THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ELIZABETH AND ESSEX

(1939)
With Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Donald Crisp, Alan Hale, Henry Daniell, Vincent Price
Directed by Michael Curtiz
Reviewed by JB


Hate is never having to say you're sorry.   THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ELIZABETH AND ESSEX may look like a followup to the Warner Brothers hit of 1938 THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, it defies the usual expectations of an Errol Flynn adventure. Olivia de Havilland is in the film but does not play Flynn’s love interest; Bette Davis fills that part while de Havilland is relegated to a small, almost pointless side role.  Flynn has no comical sidekicks (Alan Hale shows up for a few minutes and then is just as quickly gone from the film), and despite the presence of both Henry Daniell and Vincent Price as antagonists to Flynn’s Lord Essex, there are no duels to the death with either one of them.  Finally, although Lord Essex has a moral triumph in the final moments of the film, it is still a downer ending.

   The story of the political battles, and the romantic love, between Lord Robert Devereux, Second Earl of Essex (Flynn) and Queen Elizabeth (a brilliant Bette Davis), THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ELIZABETH AND ESSEX is a fine, if excessively talky and sometimes soap opera-y, historical tale filmed in glorious Technicolor. 3½ - JB


IN LIKE FLYNN
Bette Davis did not like Errol Flynn and the feeling was mutual.  She wanted Lawrence Olivier to play the part of Lord Essex, and thought Flynn all wrong for the part.  Many years later, after watching the film with her friend Olivia de Havilland, Davis admitted she was wrong, calling Flynn’s performance “brilliant”.

IS THAT WHO I THINK IT IS?
This is Nanette Fabray’s first film.  Billed as “Nanette Fabares”, she plays Mistress Margaret Radcliffe.  According to her, Bette Davis was quite gracious in her scenes with the young and inexperienced Fabray.

OLIVIA, I STILL O-LOVE-A-YA
Allegedly, Olivia de Havilland’s small part in the film was punishment from Jack Warner for her participation in David O. Selznick’s massive hit GONE WITH THE WIND.

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