FILMS… Subjecting You to My Favourite Regal Reel Biopics on Henry VIII

#1960s #1970s #2000s


Addressing celebrated costume dramas and a costume comedy…


The Tudor King Henry VIII and his six wives in films that reigned at the box office.



Back in the days before Dallas (1978-91), I was superinto (is that a word?) Tudor history.  I was often glued to the box (not literally) watching those biopic films about the second Tudor king, King Henry VIII and his six wives. This was in part due to a wonderful school teacher at this time who was more than passionate about this subject.

I found – and still do – Tudor times a captivating time in history. So since then, I’ve watched a shed load of period films, read a library full (slight exaggeration) of books and watched all the TV shows. My childhood obsession, however, lasted until that fateful visit to my grandmother’s and I discovered the Big D, leading to a lifelong obsession with that Prime Time Soap.

These are just a few of those films…


Henry VIII and His Six Wives (1972)

Nirvana – All Apologies, St. Germain

This was both a TV Series – The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1970)  – and a film of more or less the same name, Henry VIII and His Six Wives (1972). I watched the former on repeat. The film story is told in flashback by this King on his deathbed. With Keith Michell as the King with six wives in both adaptations. Keith Michell was probably one of the best cast of the many Henry VIIIs in movies.

This with his much more accurate physical depiction of Henry VIII through the years. Michell plays him as a fit young man to the much older and obese king. This compared to those talented but far too photogenic actors who played him. These actors were Eric Bana (see below) and Jonathan Rhys Meyers (in The Tudors (2007-10)) who also played him. I ADORED this film version of events, but it also irritated me.

I loved it as it introduced me to the talented actress Lynne Frederick. Frederick gave (so far) the best ever portrayal of this Queen. Frederick played wife no 5, Catherine Howard. Frederick captured this Queen’s youth, innocence and vulnerability perfectly. Her acting was fantastic for the then 17-year-old actress, particularly in those scenes leading up to Howard’s execution.

The TV series cast the older Angela Pleasence as this historical character. Angela had been written as a different interpretation of this Queen (by a different author), but many believe Lynne Frederick’s portrayal the most accurate one to date. But I felt far too much of the film concentrated on Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon and the events leading to their divorce. Other wives in the film were played by Charlotte Rampling as Anne Boleyn and Jane Asher as Jane Seymour.


The Other Boleyn Girl (2008)

The Other Boleyn Girl Official Trailer #1 – Eddie Redmayne Movie (2008) HD, Movieclips Classic Trailers

There are two versions of this particular book adaptation based on the book by Philippa Gregory. I’ve sadly not seen Jared Harris in the lead role as Henry VIII in the TV film version from 2003, but I have seen the Eric Bana film from 2008.

The latter one has Brownie points for having Natalie Portman as a convincing looking Anne Boleyn with Jodhi May playing her in the TV version of events. As Mary Boleyn, it’s Scarlett Johansson in 2008 vs Natascha McElhone in 2003. I found the 2008  film, a wee bit too photogenic for my liking and some of it’s historically inaccurate.

Mark Ryland starred in this 2008 film and I believe he’s well cast as he’s got the right face for a Tudor film (Realweegiemidget logic). The producers of Wolf Hall (2014) possibly believe this too after casting him as Thomas Cromwell to Damian Lewis as Henry VIII and Claire Foy’s Anne Boleyn.

He’s more believable in casting than the other Boleyn girl, Mary Boleyn played by Scarlett Johansson. With both the Boleyn girls having quite different relationships with Henry VIII (Eric Bana), Anne his Queen and Mary (his mistress) with a wee bit more of this gripe HERE.


Carry on Henry (1971)

Carry On Henry – UK Trailer, streaming hd

Adding a wee sneaky comedy in here as it goes with this Tudor themed parody. These film events are reportedly found after a paper found written by “Cobbler”s. This film was one played for laughs and a film that I watched with my dad, who was a huge Carry on fan. Carry on Henry has an alternative film history with Henry having two new wives.

