ANNE OF THE THOUSAND DAYS (Twilight Time Blu Ray) Universal 1969 .Color. 145 minutes. English .2.0 DTS-HD MA sound .English Subtitles option . 1080p Hi Definition 2.35:1 REGION FREE(A,B,C). Special Features: isolated music audio track . Original Theatrical Trailer. Booklet.
1969 was a year of change and turmoil. Woodstock . Altamont. Man landed upon the moon. The Stonewall riots. The Charles Manson murders. Nixon says that 25,000 troops will be withdrawn from Vietnam . My Lai massacre. Chappaquiddick . Robert R succumbs to a mysterious disease that will later be identified as HIV/AIDS.
Movies too were reflective of the changing chaotic times. Big budget Hollywood movies like HELLO DOLLY(Fox), TRUE GRIT (Paramount) and BATTLE OF BRITAIN(UA) were battling for audiences who were flocking to films like EASY RIDER (Columbia) or MIDNIGHT COWBOY (U.A).
Fitting into the former category is the epic ANNE OF THE THOUSAND DAYS . Costume spectacles , particularly those dealing with British royalty, seemed to do well both with audiences ,reviewers ,and awards. Films like BECKET (Paramount ,1964) ,MAN FOR ALL SEASONS (Columbia ,1966), and THE LION IN WINTER (Avco Embassy ,1968) , all based upon successful intelligent successful Broadway plays, all found receptive responses.
paperback movie tie -in
Producer Hall Wallis had been Warner Brothers ‘ studio manager back in the late 1920s and early 1930s, overseeing a string of classics like LITTLE CAESAR (1931) to CASABLANCA (1942). He left W.B. to form his own production company ,and continued his movie Midas Touch with films such as SORRY WRONG NUMBER (Paramount ,1948) ,several Elvis Presley and Martin & Lewis films, and screen adaptations of Tennessee Williams’ works.
After producing the film adaptation of BECKET , Wallis and Burton wanted to work together on another historical drama. Burton convinced Wallis to adapt the 1948 Maxwell Anderson blank verse play “ANNE OF THE THOUSAND DAYS”.
The play ,which opened December 8,1948, was a huge success, running until October 8,1949 at the Shubert Theatre on Broadway. Part of that was due to the dynamic performances between Rex Harrison as Henry VIII and Joyce Redman as Anne Boleyn (I saw Ms. Redman in the superlative 1987 revival of PYGMALION that starred Peter O’Toole and Amanda Plummer, wherein she portrayed O’Toole’s mother). The other was it was considered daring (Anne admitted to having pre-martial sex!) ,a subject that would make the story impossible to get pass the Production Code of the time.
Polish Movie Poster ANNE OF THE THOUSAND DAYS
The late 1960s saw the relaxing of censorship and more daring subjects being brought to the screen ,and so Wallis hired three writers (Richard Sokolove ,adaptation; Bridget Boland and John Hale ,screenplay) to adapt the play for cinematic purposes. Gone was the blank verse, though the dialogue still had a nice dramatic sense of period . One wonders if Burton discussed playing Henry with Rex Harrison when the two filmed STAIRCASE (Fox) that same year ,where the two played not kings but a pair of bickering old “queens”.
The production was sumptuous (design by Maurice Carter ,who had also done the same on BECKET; costumes by Margaret Furse who costumed BECKET and THE LION IN WINTER) , with an opulence that truly captured how one felt the court of Henry VIII would feel.
Adding to the sweep and majesty was another magnificent score by George Delerue (he had composed the score to A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS, and would later write for Truffaut’s classic La Nuit Americaine (DAY FOR NIGHT,WB,1973)and win an Oscar for his work on the lovely A LITTLE ROMANCE (Orion/WB,1979).
The film was shot at such locations as Penshurst Place and Hever Castle (the childhood home of Anne Boleyn ) as well as on magnificent sets built at Pinewood and Shepperton Studios.
Lensing all of this was Arthur Ibbetson (director of photography on Chaplin’s last feature, A COUNTESS FROM HONG KONG, Universal, 1967) and later the childhood classics THE RAILWAY CHILDREN (Universal,1970) and WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY(Paramount,1971).
Director Charles Jarrott
Director Charles Jarrott had directed many intelligent productions for television with this being his first theatrical production. It is directed tastefully and without flash ,allowing the performances and story carry the movement. He was so successful that he was later tapped to direct MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS (Universal,1971) with the same finesse.
Henry VIII (Richard Burton) is unhappy that his wife ,Queen Catherine of Aragon (Irene Papas,THE GUNS OF NAVARONE,Columbia ,1961) has not born him a son to carry on his lineage. His affair with Mary Boleyn ( Valerie Gearon, in one of her only four film appearances ) is also losing his interest (even though she is pregnant with his child)when he sees Mary’s 18 year old sister Anne (Genevieve Bujold, so marvelous in KING OF HEARTS /le roi de Coeur,U.A,1966) at a ball.
Mary is engaged but Henry has his “fixer” and Lord Chancellor , scheming Cardinal Woolsey (Anthony Quayle, GUNS OF NAVARONE),break up the engagement. Mary’s father ,Thomas Boleyn (Michael Hordern, A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM,U.A.,1966) is a political climber, willing to use his daughters to advance his own political career and agrees to end the engagement.
Anne is not as easily won as her sister ,and dares to insult the King, a dangerous thing to be sure, for it could mean her family losing it’s position and wealth , and even imprisonment and death.
Henry, however is smitten with this fiery woman, who unlike so many others, does not bend to his will. Thomas Cromwell (Canadian actor John Galicos, probably best known for playing Kor in the STAR TREK episode, “Errand Of Mercy”, Paramount, 1967 and then later as the evil Count Baltar on BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, Universal 1978-9) feels the girl can be a problem but Woolsey feels she is but another bauble for Henry to play with use and discard.
Anne is slowly seduced , not so much by Henry as by the power he offers. She refuses Henry’s advances, however, as any child that they have would be illegitimate. Henry says he will divorce Catherine so he can marry Anne, and instructs Woolsey to find a way. Woolsey protests , but the King will not be denied. The Pope denies the annulment ,and Woolsey is removed from office, his London palace given instead to Anne and his title given to Cromwell.
Cromwell comes up with the idea that Henry is the embodiment of the Church in England, and that people cannot pledge loyalty to both The Pope & The Church of Rome at the same time it pledges allegiance to a King who is supposed to be God’s appointed. People are asked to choose, loyalty to Henry and the Crown, or dismissal and worse if they do not recognize his new Church.
Finally won over, Anne finally makes love to Henry.She tells Henry that she is pregnant and a quick wedding is arranged.
Catherine ,however ,was very popular with the common people (and the Spanish Ambassadors also sew discontent among the masses ) so that Anne finds herself jeered at and called “the King’s Whore” by the masses . Catherine is banished from court ,spending her remaining years(3 years, 1533-36) at Kimbolton Castle, acknowledged as the Dowager Princess.
Henry is disappointed and enraged that once again he is father to another daughter (Princess Elizabeth. His previous wife, Catherine, bore him Princess Mary).
Once again, Henry ,disappointed by the lack of a male heir, starts looking elsewhere. Anne sees him cast his eye upon young Lady Jane Seymour (Lesley Patterson, who seems to have only appeared in one other film ,THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE, Fox,1969),Anne arranges to keep the young woman from court.
Meanwhile ,the loyalty oath to the King continues . Sir Thomas More ( William Squire , Hammer’s A CHALLENGE FOR ROBIN HOOD, 1967) is still opposed to Anne’s claim as legitimate Queen (and thus the rights of Elizabeth to be a successor to the crown). In a rage, she lets Henry know she wants More done away with. A pre-determined trial finds the scholar guilty, and, denied the right to speak at his execution, he is beheaded. Shortly thereafter, like Catherine before her, Anne gives birth to a still born son .
Angrily, Henry turns to Cromwell to find a way for him to divorce Anne and leave him free to have a male heir. Cromwell invents a hideous lie, wherein he accuses Anne of sexual relations with several men, including her own brother. Her music teacher ,Mark Smeaton (Gary Bond, ZULU,Paramount,1964) ,being a commoner, is tortured into a confession by having a Garotte put around his head and tightened.
When they come to arrest her, Anne thinks that they are joking , but the charges are indeed ,deadly serious, amounting to High Treason.
Once again ,however , her intelligence and strong will come to the fore. At the trial, as Henry is hidden away listening, she gets the chance to question the poor tortured Smeaton. He repeats what he has been tortured into admitting, but when he looks upon Anne, he says that he has never been with her in any way but in friendship . The court is in disarray, but Henry enters the room, and tells Smeaton that he is condemned to die either way, so he is free to tell the truth. Smeaton asserts again that she is innocent. The court is in disarray,, as Anne smiles at Henry .Still, as Henry leaves, he says it may still be true.
