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Mar 13, 2011

Historical Movies featuring Plantagenets and Tudors, Oh my!

Praise the Lord for Netflix. There are days when I just don't feel like opening a book. Let's watch some good old historic movie to ease me into my dreams.. such as The Lion In Winter or Wallis & Edward.

Movies that I have never been able to watch before are now delivered to my mailbox courtesy of my very tolerant husband's Netflix account.

I wanted to share some of the winners (& losers) that I've come across these past weeks. If you don't have a Netflix account, let me tell you that I am impressed with the quick turn around of the DVD's incoming and outgoing. There is an option to view them instantly on your computer or iPhone, or you can go the DVD route, which is what I prefer.

My favorites that I've watched so far are The Lion In Winter and The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex: each old classic movies that I am sad I've waited this long to see.
Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine with her son Richard (Anthony Hopkins!)
Even though The Lion In Winter is another movie that is historically inaccurate, I loved the way Henry II & Eleanor of Aquitaine bantered back and forth. Katharine Hepburn and Peter O'Toole were perfect frenemies together, and debuts by Anthony Hopkins and Timothy Dalton were superb as well. (Hopkins looked like he could squish Dalton with his thumb!)

(Email subscribers need to click through for this fabulous video).

Even though the movie spans a simple (fictitious) Christmas season, the references within the dialogue to all of the major events (fights, betrayals etc) in their lives were a treat for this Eleanor fan. The quips coming out of Hepburn's mouth as Eleanor were fast, furious and hilarious! Alys (the same Alais from The Queen's Pawn by Christy English) was also very well portrayed by Jane Merrow, and she was a vixen you would love to hate. I could go on and on about the rest of the cast, and the sinister plot line to kill one's sons and fathers.. but you'll just have to watch it yourself!

Bette Davis as Elizabeth in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939) was very well done and so far the most passionate Elizabeth I portrayal I've seen, even though Helen Mirren and Cate Blanchette are well known for their more recent roles. The romance lovey-dove must-have-you-desperation theme was incredibly overplayed but Bette Davis and Errol Flynn were indeed glorious in their roles. There is a fantastic mirror smashing scene that stands out in my mind.

The Madness of King George (1994) was pretty sad for its subject matter as it seems King George's son was just waiting for his old dad to kick the bucket, and although the acting seemed well enough there wasn't a fabulous impression made on me after it was over. Definitely an interesting portrayal by Helen Mirren as  Queen Charlotte. Of course this time period is much later on after the Tudor era and I still prefer earlier history thus far.

 Lady Jane (1986, Carey Elwes, Helena Bonham Carter) was beautifully done although completely inaccurate, pretending there was a real romance between the two forced into marriage. This will probably be the favorite role that I have seen Helena Bonham Carter in. Patrick Stewart as Henry Grey Duke of Suffolk was a bit much for my senses, but his wife Frances Brandon was quite a witch! I have always had trouble picturing King Edward VI as a king.. but the portrayal here was perfect for easing the ambiguity in my mind.

Richard III (1995) was horrific and I could not finish it. I had hoped for so much more. The Shakespearean dialogue talking to the camera thing was just completely annoying, and, yes, I even took Shakespeare in college as I had enjoyed him so much when a student. To top it off, this Richard III film was set in 1930's. Ick.

Wallis & Edward (2005) was impressive and intrigued me about that time in England's monarchy, where a king chose his lover over the throne. Joely Richardson as Wallis Simpson was fantastic, and I noticed the splendid scenery in this one, perhaps it was just my love for all things vintage.

A Man for All Seasons (1966) was another great classic movie, and perfect for Thomas More fans, as it was focused on his plight rather than Henry VIII. And an ideal role for Paul Scofield as he was a magnificent Thomas More. It was a pity that the movie only focused on Thomas's disagreement over 'the great matter' with Henry VIII, as he was much more of a scholar than to be reduced to that one event. I also felt Robert Shaw was a remarkable Henry VIII and I would have loved to see more of him.

Some of the movies I have seen before the Netflix proved its worth are Anne of A Thousand Days and Mary Queen of Scots which my father had bought for me in a DVD set. Both are wonderful movies that I am glad to have in my collection. I have also seen Duchess, though Knightly irritates me for some unknown reason, so it hasn't really made an impression on me either way yet. The story was a new one for me and I probably didn't understand much of it.. something of a triangle thing. I have seen Elizabeth I and The Golden Age flicks along with The Queen with Helen Mirren but still prefer Bette Davis's portrayal. Of course I have seen 2008's The Other Boleyn Girl and after I got over that horrific rape scene it was a decent movie although we can all talk circles around it regarding inaccuracies etc. I didn't really like Scarlett Johansson in that one though. I still have to watch the 2003 version.

So far it seems the old adage oldie but goodie holds true! What British-themed historical movies have you seen that you would recommend to me? I still have some more to go on the Netflix account but I think I've seen the ones that I really wanted to thus far. What's next scattered around the 65+ queue on my Netflix are The Libertine (long wait, sigh), Young Victoria, and Elizabeth and Mrs. Brown. I also went ahead and put the BBC series of Robin Hood on there which I have only heard fantastic things about. Perhaps I can get the husband interested in that one.