lost_spook: (james maxwell)
[personal profile] lost_spook
(I started writing this post a while ago as I was going to cover more things I've watched over the last couple of months, but a) this bit got overlong and b) [personal profile] liadtbunny told me to post my thoughts on BBC HVIII now, and since doing what Liadt told me worked yesterday, that seemed like a plan.)


The Six Wives of Henry VIII (BBC 1970)

It was really interesting to finally complete the BBC's classic 70s Tudor trilogy - I watched the all-conquering Elizabeth R in 2011 and Shadow of the Tower the following year, during my David Collings period because he was in both (being a naive traitor and getting tortured in the Tower both times, as you do). Of course, that introduced me to James Maxwell as Henry VII, a thing that is to blame for an awful lot of my life and viewing choices ever since. Elizabeth R is the classic one for a reason: it's made with assurance, it's well-written, and it's got Glenda Jackson out-Good Queen Bessing everyone else in existence. The Shadow of the Tower is a low-budget shock afterwards, with a return to the more standard 50 min ep format (I wonder if perhaps unexpectedly, given that the first four eps are paired two-parters) and it's highly theatrical and much more experimental.

Six Wives, the first one made, falls somewhere between the two. It's early BBC colour (and anyone who's watched too much old TV will know what that means; it took a year or two for the BBC to adjust to the concept). The format - 1 hr 20 mins per wife, which then dictated the odd format of Elizabeth R, which does, I think, work even better here where it makes more sense. It lacks some of the best writers of the other two serials, though, (notably Hugh Whitmore and John Elliot), although on the plus side, more women writers, which makes sense (although it does not even touch SotT's female directors score of 10 out of 13 eps), and it's even slower than some of the slow parts of Elizabeth R, and, as ever, with all of these BBC historical & classic adapations, essentially theatre-for-TV, especially with everyone being aged up and down all over the place. (Spoiler: nearly everyone dies. Some of them lose their heads. *nods*) So, as ever, with old stuff, YMMV.

The casting was great, as ever, though: Annette Crosbie as Catherine of Aragon, being excellent, although that was probably the least satisfactory episode in some ways. Dorothy Tutin was too old for Anne Boleyn, but completely perfect anyway, and it's always a good dramatic episode when it ends with people getting their head cut off,* but all of them gave really strong performances.

In many ways, I was most intrigued by Anne of Cleves's episode, which (after a worryingly shaky start) had a really interesting take on her, and I realised I don't really know enough about her to know whether it was fact-based, or they had so little facts, they just went for their own interpretation, but it left her as the one who knew how to get what she wanted out of the situation and escape relatively unscathed.

Some of the continuing characters couldn't help but be scene-stealers: in particular, Patrick Troughton as Norfolk, Wolfe Morris as Cromwell, and Bernard Hepton as Cranmer. Everybody wants Cranmer to comfort them when they're in the Tower. Even Cromwell needs to hold his hand at the end.

And, look, Liadt made a gif to prove it!



(Not that he holds hands with people as much as BBC Henry VII; that would be silly.)

And, of course, Keith Michell gives an excellent performance as Henry, aging up from shiny but selfish prince to full-on monster, to a weakened ruin by the end.

Anyway, I enjoyed it, was glad to have seen it, and feel like a better person for it. Heh. It got all the BAFTAs back in the day and I can't say I'm surprised. I had to stop myself going on to watch Elizabeth R straight after. One day, I'll have to do all three one after the other, though...

I was disconcerted in episode 1 by John Woodnutt as Henry VII, because obviously the proper BBC Henry VII is James Maxwell. Not that he's bad or anything, but it's like James Maxwell's own previous turn as HVII in The Tower of London: the Innocent; the complexity and depth of SotT's Henry isn't there, so it feels odd when you've already seen the prequel.

