Friday, November 24, 2017

Anne of the Thousand Days

I recently watched Anne of the Thousand Days off my DVR, since it's available on DVD (in a two-disc set along with the 1971 version of Mary, Queen of Scots).

The story is one that's well-known, since this is a historical drama. The Anne of the title is of course Anne Boleyn. Anne (played by Geneviève Bujold) was educated in France and returned to England where she was noticed by the King, Henry VIII (Richard Burton). The Boleyns were already known to Henry, since he'd been banging Anne's elder sister Mary thanks to their father basically pimping the kids out to the King for financial gain. (At least, that's the way it's presented in the movie.) Of course, at the time, Henry was married to Catherine of Aragon (Irene Papas).

The marrige between Henry and Catherine had problems, however. Henry desperately needed a male heir to the throne, and all Catherine had been able to do is bear Henry one living child (she had two stillborn births, a couple of miscarriages, and one son who lived seven weeks), Mary ("Bloody Mary", not Mary, Queen of Scots). Henry feared he'd never have a male heir by Catherine. He wanted Anne, but trying to marry her would present all sorts of problems: Catholic law wouldn't permit it, and Henry had been declared "Defender of the Faith". Further, the Spanish Emperor was Catherine's nephew and he sacked Rome, so there was no way that Henry VIII would get the Pope to annul the marriage to Catherine.

Henry tried to get an ecclesiastical court led by top advisor Cardinal Wolsey (Anthony Quayle) to annul the marriage, but when that didn't work Henry sacked Wolsey (who was terminally ill) and found a Cardinal who would be more pliant to Henry's claim that Catherine's first marriage (to Henry's brother) was in fact valid so her marriage to Henry wasn't. This ultimately freed Henry to marry Anne, and split the English Church from the Catholic Church.

Anne got pregnant... but she bore Henry another daughter, named Elizabeth. And then she got pregnant again... but gave birth to a stillborn child. Henry began plotting with his new top advisor, Thomas Cromwell (John Colicos) on how to get rid of Anne so that he could marry his new squeeze Jane Seymour who obviously would deliver him a son. (She did, although as King Edward VI he didn't outlive Henry by too long.) Eventually Henry accused Anne of adultery, which meant treason, a crime punishable by death.

Anne of the Thousand Days is one of those post-studio system costume dramas that's lovely to look at. No longer tied to the backlots, the studios were able to film in British locations that lend an air of verisimilitude. Burton and especially Bujold are good in their roles; Thomas Cromwell is excellently portrayed as a manipulative schemer, while Wolsey is well-played as someone trying to please two masters while enriching himself on this world. The movie has a longish running time at 145 minutes, but it didn't feel that long as I was watching it.

Obviously, a lot of the material in this movie is related to material in A Man For All Seasons. Personally, I think I preferred A Man For All Seasons which to me looks even more beautiful. But Annd of the Thousand Days is more than worth a watch.

No comments: