food in the arts





Alexander Korda /UK /1933 /97mins

Charles Laughton as Henry VIII Henry VIII Film Tittle

If scarcity marked the portrayal of food in the 1920s, then plenty was the keynote of the following decade. This shrewdly populist invocation of Merrie England is also a witty historical pageant, told in the format of a bedroom farce, one that has been often imitated since its release. 

Charles Laughton gives one of the screen's classic performances as petulant, vain, child-like, pathetic Henry. The opening sequence, in which Henry's upcoming wife, Jane Seymour, selects her bridal gown as the chopping block is prepared for his departing spouse, Anne Boleyn, is both dramatic and perversely comedic.

Although Mr. Laughton is magnificent (and seems to know it), The Private Life of Henry VIII is not a one-man show.

Binnie Barnes brings bracing wit and sensuality to the role of the glory-seeking Catherine Howard, who breaks Henry's heart while sealing her own inevitable fate, and Robert Donat is superb as the devoted Thomas Culpepper, an unfortunate victim in Catherine's web.

The classic scene where he gorges on chicken and slurps porter while chucking the bones over his shoulder is an unforgettable highlight.

Made in Britain, the film enjoyed an enormous international success, which made audiences eager for other English imports during the pre-World War II years.

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The Private Life Of Henry VIII [1933] vhs (ships UK)