It did make me think how differently each lead is taken: Keith Michell as Henry is the one constant but is backgrounded to each wife in turn (and seen slightly differently by each one, which then shapes his performance, which is v clever), Glenda Jackson's Elizabeth is front and centre of her own story (and stormingly good in every way, both fearsome and terribly alone), while Shadow of the Tower follows the uncertain reign more widely, with James Maxwell's Henry always something of an enigma to many of the other characters (and so in some ways playing to us, the viewers, instead of his contemporaries). And over all is the danger of giving any one person that much power as well as the effects it has on that person. (Different in each case, but even in ER, still terrifying at times.)

Anyway, I have thoughts; I can't express them because of lack of brain, but it's probably as well.

tl;dr: It was interesting. ER is the best, SotT is still my favourite, but Henry is also much worth watching for history/stage buffs, too.

(My one disappointment is that I didn't spot anyone who was in all three, although I feel certain if I study IMBD closely, there will be! Certainly plenty of people were in 2 out of 3 and James Laurenson managed 2 out of 3 plus Wolf Hall, which must earn him an honourable mention in Tudor telly appearances. Plus, all three of the leads played their roles twice. See: British film & TV is a very incestuous world. Once a Tudor king or queen at the BBC...)


ETA: Also look at this pic from The White Queen found on tumblr:



If that didn't originate in some old BBC or similar 60s/70s historical thing, I'll eat my hat. It's got just the right made from curtains look.

* I don't watch these Tudor serials for nothing.

Date: 6 Jul 2017 09:15 pm (UTC)
executrix: (blakeposter)
From: [personal profile] executrix
Frockflicks has a few things to say about the White Queen/White Princess!

Date: 6 Jul 2017 10:37 pm (UTC)
earthspirits: (Versailles - Louis & Phillipe)
From: [personal profile] earthspirits
All of those series were excellent (seen 'em all), and I thoroughly enjoyed them.

*Heh* And you're right about that vintage curtains look! : D

I absolutely love historical dramas, especially anything Tudor, 1890's era, or French / Versailles related.

Date: 6 Jul 2017 10:55 pm (UTC)
sovay: (Claude Rains)
From: [personal profile] sovay
and Bernard Hepton as Cranmer. Everybody wants Cranmer to comfort them when they're in the Tower. Even Cromwell needs to hold his hand at the end.

To be fair to Cromwell, Bernard Hepton is pretty awesome. Would you like a recording of him declaiming a hilariously anti-dancing excerpt from William Prynne's Histriomastix (1632)?

And, of course, Keith Michell gives an excellent performance as Henry, aging up from shiny but selfish prince to full-on monster, to a weakened ruin by the end.

Oh, nice! He got on my radar very early this year as one of the main supporting cast of Basil Dearden's All Night Long (1962), a contemporary London jazz-scene retelling of Othello that is, no matter what this summary sounds like, great. I am not surprised that he was an excellent Henry, but still glad to hear it.

Date: 8 Jul 2017 03:22 am (UTC)
sovay: (Claude Rains)
From: [personal profile] sovay
I am currently having plenty of Bernard Hepton, as I also recorded Secret Army off the telly (one of our freeview channels keeping running 70s/80s drama series on Saturday mornings; I am all for this) and he is playing Rene the cafe owner in it.

Nice! I don't think I'd actually realized Secret Army starred Bernard Hepton. Then again, I am not sure I know much about it beyond its inspiration of 'Allo 'Allo!, which I have also not seen.

That audio thingy sounds good, although not if it is difficult, because I am very up and down about listening to things and still have a whole lot of Big Finish audios I was kindly given that I'm working my way through!

It's one of the spoken tracks from Ashley Hutchings and John Kirkpatrick's The Compleat Dancing Master (1973), which intersperses tunes from Playford's The Dancing Master with appropriately themed readings from actors like Hepton, Gary Watson, Sarah Badel, Michael Gough, Michael Hordern, Alec McCowen, and Ian Ogilvy; this one is slightly over a minute in length and includes such inimitably Puritan statements as "The way to Heaven is too steep, too narrow for men to dance in and keep revel-rout." It's linked below (through a filesharing site that I hope will behave) and you are not bound to listen to it if it will give you trouble.

