23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ELIZABETH AND ESSEX (1939) features a stunner of a performance from Bette Davis, brilliant Technicolor photography and a sweeping score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. What more could a classic movie fan want?
Based upon "Elizabeth the Queen" by Maxwell Anderson, THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ELIZABETH AND ESSEX recounts, with some liberties, the stormy relationship of Queen Elizabeth 1st (Bette Davis) and the Earl of Essex, Robert Devereux (Errol Flynn). Robert wants desperately to rule England, something Elizabeth would never sacrifice...not even for love.
The pain and the passion of this story is simply breathtaking. Despite the fact that Davis hated working with Errol Flynn (they were paired in "The Sisters" the previous year); their onscreen chemistry fairly crackles. Davis shaved off her eyebrows plus two inches from her hairline in order to resemble the aged Queen Elizabeth. It's one of her most subtle and affecting performances.
Olivia de Havilland (the frequent love interest in Errol Flynn's swashbucklers), is relegated to supporting status here, but still manages to command attention with her finely-drawn performance as Lady Penelope Gray. There's also an early appearance from Broadway star Nanette Fabray---billed as Nanette Fabares--as a lovesick handmaiden.
THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ELIZABETH AND ESSEX features a sweeping and majestic score from Wolfgang Erich Korngold, with memorable motifs for the two main characters. The Technicolor photography is warm and lush, especially during the palace scenes; the lighting is superb.
In another twist, most of the sets and costumes later found their way into Errol Flynn's next big vehicle, The Sea Hawk (1940). Bette Davis would go on to reprise her role as Queen Elizabeth 1st in "The Virgin Queen" (1956).
The new DVD from Warner Brothers include several worthwhile bonuses. There's a new Making-Of featurette ("Battle Royale") which delves into the history of the production. The 'Warner Night at the Movies' feature gives you the option to screen the film with newsreel, Merry Melodies cartoon ("Old Glory"), and musical short ("The Royal Rodeo").
(Single-sided, dual-layer disc).
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex may have been the set from hell - Bette Davis despised Errol Flynn, who hated director Michael Curtiz while Olivia De Havilland was given a thankless supporting role as Jack Warner's way of keeping her in her place after the success of Gone With the Wind - but it turned out rather splendidly. Offering Hollywood rather than history, and with all the glories that only the studio system at its peak could offer, it's grand entertainment. Glorious Technicolor cinematography from Sol Polito, lavish production design from Anton Grot that would be reused in Flynn's version of The Sea Hawk and Erich Wolfgang Korngold's triumphant score are all just the icing on the cake.
With just a few bleak depictions of Essex's disastrous Irish campaign, there's not much in the way of swashbuckling: the emphasis here is on doomed romance between two people drawn to each other by the very things that keep them apart. Flynn's charismatic but egotistical and fatally overambitious Essex, whose popularity is never matched by the reality of his (under)achievements, is one of many thwarted suitors who attempted to wear the crown by wooing the woman while she was equally determined not to be ruled by weaker men. It's her power that appeals to him and his carefree short-sighted irresponsibility that attracts her, but though Davis' bitter Elizabeth may try to grab a few moments of happiness with him, she's all too aware that for her to surrender to a husband would be to abdicate all power and doom England to disastrous rule. The tragedy comes from the fact that he's all too aware of his own weaknesses, but too proud to conquer them or even to save himself when offered the chance - something of a change from the usual Errol Flynn hero. But then this is not exactly a typical Flynn film: for all his charm and bravado, Elizabeth is the real focus of the film. And while many of the Flynn film regulars are present and correct, most are playing very different roles. De Havilland is less-than-sympathetic for once as the lady-in-waiting taunting the queen over her lost youth, Alan Hale appears as Flynn's enemy rather than his sidekick for a change, while even Donald Crisp's usual onscreen integrity is discreetly tucked away lest it interfere with his own ambitions at court when the wind starts to change. Only Henry Daniell, in a virtual dress rehearsal for his role in The Sea Hawk, plays true to form as one of the plotters alongside Vincent Price's Walter Raleigh.
As history it's bunk, but as a doomed romance, complete with a memorably tragic final encounter, it's absolutely engrossing. Good extras on the DVD too, though it's a shame they could only find a black and white trailer for such a magnificent Technicolor film.
25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on July 8, 2006
This is so incredibly frustrating -- this film was one of the most beautiful and lavish Technicolor productions done (pre-Gone With The Wind) when it was released in November of 1939. And while the DVD attests to its glory, many, many shots are terribly out of register -- the Technicolor having a "3D without the glasses" look. What was Warner Brothers thinking to release it on DVD in this state?? Did they think that no one would notice? One shot will be perfectly gorgeous and the next shot is halloed. Better not to have released it than to have sent it out like this. To true movie lovers it's unwatchable.
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on December 17, 2005
This is a glorious film produced by Warner Brothers in 1938, filled with fantastic scenes, wardrobe, and a beautiful love story highly suggested as all. Bette Davis and Errol Flynn shine together in this film.
"A brilliant historical drama of the war between passion and power."
Bette Davis and Errol Flynn made The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex fascinatingly public, striking sparks in this lavish Techincolor tale of the ill-fated love between the aging Elizabeth I and the dashing Earl of Essex. Thoroughly unglamorous here - eyes and hairline shaved, pace fainted chalky white - double Academy Award winner* Davis exudes such intelligence, energy and ardor that her romance with the decades-younger Essex (Flynn at the peak of his remarkable good looks and athletic verve) is completely believable. Based on Maxwell Anderson's play Elizabeth the Queen and directed by Micharl Curtiz, this nominee for five Oscars takes liberties with historical accuracy, but none with dramatic impact. Long may these tempestuous, titled lovers reign!
This dvd also has some brilliant special features including:
:Leonard Maltin Hosts Warner Night at the movies 1939:
:Musical Short The Royal Rodeo:
:Cartoon Old Glory:
:New Featurette Elizabeth and Essex Royal Battle:
This is a great movie for all.
19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on March 8, 2005
IF you are an Errol Flynn fan, this is a not-to-miss flick. Everyone raves over Bette Davis' Queen Elizabeth--and don't get me wrong, I like Bette--but it is Flynn's Essex who carries this film for me. And he looks MAAHAVELLLOUS! Bette worked REALLY hard on her performance, and it REALLY shows. Flynn's performance is more natural, like a fresh breeze in the film, especially compared to Davis'. Call me crazy (because it IS hard to imagine), but I actually BELIEVE it when Essex/Errol says he loves Elizabeth--and, THAT is acting. Errol Flynn deserves some credit for more than just looking great in tights--call it charm or call it presence if you don't want to call it "acting" but Flynn rescues this film from being laughable. (Olivia deHavilland adds to, but is wasted in, this film. She was forced to work this role into her schedule WHILE she was playing Melanie in GONE WITH THE WIND--no wonder she sued Warner Bros.) Both Flynn and Davis are great fun to watch, but for me, this is Flynn's picture. Certainly no one thought so in 1939, but 65 years later, his performance seems natural and as authentic as possible with this script. I really can't think of any actor who could have done it better--certainly NOT Laurence Olivier, the world's greatest over-actor (in my opinion) whom Davis wanted in the role and would have made this film a joke instead of the great fun that it is. I give the film 5 stars for the joy of watching Errol Flynn in this movie. Let's face it, NOBODY does Flynn better than Flynn (not even Jude Law). He was unique and most definitely at the top of his game in 1939.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 3, 2007
As before, There is no one like Bette Davis, and this movie proves it. No other women in Hollywood at the time of the making of this picture would have gone out on the limb that Miss Davis did - That is why this picture is so good. Errol Flynn, always a feast to look at, is extremely up to the task of going toe to toe with Bette Davis as Queen Elizabeth I, Mr. Flynn, possibly was better than even he thought he could be - and this movie proves it -
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
"The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex" was the final of four great film released in 1939 for Bette Davis. From the modern dress tragedienne in "Dark Victory" to the pinched austere "Old Maid" and the hysterical Carlotta in "Juarez", Davis could do no wrong. The ultimate sign of prestige was to play royalty and so she took on Elizabeth the first.
The film was based on a verbose Maxwell Anderson play. It opens the play up with an unconvincing section on the warfields of Ireland but the bulk of the film is set in Elizabeth's court which Davis dominates impressively. Davis had hoped to have Laurence Olivier with her but Warner Brothers had Errol Flynn under contract and he was big box office and so got the role of the Earl of Essex. Against Davis's glamour skimping, overwrought queen, he looks great but sounds wrong. Essex may have been an opportunist which Flynn easily suggests but his delivery of the lines is often woeful and one can't help feeling that Davis tries to compensate for his inadequacies. Her Queen may seem mannered but she claws at the air with her left hand and brilliantly conveys the problems of being a monarch first and woman second. Surely her performance became the blueprint for others like Glenda Jackson who later played the role. Even if you do not like Davis, she does convey the authority of a monarch. Every other aspect of the film is on a grand scale - the technicolour photography, spectacular sets, a Korngold score which has an epic quality and, above all, the costumes. Davis held out for the correct costumes and they are magnificent. The supporting cast is excellent too, including the beautiful Olivia de Havilland, who plays with Davis very well. Donald Crisp, in particular, is very good.
The DVD print is excellent and there is a worthwhile short documentary on the film with Nannette Fabray appearing. She played a lady in waiting in the film and has a good scene with Davis which she recalls vividly. There is a cartoon and newsreel which are OK but the technicolour short film, which mixes English royalty in the vein of the film with singing cowboys and rodeos is pretty hard to stomach. A young and handsome John Payne stars.
The DVD is very good value if purchased as part of the Errol Flynn Signature Collection, an odd inclusion really because Davis's art exposes Flynn's immaturity.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on January 10, 2007
The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex
Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, Vincent Price, and Olivia De Havillan these names alone make you simply wish to see this movie. It is a powerful movie showing a deep chemistry between Davis and Flynn. IT shows the love between Elizabeth and Essex. It shows the struggle between politics and human nature. It asks the question should a Queen share her throne with a man who may or may not be in it for power. Is love really the cure all. It is a movie that pulls you in, with such great actors that u must watch
This movie was made in 1939 it does undoubtedly show its age. It has some light flicker on the picture. It is of course full screen since at that time that was the shape of the theaters screens. It is very watchable it has the standard color and look of the 1930's films. It has a very Wizard of Oz look and feel to it as do most of the 1930's films.
No 5.1 here just 2.1 but you don't notice it anyhow it's not a movie made to make the walls shake.
Warner at the Movies
First you get Leonard Maltin so how they think we need to know what he thinks but at least you can skip this though it does explain the other extras
Dark Victory Trailer
Movie Tones News Reel
There because it was there in the original theater release.
The Royal Rodeo
A nice short movie shot on the old set of robin hood a musical western with the voice of Jiminy Cricket (Cliff Edwards) and John Payne (Miracle on 34th street fame).
Porky pig propaganda short about the flag and American history directed by Tex Avery.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on July 13, 2005
Flynn scores with a relaxed, cheeky performance that nicely counterpoints Davis's nervous, hand-wringing histrionics. According to the underfed documentary included on this DVD, the two stars couldn't stand being in the same room with each other. However, the tension serves their characterisations superbly. The moment when Essex slams Elizabeth's backside in pure good fellowship after one of their many heated arguments is priceless. The two performances are the main reason why this film is worth seeing. Davis convincingly conveys the conflict between Elizabeth's emotional needs and her public duty, while Flynn's portrait of a cavalier, shallow, ambitious soldier who, nevertheless, has genuine feeling for this difficult and complex woman is not without subtlety (although one feels it's hardly a stretch, either). The other performance of note is Donald Crisp's ambivelent Francis Bacon: at once Essex's friend, but one who is astute enough to bend with the political wind to save his own neck. The atmosphere within the castle walls is well-developed by Michael Curtiz, who puts his trademark use of shadows to good effect; but the script obviously frustrates him. The film cries out for some epic sword-play. The best we get is swords occasionally drawn in anger, and a few minutes of action on Essex's ill-fated Irish venture. Essentially, this is a drawing-room drama flawed by unconvincing character motivations, notably Essex's "I love you, but as I live and breathe I'll always try to steal your crown. I don't know why. It's just the way I am, so you'd better execute me." [I paraphrase] Flynn and Davis make it palatable, though.
The DVD follows the pattern of recent Warner releases. Leonard Maltin presents the DVD extras from 1939: a moderately amusing musical short, THE ROYAL RODEO, with John Payne as a singing cowboy foiling a coup in a small European Kingdom (a metaphoric precursor of things to come, I suppose); a beautifully animated patriotic cartoon, OLD GLORY, which has Uncle Sam explaining to Porky Pig what the Pledge of Allegiance means; a Newsreel and a trailer for Dark Victory. The DVD transfer of an excellent Technicolor print seems fine to me, but I note the concerns of other reviewers.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
This historical epic is definitely Hollywood-ized, but Hollywood-ized in the best sense: there are lavish sets, rich technicolor costumes, big dramatic situations, and biting dialogue. And it's definitely intelligent Hollywood-ization, too, as I'm betting there's enough truth here about the real-life situation between Elizabeth I and Lord Essex to give one at least a rudimentary grounding in that situation. And a painless grounding it is: just sit back and enjoy the verbal jousting and inflamed passions between Bette Davis and Errol Flynn. History was never so entertaining.
An overall wonderful print (only occasionally marred by a blurry, misaligned technicolor shot) is accompanied by some interesting special features. The oddest one is a short subject about a little kid who runs a kingdom about to be overthrown, until a Wild West show comes to town to save the day. There's also a rare serious-in-tone Warner Brothers cartoon from 1938 or so, depicting Porky Pig learning to appreciate our nation's history and what the words behind the "Pledge of Allegiance" mean. Interestingly, the words "under God" don't appear in Porky's (or Warner Brothers') version of the circa-1938 pledge. So, the belief in a separation between church and state DIDN'T start with modern-day "lefties"? Funny what you can learn from an old cartoon... talk about "out of the mouths of babes".