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The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex

The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex

Michael Curtiz (1939)

U Certificate


Our Score
In this ridiculous piece of pomp and circumstantial evidence, Bette Davis plays Elizabeth I, who's infatuated with the Earl of Essex, played by Errol Flynn. Unfortunately, without a buckle to swash, Flynn seems stranded in the reams of ripe Hollywood dialogue. Yet the bright 1930s Technicolor, stirring Erich Wolfgang Korngold music and lavish sets (seemingly modelled more on Beverly Hills than Hampton Court) almost compensate for the film's travesty of history. Davis herself hated doing the picture and didn't enjoy being cast against Flynn - she wanted Laurence Olivier as Essex - though studio head Jack Warner knew that Davis and Flynn were a marriage made in box-office heaven.


A middle-aged Queen Elizabeth I is tempted to marry her long-term favourite, the Earl of Essex. However, during the course of their tempestuous relationship, the queen comes to realise his warlike nature and lust for royal power are a threat to the safety of the nation, driving her to drastic measures. Historical drama, with Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland and Vincent Price.

Cast & Crew

Queen Elizabeth I Bette Davis
Robert Devereaux, Earl of Essex Errol Flynn
Lady Penelope Gray Olivia de Havilland
Francis Bacon Donald Crisp
Earl of Tyrone Alan Hale
Sir Walter Raleigh Vincent Price
Lord Burghley Henry Stephenson
Sir Robert Cecil Henry Daniell
Sir Thomas Egerton James Stephenson
Margaret Radcliffe Nanette Fabray
Lord Knollys Ralph Forbes
Lord Charles Howard Guy Bellis
Lord Mountjoy Robert Warwick
Sir Edward Coke Leo G Carroll
Director Michael Curtiz
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Other Information

Language: English Colour Available on: Available on video


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