Henry VIII and His Six Wives (1972) Poster

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A very regal achievment
Blueboy-94 February 2000
I saw this movie for the first time very recently, and was quite impressed. Henry the 8th and his six wives has a faultless cast, in particular Keith Mitchell, Jane Asher, Charlotte Rampling, Lynn Fredrick and Donald Plescence. We open on King Henry the 8th's death bed, and wittness him remeniscing about his various marriages, from Katherine of Aragon to Katherine Parr.

Keith Mitchell does a splendid job as the man himself, as he does not portray the king as some brutal tyrant, but as a lonely old man just looking for love and an heir.

Although it is not as good as the B.B.C'S Henry the 8th and his six wives (which also stars Keith Mitchell) it is a wonderful film, well worth a look, not least because it stars Jane Asher Charlotte Rampling and the late Lynn Fredrick as well as the wonderfull Donald Plescence.
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9/10
A Reign Full Of Ironies
bkoganbing2 July 2008
The recent BBC series The Tudors certainly had nothing on their productions a generation ago of Henry VIII And His Six Wives and Elizabeth R. Henry VIII certainly had his marital problems, but they weren't just his domestic concerns. Other heads rolled when this guy discarded a wife.

Most account of Henry VIII usually start with him trying to get a divorce from Catherine of Aragon in the 1530s so he could begat himself an heir with another. In fact in the first episode which does cover 30+ years of his reign and a bit of Henry VII we meet the young and virile Prince Henry who takes as his bride, Catherine of Aragon intended for his late older brother Prince Arthur. England did in fact come close to having a real King Arthur.

To keep to the format of dealing with his reign wife by wife a lot of history gets crammed into that first episode. Always uppermost in Henry's mind was the previous century and the dynastic struggles with the Houses of Lancaster and York known popularly as the War of the Roses. He wanted and needed a male heir to secure the secession and everything else was subordinated to that.

Subordinate he did because when the Pope under pressure from the occupying Spanish Army in Rome of the Emperor Charles V who happened to be Catherine of Aragon's nephew, Henry just broke from Rome and founded the Anglican Church. No church was going to tell him what to do and mess up the chance of a peaceful succession.

Keith Michell is a wonderful Henry VIII both as a young man and later on as the fat tyrant he's come down in popular culture as. The wives are well suited to their parts with Frances Cuka (Catherine of Aragon), Charlotte Rampling{Anne Boleyn), Jane Asher{Jane Seymour}, Jenny Bos {Anne of Cleves), Lynne Fredericks{Catherine Howard), and Barbara Leigh-Hunt{Catherine Parr}.

Charlotte Rampling is tragic as the young ambitious Anne Boleyn from an even more ambitious family who won the king and then committed the horrible sin of having a girl baby. That baby grew up to be Queen Elizabeth, but her road to the throne was a rocky one also. Anne was essentially framed with an adultery charge in order to get rid of her.

Which leads me to the best of the episodes. Lynne Fredericks as wife five Catherine Howard was a wild child to say the least. No fool like an old fool who really thinks this one wouldn't be straying. With the succession secured by Edward the child of Jane Seymour, Henry just wanted a little frolic. But he was old and fat and Ms. Howard had needs. Which she fulfilled with just about any young male who was around.

Henry VIII's reign was full of ironies and this was one of the biggest ones. He had to frame Boleyn to get rid of her, but Catherine Howard needed no framing. He couldn't execute her fast enough once he found out.

Thomas Cromwell who arranged the Boleyn marriage and later the Anne of Cleves marriage has come down as a sinister and thoroughly unpleasant man. And he's played by a guy and played well by one who's done a lot of sinister and unpleasant people, Donald Pleasance. Look also for a good performance by Bernard Hepton as Thomas Cranmer the first Archbishop of Canterbury under the new Anglican leadership.

