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The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex

The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex(1939)


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  • Ants in her pants

    • TK
    • 2/25/17

    I wonder whose decision it was to have Bette Davis fidget and twitch so much during her portrayal of Elizabeth I. They certainly didn't have any historical footage to go by. At first I found it curious, then distracting, and by the end of the movie I found it downright annoying. I think it tainted what was otherwise a great performance.

  • for the queen's pleasure...

    • Colin
    • 10/28/16

    The film plot of this 1939 film found the actual earl of Essex (Errol Flynn)making a pitch for the throne of England,under the rule of Elizabeth I (Bette Davis)-whether in marriage or otherwise.Others involved inthe cast included the likes of Donald Crisp,Vincent Price,Alan Hale and amoung others-Olivia deHalilland.(Olivia is sadly 3rd billed,without much to do.What a waste!.The color photography was (& re-mains) supurb,as well as the first rate music score byErich Wolfgang Korngold.Indeed a 'woman's soap opera' found with players (mostly) at court in an English castle.More over the real drama of this film was the ( real life) riff between (Bette Davis) &( Errol Flynn).A previous film "The Sisters" found her robbed of top billing,which was (also) a 'woman's pic.Despite the fact she now shared & was top billed with Flynn for this one,Davis would neither forget ,nor forgive.Playing the queen of England took a lot out of (American) Davis& she does indeed succeed.Playing Essex found Flynn (a real Brit),perfect for the part.He WAS Essex!Most 1939 critics lined up for Davis,(but) later viewers of the flick will find Flynn matching & even playing with Davis at every turn.Did (director)Michael Curtiz plan it to happen this way?A lot of this dialog gets boring & deserves a few nods,yet it's still a great film/A better story perhaps would have had Flynn get more of Oliva?

  • Queen of Hollywood

    • derek
    • 9/18/16

    Davis relishes slapping Flynn in this colourful five-star Warner Bros historical classic. Did they really hate each other or was it just another Hollywood PR stunt?

  • movie eyes

    • tom
    • 2/4/16

    love this film a classic of the era and Bette Davis give the ultimate acting performance of her career and one of the best coming out of Hollywood ever, her jerky type movements add to the life she brings to her part outstanding...can never get enough of watching this film. Also great direction and of course Flynn is his dashing self..

  • Bette the Queen Bee

    • Maria Ramos
    • 6/28/15

    Bette Davis dominates the production at every turn as Elizabeth, virgin queen of England. Her delineation would indicate that Davis did much personal research. This was the review from Variety when the film came out and I agree. Bette Davis is so incredible and to think she didn't like her costar. She might have been wrong on that point to see the both of them in the same frame is magnificent. I'm also a fan of Errol Flynn. I hope TCM puts a Bette Davis movie on the Big screen. This might be the one.

  • Queen Bette Davis

    • Maria Ramos
    • 4/7/15

    Bette Davis rules! For an actor who doesn't get along with her leading man, they act beautifully together. The art direction is beautiful. as well as cinematography. My favorite scene is when she walks down the long hall towards her thrown see sees a soldier holding his sword in the wrong direction, she straightens it out, beautiful! So symbolic of power and control. I don't understand why Orlly-Kelly didn't get at least a nomination for costume design?

  • One of Bette's all time best performances

    • Al
    • 9/22/13

    In my opinion, this is Bette Davis' best performance, with "The Little Foxes" running a close second. She put a lot of work into this role and it shows; her performance is detailed and well thought-out. She is in complete command of her instrument here and is not just playing herself, as in "All About Eve" and so many of her later roles. Moreover, the writing in this film is excellent and literate. The screenplay was adapted from Maxwell Anderson's stage play, which was quite successful on Broadway with Lynn Fontanne playing the Queen. So many of Bette Davis' films had inferior writing. Not this one.Davis runs the gamut of emotions as Elizabeth, from tough-as-nails to quite vulnerable and fragile. In many scenes, she shakes with emotion. She completely embodies the love that Elizabeth has for Essex and the pain she feels when that love is thwarted. There was a lot of tension between Flynn and Davis on the set and this translates well in the film, bringing an electric air between the Queen and Essex.This role took a lot of guts to play. Bette was only 30 years old, playing a 60 year old. She shaved her hairline and eyebrows for the role (& whitened her eyelashes) and dared to look hideous. However, it's the inner life and emotional colors that make this a great performance. The make-up does not do the work for her, as it did in "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" Her face & body (& voice) convey a plethora of subtle and complex feelings. Surely, being the Queen of Warner Bros. helped Davis understand Elizabeth's feeling of being a "queen" first and a "woman" second.As mentioned, the dialogue is one of the film's assets. It is delicious to the ear and can be savored through countless viewings of the film. The musical score by Erich Korngold is superb, accentuating the dramatic conflict & also underlining the tender, romantic love scenes. The color photography looks great, especially for 1939. Also, Errol Flynn is perfectly cast as Essex.

