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Eclipse Series 16: Alexander Korda's Private Lives (The Private Life of Henry VIII / The Rise of Catherine the Great / The Private Life of Don Juan / Rembrandt) (The Criterion Collection) (1936)

Charles Laughton , Robert Donat , Alexander Korda , Paul Czinner  |  NR |  DVD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Eclipse Series 16: Alexander Korda's Private Lives (The Private Life of Henry VIII / The Rise of Catherine the Great / The Private Life of Don Juan / Rembrandt) (The Criterion Collection) + Eclipse Series 14: Rossellini's History Films - Renaissance and Enlightenment (Blaise Pascal / The Age of the Medici / Cartesius) (The Criterion Collection) + Eclipse Series 13: Kenji Mizoguchi's Fallen Women (Osaka Elegy / Sisters of the Gion / Women of the Night / Street of Shame) (The Criterion Collection)
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Product Details

  • Actors: Charles Laughton, Robert Donat, Gertrude Lawrence, Franklin Dyall, Miles Mander
  • Directors: Alexander Korda, Paul Czinner
  • Writers: Arthur Wimperis, Carl Zuckmayer, Frederick Lonsdale, Henry Bataille, June Head
  • Format: Box set, Black & White, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 4
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: May 12, 2009
  • Run Time: 358 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001TIQT7K
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #63,700 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Eclipse Series 16: Alexander Korda's Private Lives (The Private Life of Henry VIII / The Rise of Catherine the Great / The Private Life of Don Juan / Rembrandt) (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

Though born to modest means in Hungary, Alexander Korda would go on to become one of the most important filmmakers in the history of British cinema. A producer, writer, and director who navigated toward subjects of major historical significance and mythical distinction, Korda made a name for his production company, London Films, with the Oscar-winning The Private Life of Henry VIII. He then continued his populist investigation behind the scenes and in the bedrooms of such figures as Catherine the Great, Don Juan, and Rembrandt. Mixing stately period drama with surprising satire, these films are exemplars of grand 1930s moviemaking.

The Private Life of Henry VIII

Charles Laughton gulps beer and chomps on mutton, in his first of many iconic screen roles, as King Henry VIII, the ultimate anti-husband. Alexander Korda’s first major international success is a raucous, entertaining, even poignant peek into the boudoirs of the infamous king and his six wives.

The Rise of Catherine the Great

A quick-witted and compelling dramatization of the troubled marriage of Catherine II (played by German actress Elisabeth Bergner, in her English-language debut) to Peter III (a randy Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) and her subsequent ascension to the throne as Empress of Russia.

The Private Life of Don Juan

Douglas Fairbanks Sr. makes his big-screen swan song with Korda’s deliciously satiric deflation of the Don Juan myth. After having faked his own death and escaped Seville, the aging lothario returns, only to find that he has been forgotten; perhaps Merle Oberon’s beauty can coax him back.


Charles Laughton once again teams up with Korda for this moving, elegantly shot biopic about the Dutch painter. Beginning when Rembrandt’s reputation was at its height, the film then tracks his quiet descent into loneliness and isolated self-expression.

Customer Reviews

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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Four rarely seen films from the 1930's come to DVD February 28, 2009
This DVD set includes four films directed by Alexander Korda with each film being the biography of a famous person. The following is a combination of my own recollections and the press release for the set.

The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933)
Charles Laughton looks every inch a king in this rendition of the biography of King Henry. The film is quite entertaining even if it gets many of the major facts wrong. Probably the most outrageous point of the film is stressing the importance of Anne of Cleves as Henry's close friend and advisor, even though they were only married for six months. This is probably largely if not entirely due to the fact that Anne was being played by Laughton's wife, Elsa Lancester. Laughton received a Best Actor Oscar for his performance.

The Rise of Catherine the Great (1934)
This is a dramatizatoin of the marriage between Catherine the Great and Peter III of Russia. Catherine is played by Elisabeth Bergner in her English-speaking debut, and Peter is played by Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Again, this film is somewhat historically inaccurate. Peter was actually insane. Here Fairbanks plays Peter as a somewhat off-balance but charming man.

The Private Life of Don Juan (1934)
This was Douglas Fairbanks' last feature film role. It seems that many people don't care much for this one, and I don't know why. I thought it was brilliant to have the 52 year old Fairbanks play an aging Don Juan showing all of the doubts and problems that Fairbanks himself must have had at the time. In this film Don Juan fakes his own death, returns to Seville, and is surprised to find out that he's been forgotten.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
I can't review this entire collection, but if you're just looking for "The Private Life of Henry VIII", this Alexander Korda's Private Lives collection has a much higher quality DVD transfer than the Allied Artists version The Private Life of Henry VIII. Both the sound and the picture are much better (in my opinion).

If someone knows of a better DVD transfer than this one, I'd like to know about it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Laughton forever February 22, 2014
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Belching with a capon, painting his doomed beloved, no one ever did it better. Fairbanks last film, not a swashbuckler, but a drawing room comedy that is a misfire. Elizabeth Bergner is very good as Catherine. You also have those marvelous Vincent Korda designs. They will knock your eyes out.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Rembrandt April 24, 2014
I rented the single title from Criterion Eclipse, the bare bones series from Criterion. I rented this because Maltin gave it 3 1/2 stars and I am reading an art history version of Rembrandt's life.

The film focuses on his domestic affairs to the detriment of the art creator. The problem is to make dynamic the creative process and is difficult whether the subject is a photographer, writer, or music composer. The long, painstaking process of creating a work is not served well by film.

The film was adequate but not in the least inspiring. It would take a cable muti-part series to do justice to the subject. Laughton is fine but does not project any interior process that we can relate too.

If you want background on Rembrandt rent a documentary or read a biography.
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3 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Seriously Dated Classic Comedy June 20, 2013
"The Private Life of Henry VIII," (1933), a black and white 97 minute comic classic of British cinema, carried a lot on its shoulders when released. It is, of course, a costume drama, based in British history, a loose - make that very loose-- biography of Henry VIII, 16th century Bluebeard/tyrant, England's most powerful and wealthy ruler. At the time it was made, Sir Alexander Korda, its producer/director, battled the idea that costume dramas were box office poison; he had a very difficult time raising the £60,000 needed to make it, and had to ask its cast to await its premiere for their pay checks. But the film did well, was the first British picture to win an American Oscar, and enabled him to put his London Film Company on a sure footing, by extension helping to ensure the future of British cinema.

In the film, Charles Laughton, (The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Animated), Hobson's Choice (The Criterion Collection)), makes the already larger-than-life King Henry VIII seem even bigger in an acclaimed, famous performance that centers on the ruler's romantic life. Highly-praised director Alexander Korda, (THE RISE OF CATHERINE THE GREAT, THE PRIVATE LIFE OF DON JUAN, REMBRANDT) shows a mercurial king who is governed by love, lust and politics. The classic film traces Henry's six marriages, including the tragic story of Catherine Howard, and his near-disastrous fourth union with Anne of Cleves, played by Laughton's real-life wife, Elsa Lanchester,(
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