I've not seen the new Tudor series, but it will have to go some to beat this excellent mini-series from the BBC.
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Superbly Done
craigab13 August 2000
I thought this film was brilliant. The acting was so splendid it brought out each of Henry's wives as an individual woman, with the exception of Anne Of Cleves who appeared only twice and had a grand total of around three lines. Anne Boleyn was excellently played by Charlotte Rampling, and we really can believe that she is innocent of no crimes when she is sent to the block. Another standout is the late Lynne Frederick as Catherine Howard, as we see her fear, after her arrest. Knowing she will follow Anne Boleyn. We inthis marriage feel for king henry, as he thought he had found his perfect loving wife in Catherine Howard. In all i would say that this film is a must see, although it is slighty inaccurate. It also exaggerates, making Anne Boleyn hide numerous bodily deformations, while actually all she had was an extra lump of nail on her left small finger. But still see it!
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5/10
Thumbnail sketch of a Tudor king
son_of_cheese_messiah17 January 2015
This is a film adaptation of the six part BBC TV series. I've unfortunately never seen the series but I know it is highly regarded, much more than this film version. The reason for the inferiority of this version is obvious: the original material is very compressed.

It is naturally very difficult to compress a life so colourful, and containing so much complex political and abstruse religious manoeuvring as Henry's in a 2 hour film. Events rush by so much that it requires a good working knowledge of the life of Henry VIII to be able to follow them. For example Henry's relationship with Thomas More is barely established (it comes down to one 30 second conversation) before Thomas is executed. Later, we suddenly see rebels kneeling before Henry, for some under explained reason, who he immediately betrays (this is the Pilgrimage of Grace, when northerners rebelled against the king's abandonment of the Roman rite). Nor is the fall of Thomas Cromwell properly explored among many other lacunae. I wonder what the uninitiated would make of these things? Bewilderment I guess.

The compressed nature of the film gives rise to much obvious expositional dialogue. Henry baldly states things rather than us subtly getting to know his thoughts through his actions. This violates the basic rule of drama "show not tell".

Because of this the scenes of Henry's later life, when a lot of the political and religious turmoil had died down, come off better. There is simply less to explain to the audience and most of the famous historical people (Woolsey, More, Cromwell) were dead. So the personal drama can be explored more fully. The scenes with Katherine Howard are probably the highlight of the film, even if the actress rather over-eggs her final monologue. The scene with the king weeping is especially moving.

I'm not sure if I could recommend this to a complete novice in Tudor history, it would be too confusing. But for those studying Henry's reign of general history buffs, it is moderately interesting.
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Excellent period drama
sa01314 July 2002
Warning: Spoilers
**WARNING SPOILERS - for those of you unaquainted with English history**

This is an excellent period drama with a good cast including Donald Pleasence (Thomas Cromwell), Charlotte Rampling (Anne Boleyn), Jane Asher (Jane Seymour), Lynne Frederick (Catherine Howard), Michael Gough (the Duke of Norfolk) and Brian Blessed (the Duke of Suffolk) and an excellent portrayal of King Henry VIII by Keith Michell.

Michell is very good as Henry VIII, portraying the King from his youth, married to the Spanish Katherine of Aragon, to his old age with the wife who would out-live him, Catherine Parr. Over this period of time Michell undergoes a serious transformation from an energetic young king to an immense gout-ridden old man. However, Michell's transformation is not merely cosmetic and he manages to change his voice, posture, bearing and the whole character of the king.

The story charts the six marriages of King Henry VIII. First his marriage to Katherine of Aragon (Frances Cuka), mother of the future Queen Mary "the Bloody", for whom he had genuine affection but whose inability to conceive a son resulted in Henry's divorcing her and the King's historic break with the Catholic Church and their "Bishop of Rome".

A slightly weightier Henry indulges in a passionate love affair with Anne Boleyn (Rampling), mother of the future Elizabeth I "the Virgin Queen", which ended with the King's paranoia placing her head beneath the executioner's axe. Henry then moves on to Jane Seymour (Asher), the only one of his wives that Henry seems to have genuinely and enduringly loved and may well have stayed with had she not died giving birth to Henry's only son, the future Edward VI.