  • in his book

    • mrs sullivan
    • 6/20/11

    In Flynn's book My wicked wicked ways, Flynn talks about the infamous slap that he receives from Ms Davis in this movie. He stated that her first swing connected and he was pissed! Several other takes were done afterwards without the contact, but when you watch the film and Flynn's reaction you know it was the original slap that made the final cut. It's priceless!

  • The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex

    • Mark Sutch
    • 4/14/11


  • Great Role

    • Laura
    • 7/27/10

    I first saw this movie as a child when living in Europe, and it's never left my mine. I recently watched it again and I still love this movie as much as when I first saw it. I am still amazed that Bette Davis could make so many movies in one year and each role is played so superbly. I am so sorry that we don't have actresses of this caliber in today's cinema.

  • A Royal Match Made in Hell.

    • Frank Harris Horn
    • 7/16/10

    Bette Davis and Errol Flynn were not exactly compatable when they starred together in this brilliant historic drama based on Maxwell Anderson's play. The iron hand of the film's director, Michael Curtiz kept his leading performers in line all through production. Ms. Davis gives a believable portrayal of England's reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth I, whose ill-fated forbidding love affair with the younger Earl of Essex (Flynn) causes a scandalous stir within the British Empire, only to be thwarted by the young Earl's thirst for war and power. Olivia de Havilland returns as one of the Queen's Ladies-in-Waiting, whose own resentment to the aging monarch is more than just skin deep. Thankfully, this was the last picture Davis and Flynn made together in their seperate careers. Co-starring Donald Crisp, Alan Hale, Vincent Price, Henry Stephenson, Nanette Fabares (Fabray), Henry Daniell, James Stephenson, Ralph Forbes, Leo G. Carroll, Robert Warwick & John Sutton.

  • Bette's 4 Major releases in 39

    • Jarrod McDonald
    • 1/3/10

    After posting my previous comment, I researched the production dates of these films. 'Dark Victory' was filmed entirely in 1938; 'Juarez' was begun in November 38 and finished in February 39; 'Old Maid' was filmed from March to May 39; and 'The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex' began filming in June. So there was no overlap of roles, and she just went from one script to the next, as was customary of any contract player from that era. Furthermore, she had four major roles in productions released in 1937 (including 'Kid Galahad' and 'Marked Woman' where she had considerable dialogue in both). But 1935 is the year when the most Bette Davis films were released: she had five pictures open that year, including 'Dangerous,' for which she won her first Oscar. Looking at the data this way, 1939 is not any more an extraordinary year for Bette Davis or her fans than any other.

  • Correcting the myths

    • Jarrod McDonald
    • 1/3/10

    It took me a year to watch this. I procrastinated, thinking it would be some stodgy costume drama. Ten minutes into it, I thought, how is this going to last for over 100 minutes without boredom setting in? But actually I was surprised by how good it was. A lot has been made of Bette Davis doing four movies in 1939...we need to correct that: four of her movies were released in 39 (she probably filmed some of them in 38). Another correction: Flynn is a capable actor, as the death scene indicates. His work in the battle scenes earlier in the movie was also good. Olivia DeHavilland is underused in this production, and her part could easily have gone to a lesser actress. Vincent Price is great at the beginning of his film career. He and Errol have such great voices. Now, on to Bette's acting: she's intense, and she's great, but she is definitely posturing here. A method actor, she is not. I think she's much better in 'Watch on the Rhine' and 'All About Eve' where there's more subtlety and luminosity. What makes this film extraordinary is Erich Korngold's wonderful score; the costumes; the set design; and the cinematography.

