The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex Reviews

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Super Reviewer
July 22, 2016
A film that basically relies on exchanges of fine dialogue. The war scenes are now dated and the final act is very weak, with the characters saying one thing only to contradict themselves and keep the plot moving, but Davis raises the movie from ordinary to enjoyable.
January 24, 2015
Better than I thought it would. My assumption was no action. Errol Flynn and no Swashbuckling? The story makes up for the lack there of...
½ August 10, 2014
A very good drama movie from 1939.
Super Reviewer
½ April 26, 2014
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.
½ October 5, 2013
gr8 cast in this above average historical/costume pic
January 3, 2013
Davis was 31 when she played the Virgin Queen at the tail end of her regime, Elizabeth herself was 65 in 1601 when the action of this story takes place. It concerns her involvement with Robert Devereaux, Earl of Essex, a last foolish gesture on the part of a great monarch.

Davis hated working with Errol Flynn since doing The Sisters with him a year earlier. She was quoted as saying that when she had to kiss him she'd close her eyes and pretend it was Laurence Olivier. But I think Olivier might have had trouble making Essex a hero.

In point of fact he wasn't any kind of a hero. He was a vainglorious, conceited, egotistical cad of a human being who apparently only had talent in the bedroom. Now the bedroom part would have fit Flynn perfectly. But he became a military commander and leader and he bungled every job he was given.
½ April 30, 2012
A very good historical period piece. Excellent performances by every star in the film. A lot of future stars are featured, and give impressive performances; as well. The costumes and epic battle scenes are quite impressive, and the musical score is truly inspired. Bette Davis is made up to resemble Elizabeth I with almost frightening accuracy. The plot is very well-written, even though it isn't quite historically accurate. All in all, it's one of the most impressive films of its genre.
January 12, 2012
Bette Davis gives a wonderful performance as the virgin queen but Mr Flynn disappoints as the love interest. The Queen had many suitors for her heart but for her the only way is Essex......
September 17, 2011
The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex is unbelievably historically inaccurate. Even viewers not fans of the period will undoubtedly gawk at some of the more blatent inventions in the story. Elizabeth's character is a bit irritating, portrayed in most cases as a rather foolish woman. The films strengths are mesmerizing costume and set design, filled by many talented actors. Errol Flynn is particularly entertaining in his role as Essex. A great look back at the film industry of the 1930s; while not an accurate look back at Elizabethan England.
June 10, 2011
If You loved Cate Blanchett as Elizabeth, you must compare to the Original with Betty Davis who many believe the Best Actor of All Times.This is so well Done.
March 31, 2011
A good historical romantic drama with big stars of golden age Hollywood like Bette Davis and Errol Flynn in the title roles. It's nicely acted, but Errol Flynn put out better movies before and after this one.
½ February 2, 2011
Wednesday, February 2, 2011

(1939) The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex

Well made, but care less about a fabrication relationship between Queeen Elizabeth (played by Bette Davis) and the Earl of Essex, Robert (played by Errol Flynn). Although both actors are good, watching this film is like being forced to read a well written romantic novel I wouldn't necessarily wouldn't want to read in the first place!

2 out of 4
January 8, 2011
The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939) -- [6.5] -- Bette Davis plays Queen Elzabeth the first, in love with Errol Flynn's Earl of Essex, in this period technicolor drama from director Michael Curtiz (Casablanca, Adventures of Robin Hood). Davis and Flynn conjure the necessary pathos of their characters' doomed relationship. His love is tainted by his thirst for power, hers is hindered by her royal standing and social responsibilities. The film's finale allows the two stars (who hated each other in real life) to showcase their A-game. At one point, Elizabeth and Essex are revealing their love for each other while simultaneously engaging in a power struggle. Love and duty battle it out, ending not only their relationship, but one of their lives. The film contains beautiful technicolor cinematography and a romantic score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold (Oscar nominations were given in both departments). The supporting cast includes Alan Hale, Donald Crisp, Vincent Price, and Olivia de Havilland.
½ October 23, 2010
Good film about the relationship between Queen Elizabeth and her lover Essex. i found the picture to be blurry sometimes on the dvd, but just on a few occasions. a must see for Flynn fans as well as Davis`s.
Super Reviewer
September 20, 2010
Another average historical drama with an all star cast. Worth watching, but not always very interesting.
½ September 18, 2010
Another glorious 1939 production. This one is a Tudor romp, but one with a lot of feeling injected into from Bette Davis and Errol Flynn. They play their roles with a lasting effect.
½ May 19, 2010
Pretty boring. Overwrought, monologue-ridden and slow moving with a soap-opera-like feel.

In keeping with this, Bette Davis and Errol Flynn are not at all believable as the main characters. Over-acted, grandios emptiness abounds.

Despite the actors involved (the cast also includes Olivia de Havilland and Vincent Price), a very disappointing movie.
½ January 29, 2010
Amazing performances by Flynn and Davis; technically perfect production; drawing plot.
½ December 20, 2009
Excellent performance by Flynn and Davis make this a worthwhile venture.
August 27, 2009
I feel this is a wonderful and great film. Bette Davis is spectacular, Errol Flynn is wonderfully dashing, and with Olivia de Havilland as well it has to be good. Outstanding art direction and costumes.
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