like a series of blackout sketches as the famous king moves from one wife to the next, it keeps things moving. Charles Laughton bagged an Oscar for his portrayal of the corpulent king. If you have the stomach for another overbearing, ill-mannered, sexist pig of a leader then by all means give this one a chance. Unlike the 45th POTUS, you discover there’s a human underneath his public pomposity. And the bonafide scene stealer here is Elsa Lanchester (the real Mrs. Laughton), as Henry’s fourth wife Anne of Cleves. She does a hilarious, almost slapstick take on the German princess that should have bagged her an Oscar as well.  

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