  • Is this true?

    • Dawn Skinner
    • 9/2/09

    Someone once told me that Bette Davis had her head shaved for this movie due to the many head dresses she had to wear. Is this a fact or a myth?

  • The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)

    • Jay Higgins
    • 8/27/09

    I feel this is a wonderful and great film. Bette Davis is spectacular, Errol Flynn is wonderfully dashing, and with Olivia de Havilland as well it has to be good. Outstanding art direction and costumes.

  • Very EXCITING Bette Davis Performance

    • DavidaH
    • 8/13/09

    1939 was quite the year for churning out the classics. Among them was this, the 4th on Bette Davis stars in during that year. It's certainly not the least either,earning 5 Oscar nominations. Bette Davis plays 4 entirely different characters which sets her status as one of the best US character actors during the most competitive time in Hollywood history. Among the best, she was the bestand never let up on that fiery intensity in her work. As Queen Elizabeth I, asMeryl Streep says in TCM's mini-bio aboutBette Davis, 'she stands a little taller when she enters a room'. What was her secret to success? Solid self-esteem and an absence of egotism in a business that seems to breed naracissism. If no other film proves my point, this one does. Because Errol Flynn was no match, as a character actor, for Davis; yet she makeshim seem like a great actor instead of simply a handsome popular personality who became a celebrity. Davis could even make Flynn seem like an actor!

  • Bette Davis as Queen Elizabeth I: 1939

    • Sharon.Preeves
    • 7/31/09

    Five Oscar nominations and the fourth classic motion picture of 1939 that Bette Davis played the lead in, are a few of the facts about this film. After playing a young woman with a terminal illness in "Dark Victory," Carlota Juarez in a movie about Mexico's liberation in "Juarez," then the title role as "The Old Maid," an unwed mother who watches her cousin raise her daughterand grows embittered with age, taking on this very challenging charcter role as Queen Elizbeth I was quite an amazing accomplishment. To play the leading lady in each of the 4 classics of 1939 boggles the mind. Imagine the hours of rehearsals, memorizing scripts, costume fittings, a year of being on 4 different sets that aren't at all alike, wear all those heavy weight queenly costumes under hot lighting and never show signs of exhaustion or sweat. Can we imagine how Bette Davis spent her 24 hours a day 7 days a week of 1939? I think not.

  • British Historical Film by Bette Davis

    • georgies
    • 7/31/09

    This movie turned out to be the fourth one that Bette Davis made during that magnificent year in Hollywood: 1939. Bette Davis wasn't only the toast of the town, she was the best loved leading ladyin US motion pictures. Her films that year couldn't have been more diverse. This one proves my point: it's about British history and Davis plays Queen Elizabeth I. Doing so shows Bette Davis' incomparable versatility. It also kept the most desired actress from being typecast. Davis' work choices proved to be what made her acting career such a success throughout her whole life. This is a great film with a cast and crew to die for. It's a must own to watch many times.

  • 4th Bette Davis Film of 1939

    • f2008ilmzzz
    • 7/30/09

    When 5 foot 2, eyes of turquoise blue, Bette Davis dons the large and heavy costumes to become Queen Elizabeth I, she changes her body movements when entering the court to convey the statuesque presence of the Queen of England. How she and Richard Todd (as Sir Walter Raleigh) interact is all important since the focus of this film is about how their relationship affects what were world politics then. The actress playing the queen's no longer Bette Davis: she's Elizabeth I. Her age is no longer 31yo. That's one of the acting talents so great about Bette Davis:she has to go all the way into character. This particular year, she did that 4 times as very different characters with all of her films turning out to be classics. Hence, she was called"the queen of Hollywood" throughout the latter 1930's and through the 1940's.

