The Private Life of Henry VIII

In 1932 a Hungarian film maker, Alexander Korda, came to Britain after a somewhat mixed career in Vienna, Berlin and, for the previous four years, Hollywood. Up until this point, the British movie industry didn’t make much of a splash beyond these shores. Indeed, so weak was that It was a safeguarded industry: a quota was introduced, meaning that one in five movies shown had to be British. The result was the ‘quota quickie’, the cheaply made B movie that became the staple of the British film industry. Others, like the two biggest native stars George Formby and Gracie Fields, lacked international appeal.

Korda changed that. In 1933, The Private Life of Henry VIII was released and became an international smash hit: it made a stars of Charles Laughton as Henry (and won him an Oscar) and Merle Oberon (Anne Boleyn). In many ways it set more than one trend. There had been British stars before, like Charlie Chaplin, but here a British film made trans-Atlantic stars. It also whetted the American appetite for British historical blockbusters

This scene sees Laughton demolishing a chicken, or capon. He has been told that he should re-marry. This scene sees the actress Binnie Barnes (as Katherine Howard) sing for him….

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