Bernard Hepton, "Histriomastix (William Prynne)."

Sounds intriguing! I've seen him in a few things now, but mainly the 1979 Julius Caesar and this.

Worth your time, if it comes by on one of your channels. I really just need to watch that Julius Caesar.

Date: 7 Jul 2017 10:18 am (UTC)
sallymn: (history 5)
From: [personal profile] sallymn
This was my very first (that I recall) historical TV show, so has a special place in my heart, stagey staging, BBC budget and all...

And yes, the acting was pretty splendid. Keith Michell did a pretty well definitive Henry, and all of the wives were well done (the one playing Jane had the hardest row, I think, the character was dull, but she did wonders with it)

Date: 7 Jul 2017 02:46 pm (UTC)
liadtbunny: (King John Disney Robin Hood)
From: [personal profile] liadtbunny
I don't know much about Anne of Cleves either. She's regarded as not worth bothering with!

Elizabeth R is awesome! Except no other Eliazabeth I's ;p

I was disappointed to see the lack of actors appearing in the three too, obv this is more important than anything else;p I thought there were only 30 actors working in the UK at that time. A big clap to James Laurenson for being in Tudor TV the longest though.

The fur edging looks tatty enough to have come from an old telly frock! Am amused that the White Queen photo had to have an anachronistic element;)

Date: 7 Jul 2017 06:56 pm (UTC)
arnie1967: (Redflower)
From: [personal profile] arnie1967
Did you know there are 2 "Henry VIII and His 6 Wives starring Keith Michell"?

The Six Wives of Henry VIII - 1971 mini series
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0066714/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_24

Henry VIII and His Six Wives - 1972 film
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0070170/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_20

Keith Michell is Henry VIII but the wives are played by different actresses. Charlotte Rampling plays Anne Boleyn. I haven't seen this one yet, but I've seen the mini series and Keith Michell is completely awesome, IMO.

Bernard Hepton is Cranmer in both and in Elizabeth R, which pleases me so much. :oD

Date: 7 Jul 2017 07:45 pm (UTC)
swordznsorcery: (littlejoe)
From: [personal profile] swordznsorcery
That is indeed epic handholding. I love the picture from "The White Queen" too. There's just something lovely about all the period stuff, plus the mug of tea! Maybe she's a time traveller.

"The Six Wives..." had an amazing cast, although I reckon they missed a trick by not getting Jane Seymour to play Jane Seymour. ;)

Date: 8 Jul 2017 12:32 am (UTC)
hyarrowen: T rex (T rex)
From: [personal profile] hyarrowen
It's got just the right made from curtains look.

Ahaha yes. At least she isn't wearing a 1970s BBC wig.

I think Anne of Cleves is my favourite of H8's wives; she was quick on her feet and even managed to get a few palaces out of Henry, which is very good going. But I can't remember much about that episode... Must rewatch. I seem to remember that the whole thing was quite stagey?

I would certainly want to hold Cranmer's hand if he was Bernard Hepton. A very reassuring presence to have around. I'm still hopelessly in love with BH as the Colditz Kommandant.

And really, can anyone see Elizabeth as anyone other than Glenda Jackson? Though undoubtedly her finest hour was as Cleopatra on the Morecambe and Wise show.

Date: 8 Jul 2017 08:24 am (UTC)
mab_browne: Text icon - 'Mostly Harmless' on dark green background (Mostly Harmless)
From: [personal profile] mab_browne
Cleopatra on the Morecambe and Wise show.

"All men are fools. And what makes them so is having beauty like what I have got." Love her face the first time she reads that line.

Date: 8 Jul 2017 08:21 am (UTC)
mab_browne: Alpine scene and flowers from a painting by Rebecca Osbourne (Default)
From: [personal profile] mab_browne
I won't be watching the White Queen because of ~feelings about the source, but that is a lovely shot, with the teabag tag sticking over the side of the cup.

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