  • 5 Oscar Nominee with Bette Davis

    • p,h.oenix
    • 7/29/09

    This is the 1st of 2 times that Bette Davis acts out the role of Queen Elizabeth I. The movie was nominated for the Best Picture of 1939, the most competitive year for such an honor. This was also the 4th of 4 movies in 1939 that Bette Davis starred in. She didn't view Errol Flynn as much of an actor and neither did he. Both of them knew he was more of a celebrity who played the role of Errol Flynn. That doesn't mean he wasn't good at it. What it indicates is that Bette Davis had to work extra hard to act out her role with Flynn. Michael Curtiz had a superb supporting cast to work with including Olivia de Havilland, Donald Crisp, Vincent Price, Alan Hale & James Stephenson among the most well known. All of the Oscar nominations were for the fine filmmaking aspects rather than to the smashing performances.

  • A 1939 Bette Davis Classic

    • Crickle
    • 7/27/09

    What makes this film come together as a true classic are the great performances of an impressive cast. Since Bette Davis goes so deeply into the character of Queen Elizabeth I, she proves, once again, there is no place she won't go tobring a character to life. Flynn admittedthat he wasn't the best of actors. But, doubtlessly his celebrity status helped carry his role as the Earl of Essex. Olivia de Havilland's performance is nearly as flawless as Davis'. Vincent Price makes a fine Sir Walter Raleigh. Donald Crisp & Alan Hale deliver for their roles as well. The 5 Oscar nominations weren't for any of the actors or director, Michael Curtiz; but, for all those technical aspects that makea film so picturesque.

  • 5 Oscar Nominee of Bette Davis' 1939 Classics

    • PearyHusky
    • 7/24/09

    Of the 5 Oscar nominations this classic Bette Davis film earned, not one was for the brilliant performances by any of the actors! Let's look at those on the top of the list: Bette Davis plays Queen Elizabeth I; Errol Flynn the Earl of Essex; Olivia de Havilland's Lady Penelope Gray; Vincent Price is Sir Walter Raleigh; Donald Crisp is FrancisBacon & James Stephenson's Sir Thomas Egerton. Although Bette Davis said Errol Flynn was the first to admit that he was a personality more than an actor, in this film the two of them make a marvelous pair. De Havilland, Price, Crisp & Stephenson deliver brilliant performances. This film deserves to be counted as one of the great classics of that choice year in Hollwood: 1939.

  • Fabulous Casting, Directing & Acting

    • m_d
    • 5/21/09

    Director Michael Curtiz must have had a field day with this cast: Bette Davis playing Queen Elizabeth I; Errol Flynn playing the Earl of Essex; Olivia de Haviland playing Lady Penelope Grey;Donald Crisp playing Sir Francis Bacon &Vincent Price playing Sir Walter Raleigh!Davis' acting skill makes up for what Flynn lacks & his vivacious personality lightens up heavier scenes. De Haviland'sperformance is crucial to compliment & contrast with Davis'. Crisp makes a fine Sir Francis. Vincent Price delivers a surprising performance as the gallant Sir Walter. Ultimately, Davis has to carry her part royally or that all important end scene wouldn't have had such a profound impact. It's a great film with a choice cast & director.

  • Supreme Character Actor: Bette Davis

    • NJMB
    • 4/30/09

    At 31yo, Bette Davis went into character as a matronly Queen Elizabeth ever so convincingly. With a perfected cockney accent, this "5'2" eyes of blue" young woman dared to be filmed as much older, balding, homely & unappealing to men. She dared to be ugly next to a most handsome personality, Erroll Flynn. Davis depended upon her acting skills to carry her lead role in this film. With de Haviland looking gorgeous, Davis had to embody the scripted life of Queen Elizabeth. She succeeds with such a commanding presence that I found myself wanting to stand when she walked by.

  • Bette's Intensity.

    • Victoria
    • 4/5/08

    This film proves Davis was an actor willing and able to completely immerse herself in a character. She would reshape herself to make the performance intense and extraordinary. Davis pushed herself to give Elizabeth I a certain humanity, even though she was extremely domineering. There was plenty of real-life tension between Davis and Flynn, and that even adds to the depth of their performances. I believe that this film proves Flynn's acting ability, that he was not just a charming character (on and off screen).

  • Elizabeth and Essex

    • 10/13/07

    Currently you aired Elizabeth and Essex on TCM. Did Flynn make any other movies in which he played Sir Walter Raleigh? I think not, but who did? Was Davis the Queen? Thank you, Pat Iuto

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