Wow! I just finished re-watching The Six Wives of Henry VIII, and I am left flabbergasted! I loved this miniseries, and am so glad I was able to “get past” some reviewers’ ideas. I remembered the series as being luxurious and beautiful, and I think that I enjoyed it even more now than I did the last time I watched it. Be forewarned though… this is another series that I have written about that is not a mystery, but it is such a wonderful BBC production that I felt I would be remiss to not write about it.
BBC produced the miniseries in the early 1970s. The miniseries is about Henry VIII and his six different wives and is comprised of six different episodes. The interesting thing (to me) is that each wife’s story is written by a different playwright… but the story line is continuously fluid. I think that the reason that all six of the stories flow so well is the excellent portrayal of Henry VIII by Keith Mitchell.. He is absolutely superb. We see Henry age, expand, and eventually wizen… and it is difficult to believe that the same actor is beneath those wonderful costumes. We can almost smell Henry as his leg progressively worsens. Now, that is great acting… if you can (just about) smell the foul infection as it progresses… (While he courts beautiful, young maidens, no less!)
Catherine of Aragon (Annette Crosbie) and Anne Boleyn (Dorothy Tutin) share the first DVD… Quite a contrast in wives! The second disc covers the days (just about!) of Jane Seymour (Anne Stallybrass) and Anne of Cleeves (Elvi Hale). (I was most touched by Henry’s complete “devotion” to Jane Seymour… the only wife to produce a son, albeit not a very healthy one.) Catherine Howard (Angela Pleasence) and Catherine Parr (Rosalie Crutchley) were his two last wives- (How convenient that he had three wives named Catherine, and two named Anne… Less of a chance that he would call them the wrong name… although, it is extremely doubtful that he would have minded at all!)
As an added bonus, the 2003 BBC version of The Other Boleyn Girl (with Jodhi May as Anne Boleyn, Natascha McElhone as Mary, Anne’s sister, and Jared Harris as Henry VIII) was tucked into the set. At first I thought I was not going to like it, since it was a completely different production, with completely different actors, sets, wardrobe, etc. But, I am glad I stayed with the movie after the initial surprise/jolt… I enjoyed it immensely. (I think that it would probably be a better idea to not watch this movie right after finishing the other six shows… It’s difficult to see a different actor portray Henry VIII right after having watched Keith Mitchell become Henry VIII.) I had no sooner finished re-watching the series than I saw an advertisement for a new version of The Other Boleyn Girl… starring Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman. I hope it’s as good as the 2003 version… but I do wonder why they are remaking a 2003 movie only five years later… I am guessing that the 2008 version spared no expen$e.
As I am only (so far) writing about TV shows and movies that I have enjoyed, I must remind people that some of these television shows were made as long ago as the 1970s, “back when” they had no idea that a close up was going to be shown on a fifty inch television screen. Also before the time when the producers thought that audio would be in “surround stereo.” All in all, I really enjoyed The Six Wives of Henry VIII, regardless of the lack of special effects and other techno-babbles. The sets, costumes, acting, and ambiance were right on the mark for me!
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I saw this show on PBS when I was a little girl, and to this date it is still my favorite miniseries of all time. I recently loaned the DVD set to a friend (who is currently enamoured of all things Alison Weir and Philippa Gregory), and she loved the series too (and she could watch it with her kids in the house, unlike Showtime’s The Tudors).
Danna - cozy mystery list says
Hard to believe that this show is as good now as it was then. It is nice to be able to watch movies with children in the house. I have tried to watch some currently playing HBO shows, and I don’t even want to be in the house when they’re on!
The BBC have adapted Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall” and “Bring up the Bodies” which covers the same period. Two episodes have been shown so far. It’s beautifully shot and the acting as good as you would expect but, I dunno, nothing can match the vividness of Hilary Mantel’s writing although she’s given the adaptation the “thumbs up.” Thomas Cromwell, Wolsey, the Bolyns, these people were ruthless but they are portrayed as nice. Henry VIII was a monster.
I think it will be shown in the U.S. so I’d be interested to hear what you think Danna.
The novels though are superb.