After Jane's death the King is persuaded by Thomas Cromwell (Pleasence) to marry again and chooses the German Anne of Cleves (Jenny Bos) on the basis of a rather too flattering picture - this portion of the film is surprisingly funny, as the much older and fatter Henry is visibly distressed by Anne's grotesque appearance.

Perhaps one of the most touching parts of the film is the marriage between Henry and Catherine Howard, like Anne Boleyn, a relative of the Duke of Norfolk, who would follow her to the block, played exceptionally well by the late Lynne Frederick. Frederick is beautiful and so much younger than the extremely overweight Henry that it makes her obviously genuine affection for the old King all the more touching. Unlike Anne Boleyn, the King was forced, very much against his will, to have Catherine be-headed and the scene where the King bursts into tears in front of the entire Privy Council is very moving.

The film closes with Henry on his death-bed, surrounded by many of the same advisers who had made his life so difficult (I rest easy in the knowledge that most of them were later executed by the King's formidable daughter, Elizabeth) and his last wife, Catherine Parr (Barbara Leigh-Hunt). This is a film of epic proportions and, although not as good as the B.B.C. series (also starring Michell), it is excellent and the costumes and setting are divine.

The good thing about this film is that it shows Henry as more caring than he is usually portrayed and reveals how he was the victim of many visissitudes at the hands of his most loyal lieutenants, especially Norfolk, Cromwell, Cranmer (Bernard Hepton), Gardiner (Garfield Morgan) and Wolsey (John Bryans). Watch out for the brilliant scene where Donald Pleasence's Cromwell is de-frocked by the entire Privy Council - it's movie magic.

7/10
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10/10
Superb Dramatisation
powderblue1 May 2006
Warning: Spoilers
First saw this years ago, during high school history lessons..and it was via this film that i became interested in Tudor History and in particular Henry and his Six Wives. I recently purchased it on DVD, and was so thrilled to see that it was still as impressive as it was all those years ago! Keith Michell IS Henry VIII. Such a performance and i don't feel anybody has come close to his interpretation of Henry's character since this film...Ray Winstone's " cockney " king in the recent Henry VIII made for t.v drama pales into nothing next to Mr. Michell's performance! Worth a mention are ALL the ladies playing Henry's wives, in particular Frances Cuka as Catherine of Aragon, Charlotte Rampling as Anne Boleyn ( stunning!!! )and the late Lynne Frederick as Catherine Howard..a vulnerable and rather moving performance! If you like Tudor History then check this film out! Highly Recommended!
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8/10
What would it be like to be a Tudor king? Warning: Spoilers
I first saw this film, aged about ten, as a result of my great interest in the famous King Henry and I think possibly also because I was in the middle of writing a short play about him. It's been a while since I saw this, but - looking back - I think I was perhaps a bit young to view it back then. There's nothing explicitly gory or violent but some scenes - on reflection - are perhaps a bit much for children of that age.

Nevertheless, it does tell the story of Henry and his wives, even if you get the sense that some things (the real Catherine of Aragon, for instance, was pregnant about six times, but you'd never know it from this - one might get the impression that she only had two children before Henry tired of her) are brushed over a bit. In keeping with the real time span, a lot of time is concentrated on Catherine and her successor Anne Boleyn although I seem to remember that nothing much is made of, for instance, Henry's need to marry the pregnant Anne before she bore the future Elizabeth I.

Although the story is told in flashback and some major points in history (eg. the dissolution of the monasteries) are dealt with through scene montages, you do get a flavour of Henry VIII's character and life - notice how the plainly-dressed Jane Seymour becomes more decorated as she gains the king's notice - and even an idea of communication in Tudor times (he decided to marry Anne of Cleves because he saw a miniature of her). It occurs to me that the focus on Henry may be a disadvantage - we don't see Anne of Cleves adapt to life as the King's sister, we don't see the Holy Roman Emperor enraged when his aunt Catherine of Aragon is being divorced, we don't see much of the infant Elizabeth I at all.

