The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex Videos & Photos

Movie Info

This film concerns the tempestuous relationship between the middle-aged Queen Elizabeth I and the ambitious Earl of Essex. At one point, the Queen intends to marry Essex and relinquish her throne, until she realizes that his plans for advancement would ultimately prove disastrous for England.

Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama, Romance, Classics
Directed By:
Written By: Aeneas MacKenzie, Norman Reilly Raine
In Theaters:
On DVD: Apr 19, 2005
Warner Home Video


as Queen Elizabeth

as Robert Devereaux

as Lady Penelope Gray

as Francis Bacon

as Earl of Tyrone

as Sir Walter Raleigh

as Mistress Margaret Ra...

as Sir Edward Coke

as Lord Burghley

as Sir Robert Cecil

as Sir Thomas Egerton

as Mistress Margaret Ra...

as Lord Knollys

as Lord Charles Howard

as Lord Mountjoy

as Handmaiden

as Lady of the Court

as Lady of the Court

as Capt. Armand of the ...

as Spectator Outside Wh...
Show More Cast

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Critic Reviews for The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex

All Critics (12) | Top Critics (4)

Full Review… | October 9, 2008
Top Critic

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Full Review… | March 25, 2006
New York Times
Top Critic

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

It's a war of minds and wills, but where it stands is at a point where Michael Curtiz still could direct ably, but the material wouldn't give way toward something better.

Full Review… | April 27, 2005
Film Threat

Davis seizes every possible opportunity to make herself into a mad spectacle.

Full Review… | April 23, 2005
Slant Magazine

Audience Reviews for The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex


Hadn't seen this until now and I was really surprised and pleased at the outcome. Being a story based around romance with much slow burning dialog I was fearful that I would be bored but this is very much in the same vein as 'Robin Hood' with its Technicolour vibrancy, lavish costumes and sets. When I say lavish I mean stunningly beautiful and bold right down to the last detail!, its exquisite in some scenes, every set is awesome and looks pretty faithful to what it may have looked like, albeit a bit fantasised. The costumes are also tremendous, every man and woman is dressed in amazing period attire that makes you wanna try them on yourself, dem threads!.
Much of the drama unfolds on obvious sets, beautiful as they are they still look like sets. Same with some location work...its all obviously Warner back lots with the odd walkabout in California state somewhere, but you can forgive.

As for acting its the usual stuff from Errol, kinda wooden and kinda basic but always looks good while doing it, though here he is clearly outdone by Davis as Elizabeth. Powerful, forceful and most of all believable as the tough female Queen, Davis was deep in her character shaving her hairline and eyebrows for that true Elizabethan look.
Flynn and Davis did not get on well as I have read and the scene were Davis slaps Flynn across the face in the courtroom was actually a genuine slap and Flynn's reaction is quite real. He was pissed big time! classic silver screen moment. Davis storms away with this film though, Flynn is a mere speck to her thundering performance.
Along the way we have Alan Hale again, this time against Flynn in Ireland. Check the beautiful swamp sets for the battles in Ireland, and of course the lovely Olivia De Havilland as the lady in waiting Penelope Gray. Lastly enter the great Vincent Price as Sir Walter Raleigh, looking the part in his beautiful outfits and adding a unique feel to the part with his classic vocal tones.

Its all Curtiz genius again as he produces yet another stunning epic technicolour masterpiece. Nowhere near as much action and excitement as 'Robin Hood' but it actually looks MORE lavish than Hood if that's even possible. Plenty of verbal but its not boring in any way, the smooth bright dream like colours and grand visuals keep you watching. But like all Flynn films its not historically accurate so there is a little fun to be had, Hollywood always uses a bit of artistic licence, yet its clearly one of his more sensible films with little to no swashbuckling or shooting.

Phil Hubbs

Super Reviewer

A film that basically relies on exchanges of fine dialogue. The war scenes are now naturally dated and the final act is very weak, with the main characters saying one thing only to contradict themselves and keep the plot moving. Even so, it is Davis who raises this film from ordinary to enjoyable.

Carlos Magalh„es

Super Reviewer

Another average historical drama with an all star cast. Worth watching, but not always very interesting.

Aj V

Super Reviewer

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