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Alexander Korda's Private Lives

Douglas Fairbanks , Robert Donat , Alexander Korda , Paul Czinner    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Product Description

Though born to modest means in Hungary, Alexander Korda would go on to become one of the most important filmmakers in the history of British cinema. A producer, writer, and director who navigated toward subjects of major historical significance and mythical distinction, Korda made a name for his production company, London Films, with the Oscar-winning The Private Life of Henry VIII. He then continued his populist investigation behind the scenes and in the bedrooms of such figures as Catherine the Great, Don Juan, and Rembrandt. Mixing stately period drama with surprising satire, these films are exemplar of grand 1930s moviemaking.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Replacement Feb. 8 2013
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Already had movie on vhs that was wearing out. However issue was resolved easily once I found out that I could replace it on dvd through Amazon
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Four rarely seen films from the 1930's come to DVD Feb. 28 2009
By calvinnme - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
This DVD set includes four films directed by Alexander Korda with each film being the biography of a famous person. The following is a combination of my own recollections and the press release for the set.

The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933)
Charles Laughton looks every inch a king in this rendition of the biography of King Henry. The film is quite entertaining even if it gets many of the major facts wrong. Probably the most outrageous point of the film is stressing the importance of Anne of Cleves as Henry's close friend and advisor, even though they were only married for six months. This is probably largely if not entirely due to the fact that Anne was being played by Laughton's wife, Elsa Lancester. Laughton received a Best Actor Oscar for his performance.

The Rise of Catherine the Great (1934)
This is a dramatizatoin of the marriage between Catherine the Great and Peter III of Russia. Catherine is played by Elisabeth Bergner in her English-speaking debut, and Peter is played by Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Again, this film is somewhat historically inaccurate. Peter was actually insane. Here Fairbanks plays Peter as a somewhat off-balance but charming man.

The Private Life of Don Juan (1934)
This was Douglas Fairbanks' last feature film role. It seems that many people don't care much for this one, and I don't know why. I thought it was brilliant to have the 52 year old Fairbanks play an aging Don Juan showing all of the doubts and problems that Fairbanks himself must have had at the time. In this film Don Juan fakes his own death, returns to Seville, and is surprised to find out that he's been forgotten. It is no coincidence that this film and the previous film had father and son in it, as they had set out to England together looking for a change of pace in their careers.

Rembrandt (1936)
Charles Laughton and Korda are together again in a filmed biography of Rembrandt's life. The film begins with Rembrandt at the height of his career and follows him through the death of his wife and his resulting loneliness. The film depicts the unveiling of Night Watch and the excommunication of his lover Hendrickje Stoffels (played by Laughton's wife, Elsa Lanchester). The best thing about this film is Laughton's performance as well as the excellent cinematography.

This set has no extras, which is often the case with the spartan Eclipse series which brings rare old classic films to the masses.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Version of "... Henry VIII" Better Than Allied Artists June 20 2009
By A. J. Lenze - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
I can't review this entire collection, but if you're just looking for "The Private Life of Henry VIII", this Alexander Korda's Private Lives collection has a much higher quality DVD transfer than the Allied Artists version The Private Life of Henry VIII. Both the sound and the picture are much better (in my opinion).

If someone knows of a better DVD transfer than this one, I'd like to know about it.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Laughton forever Feb. 22 2014
By Jerry Kuhl - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Belching with a capon, painting his doomed beloved, no one ever did it better. Fairbanks last film, not a swashbuckler, but a drawing room comedy that is a misfire. Elizabeth Bergner is very good as Catherine. You also have those marvelous Vincent Korda designs. They will knock your eyes out.
3.0 out of 5 stars Rembrandt April 24 2014
By Michael Berry - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
I rented the single title from Criterion Eclipse, the bare bones series from Criterion. I rented this because Maltin gave it 3 1/2 stars and I am reading an art history version of Rembrandt's life.

The film focuses on his domestic affairs to the detriment of the art creator. The problem is to make dynamic the creative process and is difficult whether the subject is a photographer, writer, or music composer. The long, painstaking process of creating a work is not served well by film.

The film was adequate but not in the least inspiring. It would take a cable muti-part series to do justice to the subject. Laughton is fine but does not project any interior process that we can relate too.

