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
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.
Mr. Laughton is magnificent (and seems to know it), The
Private Life of Henry VIII is not a one-man show.
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.
classic scene where he gorges on chicken and slurps
porter while chucking the bones over his shoulder is an
in Britain, the film enjoyed an enormous international
success, which made audiences eager for other English
imports during the pre-World War II years.