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The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)

Approved | | Biography, Drama, History | 11 November 1939 (USA)
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A depiction of the love/hate relationship between Queen Elizabeth I and Robert Devereux, the Earl of Essex.

Director:

Michael Curtiz

Writers:

Norman Reilly Raine (screen play), Æneas MacKenzie (screen play) (as Aeneas MacKenzie) | 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 5 Oscars. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Bette Davis ... Queen Elizabeth
Errol Flynn ... Earl of Essex
Olivia de Havilland ... Lady Penelope Gray
Donald Crisp ... Francis Bacon
Alan Hale ... Earl of Tyrone
Vincent Price ... Sir Walter Raleigh
Henry Stephenson ... Lord Burghley
Henry Daniell ... Sir Robert Cecil
James Stephenson ... Sir Thomas Egerton
Nanette Fabray ... Mistress Margaret Radcliffe (as Nanette Fabares)
Ralph Forbes ... Lord Knollys
Robert Warwick ... Lord Mountjoy
Leo G. Carroll ... Sir Edward Coke
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Storyline

This period drama frames the tumultuous affair between Queen Elizabeth I and the man who would be King of England, Robert Devereux, the Earl of Essex. Ever the victor on the battlefield, Devereux returns to London after defeating Spanish forces at Cadiz. Middle-aged Elizabeth, so attracted to the younger Devereux but fearful of his influence and popularity, sends him on a new mission: a doomed campaign to Ireland. When he and his troops return in defeat, Devereux demands to share the throne with the heir-less queen, and Elizabeth, at first, intends to marry. Ultimately sensing the marriage would prove disastrous for England, Elizabeth sets in motion a merciless plan to protect her people and preserve her throne. Written by IMDb Editors

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Elizabeth I's love for the Earl of Essex threatens to destroy her kingdom.


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

11 November 1939 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Essex and Elizabeth See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$1,075,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Vitaphone)

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Charles Laughton, whom Bette Davis greatly admired, visited her on the set. Seeing him she greeted him with, "Hi, Pop!" referencing his Oscar-winning portrayal Elizabeth's father Henry VIII in The Private Life of Henry VIII. (1933). While talking together in a corner of the set, the thirty-one year old actress confessed to him that she felt she had bitten off more than she could chew in playing an older Elizabeth. According to the Davis biography 'Fasten Your Seat Belts', he replied, "Never stop daring to hang yourself, Bette!" See more »

Goofs

At about 20 minutes into the movie, a duet is being performed with a piano and lute. The piano was not yet invented in 1596. It was invented circa 1700. The only keyboard string type instrument, in the time period, was the Harpsichord. See more »

Quotes

Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex: And now, may I go? This dying sticks in my mind and makes me poor company.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The Warner Brothers shield is in the form of an English coat of arms. This logo was seen in Errol Flynn's previous film The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). See more »

Connections

Spoofed in Malibu Beach Party (1940) See more »

Soundtracks

The Passionate Shepherd to His Love (Come Live With Me and Be My Love)
(posthumous 1599) (uncredited)
:yrics by Christopher Marlowe
Music by Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Played on piano by Erich Wolfgang Korngold and sung by Nanette Fabray
See more »

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User Reviews

Bette's Ugly Film
21 September 2010 | by JoeytheBritSee all my reviews

Errol Flynn always complained about being typecast in action roles, but the reasons why are clearly evident in this sometimes ponderous, and sometimes affecting historical drama based on the play by Maxwell Anderson. While Flynn's performance isn't bad it looks positively bland when compared to Bette Davis's superlative performance as the ageing Queen Elizabeth I. Davis furnishes the Queen with all sorts of mannerisms and vocal inflections (while banishing all traces of her American accent) which may or may not be factually accurate (as my only other reference point for Elizabeth is Miranda Richardson's madcap turn in Blackadder it's impossible for me to know). Whether it is accurate or not, Davis delivers a performance that is never less than riveting and dominates the entire film.

The film itself is something of a Jekyll and Hyde. The first forty minutes border on tedium as we are subjected to endless conversations between the dowdy queen with fading looks and the dashing young knight who courts her, and it's clear that the writers struggled (and failed) to escape from the material's stage origins. It's all scene-setting for the second half of the film, however, which makes it worth sitting through, because once the political intrigue and back-stabbing begin the film takes off and becomes a richly absorbing slice of history. The supporting cast is straight out of Hollywood's Who's-Who of the 1930s, but my only gripe would be the casting of Alan Hale in the small but important role of an Irish rebel leader. The jolly Hale looks more like a well-fed butcher than a fighting man who's been squelching around Irish bogs for weeks on end!


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