One opinion this film formed for me was the idea that Katherine Howard was very much a victim of fate. I have read that the real woman was sexually precocious (although this film merely gives the impression that she was a bit flirty) because of her grandmother's lack of moral guidance, but this interpretation made me think that the Duke of Norfolk, head of the Howards, suddenly jumped on an opportunity to get into Henry's good books by pushing a young family member under the King's nose (apparently unaware of his teenage niece's past - she must certainly have been the least suitable member of his family to have been promoted in this way) without bothering to properly consider his actions.

Little is made of Catherine Parr - after Henry's dispatch of his fifth queen - and one gets the impression that he settled into a happy family life, failing to mention that he did in fact have the unfortunate woman investigated due to her religious convictions. However, my A-Level history lessons led me to believe that mediaeval kings were quite at liberty to be ruthless despots, and Keith Michell certainly gives us an idea that Henry was that way inclined.
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so good
Andy-52822 July 2001
since i was 7 years old and we did this little project on Henry VIII at school, ive held a place for old Henry somewhere.

i find him and his life so interesting and thought this was brilliant. i espically liked anne bolyn who had such a strong character and catherine howard for her actual fear.

Henry treks through life and wives just looking for a son. Then his third wife Jane Seymour dies during childbirth of his son Edward. I think it would of been Henry VIII and his three wives if she hadnt died. Jane was his perfect match and soulmate and gave him the only thing he wanted in life.

You see Henry get larger by the wife with his famous weight gain. I read in his later days he had the get hauled to bed by ropes because he couldnt carry himself but we didnt get to see that in the film.

a fantastic film 10/10
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8/10
Rather compressed perhaps, but one of the better films and such detailing of Henry VIII, his life and his wives
TheLittleSongbird30 March 2011
Although I am no historian, I do take an interest in the subject and I loved learning about the Tudors even in primary school. Henry VIII and his Six Wives is for me one of the better films and such detailing of Henry VIII and his life and six wives. The story is compelling and well paced and the dialogue is intelligent and moving. For me, my only complaint really is the length, the events and details are compressed for just over two hours. For so many details and events, I couldn't help thinking it was too short and some of the events could have been expanded upon and some of the latter half less over-balanced perhaps. That fault aside, the film is splendidly directed, is reasonably true to history and maintains a strong emotional impact. David Munrow's music score is beautiful and evocative too. But two things especially stood out. One was the period detail and production values, the costumes and scenery are nothing short of splendid and the photography captures that beautifully. The other is the acting, which is wonderful from the entire cast. Keith Michell gives a textbook example of how to play Henry VIII, he doesn't play the famous king as a tyrant but his portrayal is a moving and somewhat more sympathetic one. Of his wives a stunning Charlotte Rampling and suitably vulnerable Lynne Frederick come off best, while Bernard Hepton is a fine Cramner and Donald Pleasance is a wonderfully devious Cromwell. In conclusion, a very good film. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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Wonderful (SPOILERS!)
dac8723 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
I was fortunate enough to locate a copy of this very rare drama on ebay. I was entranced by the beauty of the sets, costumes, and acting. The film begins with Henry on his death bed. He begins to look back on his rather... productive marital career. First we meet Catherine of Aragon, who is tragically unable to give Henry a son; she is divorced so that Henry can wed the sexy Anne Boleyn. Anne's portrayal is not flattering as it makes her look guilty of the crimes she is accused of later in the film. She is quickly beheaded (off screen, we only hear talk of the execution)after she fails to provide an heir. Next comes plain Jane Seymour; she is the image of goodness and trust, and it breaks the viewer's heart to see her mistreated by Henry. Jane would be the wife that would give birth to a son, but unfortunately she died after child birth, leaving Henry to locate a new spouse. Heads begin to roll when Henry is talk into marrying Anne of Cleves; Henry believed her to be attractive and was told by many people (most of whom gained something if the two were to marry) of her beauty. When he meets the new queen, he is appalled by her looks and outraged that he should be forced into this marriage, so he beheads those who got him into this mess and divorces Anne. He sets his eyes on the VERY young Catherine Howard(the most pity-able of the wives). After a whirlwind romance, Henry learns that Catherine is not all she claims to be and, begrudgingly tries her for treason. She is beheaded. He then meets up with Catherine Parr, who outlived him. This is an absolute MUST for anyone studying Henry VIII or his wives.
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10/10
The Best of the Henrys
BeRightBack5 April 2019
Keith Michell was perfect as Henry. This is a pretty darn good film about the most recognizable English monarch, although only terrible prints of it are available now. (Hint, hint - there's a restoration opportunity for the BBC or Acorn or SOMEBODY, if only they would take it.)