Later,Henry goes to the tower to beg Anne to annul the marriage so he can wed Jane Seymour. Anne once again refuses ,as she says Elizabeth will be one of the great leaders of England, and Anne would rather die rather than deny her daughter her rightful place of history.
Anne is indeed found guilty, and in a tragic scene ,she is led to her death by beheading. Henry ,who was not there, but instead ,out hunting with several groomsmen, hears the cannons in the distance announce her execution. Henry urges his entourage to follow him ,and they set off to Jane Seymour’s home, the hunt once again begun for Henry to get a male heir.
The final shot shows young baby Elizabeth (Amanda Jane Smythe), hearing the cannons roar as well, and wanders sadly ,alone in a garden, as her mothers prophecy about her is repeated
“Elizabeth shall be a greater queen than any king of yours. She shall rule a greater England than you could ever have built. My Elizabeth shall be queen, and my blood will have been well spent.”
The film was given a wide release by Universal to mixed reviews. All reviewers ,however agreed upon one thing, the magnificence of Bujold’s performance.
It received numerous nominations at the 1970 Academy Awards, winning for Best Costume ; winning Golden Globes for Bujold (Best Motion Picture -Actress-Drama) ,Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Director-Motion Picture(Jarrot) and Best Screenplay (Boland, Hale,Sokolove)
The film did well, though it did not crack the top 20 films for 1970 (it was released in December, 1969, but played throughout the next year ).
Three small bits of trivia-Burton’s wife at the time, Elizabeth Taylor, made a cameo appearance as a courtesan. However, she is not noticed ,as her character is masked. Miss Taylor, while in costume, wore a gift from Burton, the La Peregrina Pearl ,one of the most valuable pearls in the world.
12 year old Kate Burton also had an uncredited cameo as a serving girl.
The expensive costumes and props were re-used for the 21st(!) CARRY ON film, CARRY ON HENRY (Rank,1971) ,which had an original alternative title of “ANNE OF A THOUSAND LAYS ” ,that sounds more like a porno version than the fun though bawdy film that resulted.
On video, the film was released on VHS in a very flat print that muted the colors and lost information on the sides of the picture ,as well as a flat mono sound.
This TWILIGHT TIME release is the must have print to own. The 1080p Hi Definition 2.35:1 transfer is incredibly rich, with solid reds ,blues ,and skin tones. The film has not looked this good since it was originally unspooled theatrically in 1969.
The sound has also been upgraded with a 2.0 DTS-HD Master audio track. The sound is incredibly rich in this dialogue driven film, with the score and sound effects also clean and free of hiss or pops .
Extras are few , though one can enjoy Delerue’s magnificent isolated score on a separate track .
The original Decca Sound Track release
Also included is the original theatrical trailer, narrated by Hal Wallis himself. It has not been cleaned up, so you can get an idea of how rough some of the previous releases have looked.
Finally , an 8-page insert booklet with an essay by Julie Kirgo is included within the case.
Subtitles in English SDH are also available.
One would love to have had an audio commentary, perhaps with Ms. Bujold . That said, the magnificent print that TWILIGHT TIME has released is nothing to dismiss.
The film, like most of TWILIGHT TIME collectible releases , is limited to a press run of 3,000.
The film is a superb example of intelligent film-making ,wherein story and acting ruled over C.G.I. and mind-numbing sameness.
Hopefully, TWILIGHT TIME will release the original 1971 MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS (Universal) and perhaps the unjustly overlooked gem LADY JANE (Paramount ,1986) to be proper companion pieces to ANNE OF THE THOUSAND DAYS and A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS (released by Twilight Time in 2015).
I highly recommend this film to people who enjoy historical dramas, as well as superlative acting and thoughtful storytelling.
I do wonder, however, now, in this time of the Me-Too Movement, how many will look favorably at the cavalier attitude of the men within this story, and their views of women .
Seriously, how many men would create an entire religion, just to have sex ???
Thoughts to ponder.
-Kevin G Shinnick
I just wanted to make note of very sad news .
NICK REDMAN passed away January 17,2019 after a valiant two year battle with cancer. Mr. Redman co -founded Twilight Time in 2011. Mr Redman also was a film historian,documentarian, and sound track producer.
Our deepest condolences go out to his friends and family , including his wife Julie Kirgo ,his brother, and his children .
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