The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)

106 mins | Drama | 11 November 1939

Director:

Michael Curtiz

Cinematographer:

Sol Polito

Editor:

Owen Marks

Production Designer:

Anton Grot

Production Company:

Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

The working titles of this picture were Elizabeth the Queen , The Knight and the Lady , and Elizabeth and Essex . It was also released as Elizabeth the Queen . Modern sources state that Errol Flynn insisted that the original title, Elizabeth the Queen , be changed to acknowledge his presence in the film. When The Knight and the Lady was chosen, Bette Davis threatened to walk out of the picture. Although the title Elizabeth and Essex met with everyone's approval, writer Lytton Strachey had already copyrighted a book with that title. Hence, the title The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex was selected. According to a pre-production news item in HR , William Keighley was originally slated to direct this film, but was replaced by Michael Curtiz when Keighley went on vacation. Other news items in HR note that production on the film was postponed after Errol Flynn was involved in a car accident which resulted in facial abrasions and stitches. Shooting had to be rearranged so that Flynn could recover. Another news item in HR adds that the film was to have had its premiere in London, but the advent of the war forced Warner Bros. to move the premiere to Beverly Hills. This was Bette Davis's first Technicolor film. The film received the following Academy Awards: Best Art Direction (Anton Grot); Best Cinematography (Sol Polito and Howard Green); Best Original Score (Wolfgang Korngold); Best Recording (Nathan Levinson, the Recording Director at Warner Brothers); and Best Special Effects (Byron Haskin and H. E. Koenekamp). ... More Less

The working titles of this picture were Elizabeth the Queen , The Knight and the Lady , and Elizabeth and Essex . It was also released as Elizabeth the Queen . Modern sources state that Errol Flynn insisted that the original title, Elizabeth the Queen , be changed to acknowledge his presence in the film. When The Knight and the Lady was chosen, Bette Davis threatened to walk out of the picture. Although the title Elizabeth and Essex met with everyone's approval, writer Lytton Strachey had already copyrighted a book with that title. Hence, the title The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex was selected. According to a pre-production news item in HR , William Keighley was originally slated to direct this film, but was replaced by Michael Curtiz when Keighley went on vacation. Other news items in HR note that production on the film was postponed after Errol Flynn was involved in a car accident which resulted in facial abrasions and stitches. Shooting had to be rearranged so that Flynn could recover. Another news item in HR adds that the film was to have had its premiere in London, but the advent of the war forced Warner Bros. to move the premiere to Beverly Hills. This was Bette Davis's first Technicolor film. The film received the following Academy Awards: Best Art Direction (Anton Grot); Best Cinematography (Sol Polito and Howard Green); Best Original Score (Wolfgang Korngold); Best Recording (Nathan Levinson, the Recording Director at Warner Brothers); and Best Special Effects (Byron Haskin and H. E. Koenekamp). This picture also marked the adult film debut of Nanette Fabares, who subsequently changed her name to Nanette Fabray. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
28 Sep 39
p. 3.
Film Daily
28 Sep 39
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Mar 39
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jun 39
pp. 6-7.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Sep 39
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Sep 39
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Sep 39
p. 3.
Life
23 Oct 39
pp. 35-56.
Motion Picture Daily
28 Sep 39
pp. 1-8.
Motion Picture Herald
10 Jun 39
p. 35.
Motion Picture Herald
30 Sep 39
p. 38.
New York Times
2 Dec 39
p. 21.
Variety
4 Oct 39
p. 12.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
Jack L. Warner in charge of production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dial dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Assoc prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Spec eff
Spec eff
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
COSTUMES
Cost
SOUND
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech adv
Unit mgr
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col dir
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play Elizabeth the Queen by Maxwell Anderson (New York, 3 Nov 1930).
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Elizabeth and Essex
The Knight and the Lady
Elizabeth the Queen
Release Date:
11 November 1939
Premiere Information:
Beverly Hills, CA premiere: 27 September 1939
Production Date:
began June 1939
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
11 November 1939
Copyright Number:
LP9220
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
106
Length(in reels):
12
Country:
United States
PCA No:
5411
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In London, in 1596, the Earl of Essex returns from his victory at Cadiz to be greeted by the admiration of Lady Penelope Gray and other ladies of the court and the jealousy of Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Robert Cecil. Queen Elizabeth, although in love with Essex, fears his thirst for power and so castigates him for the high cost of his empty victory. Proud and headstrong, Essex retreats to his ancestral home at Wonstead and refuses to return to court. His friend, Francis Bacon, seeking to reconcile the battling lovers, suggests that Elizabeth appoint Essex Master of the Ordnance in order to quell the uprising in Ireland led by the Earl of Tyrone. To serve his country, Essex returns to court where he falls victim to the intrigues of Raleigh and Cecil who conspire to drive a wedge between him and the queen by sending Essex to Ireland. Against Elizabeth's wishes, Essex leads the army to Ireland, where his pleas for help go unanswered and thus, facing suffering and death, he is forced to surrender to Tyrone. Unknown to either Essex or Elizabeth, Cecil, Raleigh and Penelope have been intercepting the lovers' letters, and so Essex returns to England, believing that he has been betrayed and abandoned by his queen. Essex and his men take the palace by storm, and although the court conspiracy is finally brought to light, Essex still refuses to subordinate himself to Elizabeth's throne and, thirsting for power, demands that she share it with him. Elizabeth refuses and orders him arrested and executed. In one final meeting, both lovers refuse to relinquish their hold on the throne, and therefore bid ... +


In London, in 1596, the Earl of Essex returns from his victory at Cadiz to be greeted by the admiration of Lady Penelope Gray and other ladies of the court and the jealousy of Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Robert Cecil. Queen Elizabeth, although in love with Essex, fears his thirst for power and so castigates him for the high cost of his empty victory. Proud and headstrong, Essex retreats to his ancestral home at Wonstead and refuses to return to court. His friend, Francis Bacon, seeking to reconcile the battling lovers, suggests that Elizabeth appoint Essex Master of the Ordnance in order to quell the uprising in Ireland led by the Earl of Tyrone. To serve his country, Essex returns to court where he falls victim to the intrigues of Raleigh and Cecil who conspire to drive a wedge between him and the queen by sending Essex to Ireland. Against Elizabeth's wishes, Essex leads the army to Ireland, where his pleas for help go unanswered and thus, facing suffering and death, he is forced to surrender to Tyrone. Unknown to either Essex or Elizabeth, Cecil, Raleigh and Penelope have been intercepting the lovers' letters, and so Essex returns to England, believing that he has been betrayed and abandoned by his queen. Essex and his men take the palace by storm, and although the court conspiracy is finally brought to light, Essex still refuses to subordinate himself to Elizabeth's throne and, thirsting for power, demands that she share it with him. Elizabeth refuses and orders him arrested and executed. In one final meeting, both lovers refuse to relinquish their hold on the throne, and therefore bid each other a final farewell as Essex goes to his death. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.