The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939) Review

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The “Queen of Hollywood” Bette Davis.

The dashing Errol Flynn.

The beautiful Olivia de Havilland.

Vincent Price has a large supporting role in his second film. The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex has the look of a Hollywood masterpiece.  Michael Curtiz directed this 1939 film for Warner Brothers Pictures. It received 5 Academy Award nominations. This is a historical film and fits in the romantic drama genre. This film revolves around the relationship between Queen Elizabeth I (Davis), and Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex (Flynn). Based on a play by Maxwell Anderson, Elizabeth the Queen, and feels as if one is watching a play.

That is not a compliment. The scenes are heavy in dialogue. Flynn refers to people as “nincompoops” and “numbskulls”. Davis throws out at “slimy toad” as an insult. It’s easy to catch these gems as there isn’t much action going on. The most action was Davis throwing a fit over a song by de Havilland. She broke mirrors with a few silver wine cups.

I wanted to watch this film. I wanted to like this film. To be honest, I couldn’t do it on either level. If you looked “sleeper” up in the dictionary, it should show the poster for this film. I couldn’t watch this in full, I made it about an hour through. It just goes on and on. I fast forwarded to the end to see if there was anything I might miss. There wasn’t.  There was no action of any kind. Flynn tried to add a touch of boisterousness to his delivery, to no avail.

I love old films. This isn’t a “rant” or review about old films. Nor is it a comparison of films of yesteryear to those of today. This is a review of a single film, which I found to be quite terrible.

Copyright © Drew Martin 2015

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