It’s kinda loosely based on reality. Joan Sims is a French princess (who adores eating garlic) that Henry VIII (Sid James) tires of and then wants to divorce. This is to replace her with her buxom lady in waiting, Bettina (Barbara Windsor). Bizarrely, Sid James wasn’t the first choice for the role of Henry VIII, with Harry Secombe originally chosen for this part. However, as a Carry on fan it is hard to think of Sid James as anyone but Henry VIII.

Although quite a lot of the plot is fictional, the film also casts the Carry on regulars as other real-life historical characters from this time. With Thomas Cromwell as played by Kenneth Williams and Cardinal Wolsey depicted by Terry Scott. If one of Sid James’ costumes looks vaguely familiar it’s because Richard Burton used them in the below movie.


Anne of the Thousand Days (1969)

Anne of the Thousand Days – Trailer, Anne of the Thousand Days Trailer

I reviewed this one earlier (HERE), and to me, Richard Burton is one of those rare perfect castings as Henry VIII. Burton perfectly conveys the love, torment and anger that Henry VIII must have felt at varying times during his marriage to Anne Boleyn (wife no 2).

Burton is at his best showing his anguish as Henry as he signed her death warrant leading to her execution. Then rememberS their time together in a flashback. Anne Boleyn was played by Genevieve Bujold, who gives a credible moving performance.

This was Bujold’s first English language movie and she is the only actress nominated for an Oscar for this role. Burton was also nominated for this film. Both lost out at the Oscars in 1970, but Bujold won a Golden Globe the same year. The film also boasts Burton’s then wife, actress Elizabeth Taylor in a wee cameo. I gittered more about this film HERE.

I’ll end with a few more honourable mentions of this topic. Mary Queen of Scots (1971) has the dream casting of Glenda Jackson as Elizabeth I. However, when I was wee, this film was the stuff of nightmares. But only when Mary Queen of Scotland’s husband Darnley dies in suspicious circumstances. Darnley was played by Timothy Dalton and not as I thought Michael York (for way too long).

Lady Jane (1986), another Royal epic biopic on Lady Jane Grey with an all-star cast headed by Helena Bonham Carter. With the compulsory casting of Michael Hordern (who always makes an appearance in these historical films) and one which made me sob as Lady Jane Grey, the Queen of nine days was beheaded. Even though I knew about this fact from reading a Blue Peter annual.

Other historical adaptations I adored include Nicholas and Alexandra (1971) and Doctor Zhivago (1965), with these epic films both set in the time of the Russian revolution. But as that period of history is Darlin Husband’s forte, these reviews are for another time. So for now, I’ll leave you with these films which really are the jewels in the Tudor Crown.


The Costume Drama Blogathon 2019, No 88

This post was added to Moon in Gemini’s The Costume Drama Blogathon. Other films with these casts include Keith Michell in Murder She Wrote. Lynne Frederick stars in Voyage of the Damned and in Lynne: The English Rose. Jane Asher in Death at a Funeral.  Eric Bana in The Time Travellers Wife and in Special Correspondents. Scarlett Johansson in Match Point and Hitchcock. Natalie Portman in Black Swan, Leon and more. Carry on films are reviewed HERE and Barbara Windsor is remembered HERE. Richard Burton in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Fall Guy, The Medusa Touch, Where Eagles Dare and The Wild Geese. Genevieve Bujold also starred in Earthquake. 




6 thoughts on “FILMS… Subjecting You to My Favourite Regal Reel Biopics on Henry VIII

  1. “Superinto” sounds like a perfect word to me (not that I ever obsess over any of MY shows).

    I’ve never seen the Carry On movie. I know I would get a kick out of it. It is very interesting that the Burton costume was recycled.

    The hubby is more of a Tudor freak than I, but once you get dragged into that world it is very difficult to escape if you want to.

    – Caftan Woman

    Liked by 1 person

    • They are rather addictive viewing – though admittedly not seen The Tudors (yet) – it’s good to see just how accurate they are and how the different takes on this period. I’m sure your husband would adore the Carry on version even if it is Cobblers!


  2. I love the TV series with Michell as Henry VIII, but I have never seen the movie version! As a Tudor fanatic, I have to find it!

    I noticed the 2003 movie version of The Other Boleyn Girl is available on Amazon Prime. I might have to check it out now.

    Thanks so much for bringing lots of Henry to the blogathon!

    Liked by 1 person

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