The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex

The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex

Director: Michael Curtiz Cast: Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland


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It is no secret that Bette Davis and Errol Flynn were at each other's throats throughout the filming of The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex. Boiled down to essentials: Davis felt that Flynn was unprofessional, while Flynn thought that Davis took herself too damned seriously. Besides, Davis had wanted Laurence Olivier to play the Earl of Essex opposite her Queen Elizabeth I. She was forced to compromise on this point, but refused to allow Flynn proxy top billing via his suggestion that the film be retitled The Knight and the Lady. The finished product, a lavish Technicolor costumer allowing full scope to Davis' histrionics and Flynn's derring-do, betrays little of the backstage hostilities (though Flynn does seem uncomfortably hammy in his scenes with Davis). Adapted by Norman Reilly Raine and Aeneas McKenzie from Maxwell Anderson's blank-verse play Elizabeth the Queen (which served as the film's reissue title), the story concerns the tempestuous relationship between the middle-aged Elizabeth and the ambitious Essex. At one point, the Queen intends to marry Essex and relinquish her throne, until she realizes that his plans for advancement would ultimately prove disastrous for England. When afforded the opportunity to execute Essex for treason, she reluctantly signs his death warrant. Minutes before his final walk to the chopping block, Elizabeth begs Essex to ask for a pardon. But Essex, fully aware that his warlike policies will only resurface if he is permitted to live, refuses to accept the Queen's mercy, and goes off to meet his doom. Olivia de Havilland is wasted in the role of a lady-in-waiting who carries a torch for Essex. If the scenes of Essex' triumphant return to London after winning the battle of Cadiz seem familiar, it is because they were reused as stock footage in Warner Bros.' The Adventures of Don Juan (1949) and The Story of Mankind (1957).

Product Details

Release Date: 11/28/2017
UPC: 0888574564834
Original Release: 1939
Source: Warner Archives
Time: 1:46:00
Sales rank: 10,990

Special Features

Leonard Maltin hosts Warner Night at the Movies 1939 with newsreel; Musical short: The Royal Rodeo; Cartoon: Old Glory; Theatrical trailers; Featurette - Elizabeth and Essex: Battle Royale

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Bette Davis Elizabeth I
Errol Flynn Robert Devereaux, Earl of Essex
Olivia de Havilland Penelope Gray
Vincent Price Sir Walter Raleigh
Donald Crisp Francis Bacon
Alan Hale Earl of Tyrone
Henry Stephenson Lord Burghley
Henry Daniell Sir Robert Cecil
James Stephenson Sir Thomas Egerton
Ralph Forbes Lord Knollys
Robert Warwick Lord Mountjoy
Leo G. Carroll Sir Edward Coke
Guy Bellis Lord Charles Howard
Forrester Harvey Actor
I. Stanford Jolley Actor
Doris Lloyd Actor
John Sutton Actor
Rosella Towne Actor
Maris Wrixon Actor
Nanette Fabray Mistress Margaret Radcliffe
Judith Anderson Actor

Technical Credits
Michael Curtiz Director
Leo F. Forbstein Musical Direction/Supervision
Hugo W. Friedhofer Musical Direction/Supervision
W. Howard Greene Cinematographer
Anton Grot Art Director
Byron Haskin Special Effects
Ali Hubert Consultant/advisor
H.F. Koenekamp Special Effects
Erich Wolfgang Korngold Score Composer
Robert Lord Associate Producer
Aeneas MacKenzie Screenwriter
Owen Marks Editor
Orry-Kelly Costumes/Costume Designer
Sol Polito Cinematographer
Norman Reilly Raine Screenwriter
Milan Roder Musical Direction/Supervision
Hal B. Wallis Producer
Perc Westmore Makeup

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex
1. Credits. [1:27]
2. Essex Comes Home. [2:38]
3. Turning Their Backs. [7:12]
4. Let Her Seek Pardon. [3:15]
5. The Loves Of Queens. [2:33]
6. Unflattering Mirrors. [6:17]
7. Lovelorn Maid And Monarch. [4:09]
8. Weight Of The World. [5:57]
9. Handling Women. [1:47]
10. Penelope's Warning. [3:37]
11. Ever Together And Apart. [5:07]
12. Lover's Promise. [5:05]
13. To Ireland And The Devil. [3:46]
14. Take This Ring. [2:58]
15. Word From London. [4:14]
16. Man Of Sense. [2:01]
17. Lies And Quicksand. [4:20]
18. No Choice. [4:56]
19. Essex In Rebellion. [4:45]
20. Treachery Uncovered. [3:22]
21. Shared Love And Power. [:19]
22. Under Arrest. [6:12]
23. No One Dies Happily. [3:22]
24. Look On My Face. [4:09]
25. Hour For Truth. [2:59]
26. Goodbye, My Love. [5:15]
27. Cast List. [3:40]

Customer Reviews

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The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Those four stars are all for Miss Bette Davis. She was the one who kept me watching when I would have otherwise given up. She is simply brilliant as Queen Elizabeth. It's a decent film, but without Davis it's not terribly interesting--Queen Bette's superb performance makes it worth viewing!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago