6 December 2017




'You brought Anne to me. Now see to it that she disappears...'

Never mind 'What would Jesus do?' (sorry, Jesus, you still totally rock!), the real question is apparently 'How would Lubitsch do it?' Director Billy SOME LIKE IT HOT Wilder had these words printed on a sign and hung over his door as a reminder to himself to try to channel his favourite director wherever and whenever possible. It's the ultimate compliment, isn't it?

Everyone loved or admired the German director Ernst Lubitsch's work, seemingly, and when he died in 1947 the world of cinema mourned the coming absence of any new Lubitsch pictures, all containing what was referred to as 'the Lubitsch touch.' Well...! Talk about Everybody Loves Lubitsch, never mind Raymond, whoever he is...

Lubitsch made silent films and talkies too and, when he died of a coronary thrombosis in 1947, he was only fifty-five years old. Coincidentally, Henry the Eighth of England died at exactly the same age. Why is this a coincidence? Well, because the marriage of Anne Boleyn, Lady-In-Waiting to Henry's first wife, Catherine of Aragon, to the naughtiest and randiest King of all time, is the subject of Lubitsch's magnificent historical film, ANNA BOLEYN.

This is an utterly gorgeous piece of work visually. The costumes and sets are all exquisite, and Lubitsch is very adventurous with his camera and frames his subjects in all these different wacky shapes, as if everything wasn't all visually breath-taking anyway...!

Henry the Eighth was a right boy-o, from all accounts. When Sid James from the excellent British comedy CARRY ON HENRY played him, he really played up the lascivious horny side of the man, licking his lips in anticipation of squeezing Barbara Windsor's diddies and chasing women into the stables to tumble them in the royal hay. It's a wonder he ever got any work done, and he was the bane of his courtiers' lives. Favourite line? The last one: 'Carry on, Executioner, carry on...!'

When Homer Simpson played Henry in THE SIMPSONS' historical tribute to the man, he played up the greedy gourmand side of the Royal Fatty, brandishing a leg of roasted meat and parodying the song about Henry that goes: 'I'm Hen-ery the Eighth, I am, I am!' by finishing hilariously with the words: 'For dessert I'll have dinner again...!'

THE SIMPSONS also parody the King's desperate longing for a son to carry on his name and royal line by having Homer (as Henry) tell his daughter Lisa: 'So either grow a penis or get lost...!' That's about the measure of it, certainly, if I remember any of my schoolgirl history. Lisa, of course, is unable to do this and hurries away lest she be 'cannon-ised' by her father. Yes, I said 'cannon-ised' and not 'canonised.' Lol. 'I wonder if I could cannon-ise a child?'

Henry grew tired of his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and itched to get his sweaty paws on Anne Boleyn, his wife's Lady-In-Waiting. Henry didn't fancy the 'waiting' bit at all. He pitched woo to Anne night and day, and what woman wouldn't want to be the Queen of England?

Anne capitulated after putting up only a nominal fight. Poor old Catherine was pushed aside and Henry and Anne got married, Henry causing a major schism in the Church by so doing. Anne got what she wanted, and she looked fabulous in her dress and crown, but the price she ended up paying was shockingly high. Was it worth it, Anne...?

Henry is marvellously played in Lubitsch's film by Emil Jannings, the first ever actor to win the Academy Award for Best Male Actor. He won it in 1929 for his performances in two films, namely, THE WAY OF ALL FLESH (1927) and THE LAST COMMAND (1928). This was back when you could be nominated for multiple performances. Jannings is the randy King to the life, chatting up Anne while pawing the other women in his royal presence behind her back. The horny little sod.

Jannings was a somewhat controversial figure after the Second World War, because he'd backed the wrong horse, as it were, and played parts in various Nazi propaganda films. I do recall reading that he had difficulty getting work after all this business but, in ANNA BOLEYN, he's magnificent as the porky King who was never happy with just one woman. He's a fine figure of a man as well, with surprisingly good stout legs in a pair of royal tights.

As the film progresses and the full tragic story of Anne Boleyn plays out before our eyes, we see Henry's disgust and disappointment when the baby to whom Anne gives birth is only a girl (quite a girl, though, Elizabeth the First, if you please!) instead of the longed-for boy.

Lubitsch shows us exactly what happens when, by marrying the mistress, you create an automatic vacancy. Henry betrays Anne with Jane Seymour, another Lady-In-Waiting (seems like they never had to WAIT very long for the King's attentions!), the way that he'd cheated on poor Catherine with Anne.

Why is Anne shocked and horrified? This is what Henry does, isn't it? She knows this better than anyone, surely. This is his modus operandi, if you will. This is how she, Anne, got him in the first place. You can't help feeling sorry for her, though, in the scene where she tries to stop Henry and Jane, the newly-created couple, from passing her on the stairs. They brush her aside as if she's nothing. That's gotta hurt.

Hate to say it, Annie Baby, but what goes around comes around. Karma's a real bitch. Hurts like a bitch, too. Shortly afterwards, Anne Boleyn, after being accused of a load of ridiculous, clearly trumped-up charges, keeps her appointment, not with the Wicker Man, but with Madame La Guillotine. When she says to the two black-hooded executioners: 'At least allow me to bid my child farewell,' I admit it. I was crying my eyes out.

On the lighter side, the bit of by-play between Mark Smeaton and Henry Norris, the two love-rivals for Anne's attentions, is really funny. Smeaton is an odious, slimey little man along the lines of Grima Wormtongue in THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS, and Henry Norris is a bit of a fop given to bouts of swooning, the big sissy...!

By contrast, the bits with the court jester, who's supposed to be funny, aren't funny at all but rather repulsive. That clearly wasn't a good job to have, eating from the King's mouth (yee-argh...!) and getting kicked up the arse like Bishop Brennan in clerical sitcom FATHER TED whenever the King feels like having a bit of an old larf. So demeaning and degrading, lol.

Lubitsch gives us a good feel for life in Merry Olde England, with his feasting and his jousting, his hunting and his board games and his hilarious Ye Olde Tennyse. (That's tennis to all you peasants, haha!) Mind you, this was only the toffs. 

The poor folks probably lived a much less fun life, what with Ye Olde Plague and the lice and the rats and the muck and the sewerage and the typhus and whatever else. Mediaeval times aren't as glamorous as they appear in the fillums, you know. Actually, from what I remember from school, they weren't the best of times at all, rather the worst of them.

The excellent news for fans of German silent cinema is that a six-film Blu-Ray box-set has recently been released of Lubitsch's silent works by EUREKA ENTERTAINMENT, as part of their marvellous THE MASTERS OF CINEMA SERIES.

The box-set contains some terrific special features, as well as the following films:

THE DOLL- 1919.
SUMURUN- 1920.

These are films that any director, even the modern ones working today with highly sophisticated equipment, would be proud to put their names to. ANNA BOLEYN in particular is a masterpiece by anyone's standards. These films would make the perfect Christmas present for film fans everywhere. Well, it sure beats the shit out of another pair of f**king socks...


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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