If you want background on Rembrandt rent a documentary or read a biography.
3 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Seriously Dated Classic Comedy June 20 2013
By Stephanie De Pue - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
"The Private Life of Henry VIII," (1933), a black and white 97 minute comic classic of British cinema, carried a lot on its shoulders when released. It is, of course, a costume drama, based in British history, a loose - make that very loose-- biography of Henry VIII, 16th century Bluebeard/tyrant, England's most powerful and wealthy ruler. At the time it was made, Sir Alexander Korda, its producer/director, battled the idea that costume dramas were box office poison; he had a very difficult time raising the £60,000 needed to make it, and had to ask its cast to await its premiere for their pay checks. But the film did well, was the first British picture to win an American Oscar, and enabled him to put his London Film Company on a sure footing, by extension helping to ensure the future of British cinema.

In the film, Charles Laughton, (The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Animated), Hobson's Choice (The Criterion Collection)), makes the already larger-than-life King Henry VIII seem even bigger in an acclaimed, famous performance that centers on the ruler's romantic life. Highly-praised director Alexander Korda, (THE RISE OF CATHERINE THE GREAT, THE PRIVATE LIFE OF DON JUAN, REMBRANDT) shows a mercurial king who is governed by love, lust and politics. The classic film traces Henry's six marriages, including the tragic story of Catherine Howard, and his near-disastrous fourth union with Anne of Cleves, played by Laughton's real-life wife, Elsa Lanchester,(The Bride of Frankenstein, Bell, Book and Candle), which dominates the movie. Robert Donat, (Goodbye, Mr Chips), plays the surely unlucky in love Thomas Culpeper. Merle Oberon, (Wuthering Heights), Korda's gorgeous first wife, oddly enough, gets hardly any screen time as she plays the equally unlucky in love Anne Boleyn, the second wife; Wendy Barrie, the third, Jane Seymour; Binnie Barnes the fifth, Katherine Howard; Everley Gregg the sixth, Katherine Parr.

The Tudor period of English history is, of course, essentially dramatic, an age of international warfare, social unrest and growing religious discord. Add the overweening life arc of Henry, who transformed from handsome young monarch to debauched obese tyrant, a dangerous man wielding absolute power, which is unrivaled in its striking nature. So it's no surprise that today this period is extremely popular, often treated in literature, theater, and film. See the American Showtime television series THE TUDORS; THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL, the film based upon Philippa Gregory's book of the same name, the historical fiction works by Alison Weir; or the multi-award-winning literary historical novels by Hilary Mantel, WOLF HALL, BRING UP THE BODIES. I believe there's even a stage play in London about the Tudors at this time. It seems, nevertheless that this material was not so popular or well-known at the time the motion picture was made.

However: Henry VIII is not expected to be king of England until his older brother Arthur dies. Henry then marries Arthur's widow, Catherine of Aragon. But a while later, Henry is crazed with lust for Anne Boleyn, who denies him; highly religious Queen Catherine will not give him an annulment or divorce; he therefore breaks with the Catholic religion, anoints himself the head of the new Church of England, in order to be able to grant himself his intensely desired divorce to marry Anne. But he rather quickly tires of Anne, and it's therefore "Off with her Head," so that he can marry Jane Seymour, who will give him his fiercely desired male heir, while, unfortunately, dying in childbirth. Jane will then, as we see, be followed by three more wives, each with varying degrees of luck. English schoolchildren learn the wives by reciting "divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived. (There was also, of course, many a mistress --including Anne Boleyn's sister Mary --- can we now hear a chorus of "It's good to be King??") The court of Henry VIII was certainly rife with intrigue, rivalries, jealousies, ambitions, romances; none were better placed to understand this than the women at its heart. Yet they get scant attention and low billing in this picture.

Mind you, I studied the history of this momentous century at a fine university: granted, my studies were largely centered on Italy, rather than England. But there were certainly intersections: Henry was, after all, desperately negotiating with an Italian pope for his annulment or divorce.

You can call me humorless, people have. But it seems to me that, in 1935, with World War II already offstage, only two fantasy-minded Mittel Europeans - both Korda and Lajos Blau, his scriptwriter, were born in the old Austro-Hungarian Empire, Korda in what is now Hungary, Blau in Romania --could have made a comedy about a king who murdered - granted, with legal sanction, which wasn't so hard for a king to get - can we now hear another chorus of it's good to be king-- two wives. I'd have been picketing the film from its premiere, and consider it now seriously dated. However, according to IMDb, would-be buyers should further beware, the failure of the original copyright holder to renew the film's copyright resulted in its falling into public domain, meaning that virtually anyone could duplicate and sell a VHS/DVD copy of the film. Therefore, many of the versions of this film available on the market are either severely (or usually badly) edited and/or of extremely poor quality, having been duped from second- or third-generation (or more) copies of the film. Caveat emptor.
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