Top notch cast and reasonably good sets.
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5/10
Henry VIII and His Six Wives
jboothmillard4 July 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I had remembered watching a tiny bit of this British film in secondary school when I was doing history, I knew that I had to see the whole thing at some point in the future, so when I got the opportunity I did. Basically set in Tudor England, King Henry VIII (Keith Michell) is on his deathbed, he reminisces on his long reign, and especially the crucial part his six wives played, without producing the male heir he desired to take his place and prevent civil wars. His first wife and queen was Spanish princess Katherine of Aragon (Frances Cuka), but all of the children she produced died, apart from daughter Mary, so he annulled the marriage and the divorced, this was his longest marriage, for 23 years. Henry's second wife was Anne Boleyn (Charlotte Rampling), while courting her she refused to sleep with Henry until they were married, she was a mysterious woman, with a sixth finger, so some believed her to be carrying out witchcraft, she also failed to produce a son, only daughter Elizabeth, they divorced, and she was later executed and beheaded for "infidelity", they were married for over 2 years. Henry's third wife was Jane Seymour (Jane Asher), who Henry met with the help of chief minister Thomas Cromwell (Donald Pleasence Donald Pleasence), protégé of Cardinal Wolsey (John Bryans), she does finally give Henry a son, Edward, but she dies soon after the birth, they were married for just over a year, and Edward later died aged 15 from tuberculosis. Henry's fourth wife, who he was advised to marry for diplomatic reasons, with Cromwell pushing for the lady, was German princess Anne of Cleves (Jenny Bos), Henry was initially shown a portrait of her, but was disappointed by her true appearance, he reluctantly marries her, but after only 6 months they divorce. Henry's fifth wife was Catherine Howard (Lynne Frederick), Anne Boleyn's young cousin, she was pressured to marry him by her uncle, but Archbishop Thomas Cranmer (Bernard Hepton) informs Henry she had liaisons before the marriage, he initially refuses to believe it, but Cranmer secures a confession, she also admits to an affair with Thomas Culpepper (Robin Sachs), she is beheaded, they were married for just over a year. Henry's sixth and final wife was Catherine Parr (Barbara Leigh- Hunt), he approached her while elderly, she is at first reluctant to marry, but Henry confesses to needing companionship, she becomes a loving stepmother to the royal children Mary, Elizabeth and Edward. After all the flashbacks have ended it returns to Henry VIII in his final moments of life, with Catherine Parr and Princess Mary by his side, Archbishop Cranmer is summoned to take his final confession, but while holding his hand, and before he can finish, Henry VIII finally dies from chronic heart failure. Also starring Michael Gough as Duke of Norfolk, Brian Blessed as Earl of Suffolk and Michael Goodliffe as Thomas More. Michell had previously played Henry VIII in the six-part television series The Six Wives of Henry VIII, obviously each episode focused on each of the six wives, he gives a standard performance, I agree Pleasance is more interesting as the devious Cromwell, and Cranmer gets his moments, as do all the supporting cast members, the costumes are good as well, I paid no attention at all to the political stuff, I just concentrated on the King with each wife, especially number 2, as an overall film, it's not a bad historical drama. Worth watching!
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7/10
A preview to whet the appetite
Chase_Witherspoon5 January 2013
If you haven't time to immerse yourself in the mini-series, then this two hour, compact 'preview' will give you a neatly constructed overview of the virile King and his exploits as he seeks to secure his lineage by conceiving a successor to his throne.

Rather than condense aspects of the original mini-series (which essentially set aside one episode per wife, to put it crudely), this film version has been entirely remade. Only Michell reprises his title role, showcasing his intuitive interpretation of the rambunctious, though sometimes fragile majesty. Perhaps predictably, Charlotte Rampling's Anne Boleyn has the greatest exposure, though each of the wives acquit themselves well with the often limited dedicated screen time (the lovely Jane Asher playing the ill-fated Jane Seymour stands-out among the rest).

Aussie actor Michell is a more vulnerable King Henry VIII than other memorable incarnations produced by Charles Laughton or Robert Shaw, displaying a deep-seeded personality conflict that while not unique to the character, is played with a more sympathetic tone and gesture.

Hussein's ultra-light has its moments, although clearly it proves difficult to compress six marriages each with their own ulterior motives and intrigue into a mere two hour snapshot. For a preview, it's superb, though it's really no substitute for the mini-series time permitting.
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8/10
Definitive Tudor story
Leofwine_draca16 February 2011
This is benchmark-quality drama, a two-hour film retelling of the lives (and deaths) of Henry VII's wives that uses much the same cast and crew as a previous six-hour BBC miniseries.

As a film, it's pretty much unbeatable and sets a standard of high quality that few others can match. Sets, costumes and backdrop are all superb, but of course the real strengths lie in the script and the calibre of acting. Keith Michell stars in a role he was born to play, never less than authentic whether he's playing Henry as an athletic young man or as an obese ancient. He also manages to make the tyrant deeply human, which is another string to his bow.

With the full story of the six wives crammed into a two-hour time slot, the pacing is fast and the script full of drama. Some of the wives fare better than others, but highlights include Charlotte Rampling's witchy Anne Boleyn and Lynne Frederick's captivating innocent, Catherine Howard. Filling the supporting cast with familiar, entertaining figures like Michael Gough, Donald Pleasence and Brian Blessed is another plus.

Most of all, though, I found this retelling succeeded far better in bringing to life the era than others - check out the terrible THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL for a good comparison. We learn much about politics, entertainment and religion of the era, but it's never told in a dry or heavy way. Unbeatable? Yes, I think this is.
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4/10
Blink and you'll miss two wives
Liza-194 October 2019
This was an attempt and condenscing a very long, 6 hour miniseries into 2 hours. They recast all except 2 of the actors, and glossed over most of the important parts of history. The miniseries was over-long, I'll grant you, but they didn't miss anything. This was... muddled.

There's no real rythm to this film, it's just fractures of Henry VIII's life as he's laying on his deathbed, but it all comes out disjointed and uneven. They didn't even cover Anne Boleyn's execution! I'm no Anne Boleyn fan, but even I'm wondering how they could skip that.

The only real shining star is Lynn Frederick as Catherine Howard. She's only got about 10 minutes of screentime (probably less) but she's on her game. Beautiful and young and foolish, she gives the first sympathetic and probably most realistic portrayal of Henry's 5th wife. She nearly stole the show, and would have if they'd given her more time.

Anne of Cleves was a sad attempt at comic relief and Katherine Parr was an afterthought. I would let this go, if the focus was really on Henry - but it wasn't really about him either. It was so disjointed and uneven that the final film makes very little sense. You have to know your Tudor history to even follow it, and even if you do, it's still a confusing film.
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