Anne of the Thousand Days (1969): Oscar-Nominated Historical Epic Starring Richard Burton and Genevieve Bujold

British royalty, depicted in pseudo-historical epics, has always impressed Academy voters, even when the movie in question was boring, as was the case of Charles Jarrott’s “Anne of the Thousand Days,” in 1969. Inexplicably, the movie was nominated for ten Oscars, though it won only one, Best Costume Design for Margaret Furse.

Richard Burton, then riding high on account of playing Becket in the film of that title in 1964 and George in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf” in 1966, not to speak of the media blitz surrounding his marriage to Liz Taylor, plays King Henry VII. The charming Canadian-born Genevieve Bujold is cast as his ill-fated second wife, Anne Boleyn.

Based on Maxwell Anderson’s 1948 stage play, which Rex Harrison played on Broadway with great success, the script, by John Hale, Bridget Boland, and Richard Sokolove is diffuse and lacking in focus, resulting in an uneven film, with a tone that vacillates between the serious, the pretentious, and the soap operatic.

After a break with the Vatican, King Henry VIII is named head of the Church of England. With no regulatory control over his marriage, which produces a daughter, Henry uses the birth of a stillborn son as an excuse to abandon, and then after 1000 days, execute the queen.

The film is handsomely mounted but it’s dull and stately, lacking the moral dramatic core of “A Man for all Season” (1966), or the juicy scandalous text of the anachronistic “The Lion in Winter” (1968), both of which were nominated for Best Picture. Played by William Squire, Thomas More, who’s the hero of “Man for All Seasons,” is a secondary character in this saga.

Anthony Quayle as Cardinal Wolsey has some of the best scenes in the film, which is bloated (running time is 145 minutes) and overwrought in every respect, including George Delerue’s score.

“Anne of the Thusand Days” is not a bad film; it’s just too tame and civilized, and director Jarrott proves that he has no skills in staging action or generating excitement, even in the tale’s more overtly melodramatic scenes.

Oscar Nominations: 10

Picture, produced by Hal B. Wallis

Screenplay (Adapted): John Hale, Bridget Boland, Richard Sokolove

Actor: Richard Burton

Actress: Genevieve Bujold

Supporting Actor: Anthony Quayle

Cinematography: Arthur Ibbetson

Art Direction-Set Decoration: Maurice Carter, Lionel Couch

Sound: John Aldred

Original Score: Georges Delerue

Costume Design: Margaret Furse

Oscar Awards: 1

Costume Design

Oscar Context

In 1969, “Anne of the Thousand Days” competed for the Best Picture with “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “Hello, Dolly!” “Midnight Cowboy,” which won, and “Z.”

Charles Jarrod failed to receive an Oscar nomination from his peers, because two directors, Arthur Penn and Sydney Pollack, gained a nod but their movies, “Alice’s Restaurant” and “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They” respectively, did not.

 

Credits

Universal (Hal B. Wallis Production)

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