Anne of the Thousand Days

Anne of the Thousand Days

Original theatrical poster
Directed by Charles Jarrott
Produced by Hal B. Wallis
Screenplay by Bridget Boland
John Hale
Richard Sokolove
Based on Anne of the Thousand Days by
Maxwell Anderson
Starring Richard Burton
Geneviève Bujold
Anthony Quayle
John Colicos
Irene Papas
Music by Georges Delerue
Cinematography Arthur Ibbetson, BSC
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • 18 December 1969 (1969-12-18) (United States)
  • 23 February 1970 (1970-02-23) (United Kingdom)
Running time
145 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Box office $6,134,264 (US/ Canada rentals)[1]

Anne of the Thousand Days is a 1969 British costume drama made by Hal Wallis Productions and distributed by Universal Pictures. It was directed by Charles Jarrott and produced by Hal B. Wallis. The film tells the story of Anne Boleyn. The screenplay is an adaptation by Bridget Boland, John Hale and Richard Sokolove of the 1948 play by Maxwell Anderson; Anderson's blank verse format was retained for only portions of the screenplay, such as Anne's soliloquy in the Tower of London, but then again, Anderson did not use blank verse throughout the play either, only in portions of it. The opening of the play was also changed, with Thomas Cromwell telling Henry VIII the outcome of the trial and Henry then recalling his marriage to Anne, rather than Anne speaking first and then Henry remembering in flashback.[2]

The film stars Richard Burton as King Henry VIII and Geneviève Bujold as Anne Boleyn. Elizabeth Taylor makes a brief, uncredited appearance. Irene Papas plays Catherine of Aragon. Others in the cast include Anthony Quayle, John Colicos, Michael Hordern, Katharine Blake, Peter Jeffrey, Joseph O'Conor, William Squire, Vernon Dobtcheff, Denis Quilley, Esmond Knight and T. P. McKenna, who would later go on to play Henry VIII in Monarch.

Despite receiving some negative reviews[3] and a mixed, but complimentary review from the New York Times[4] and one from Pauline Kael,[5] the film was nominated for ten Academy Awards and won the award for best costumes. Geneviève Bujold's portrayal of Anne, her first in an English-speaking film, was, however, very highly praised, even by Time magazine, which otherwise skewered the movie.[6] According to the Academy Awards exposé Inside Oscar, an expensive advertising campaign was mounted by Universal Studios that included serving champagne and filet mignon to members of the Academy following each screening.[7]

Background and production

The play Anne of the Thousand Days, the film's basis, was first enacted on Broadway in the Shubert Theatre on 8 December 1948; staged by H. C. Potter, with Rex Harrison and Joyce Redman as Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn respectively, running 288 performances; Harrison won a Tony Award for his performance.

Cinematically, Anne of the Thousand Days took twenty years to reach the screen because its themes – adultery, illegitimacy, incest – were then unacceptable to the US motion picture production code. The film was made on such locations as Penshurst Place and Hever Castle,[8] and at Pinewood and Shepperton Studios. Hever Castle was one of the main settings for the film; it was also the childhood home of Anne Boleyn. The stunning formal Tudor gardens provided the perfect setting for the film.[9]


The film begins in 1536 when Henry VIII (Richard Burton) considers whether or not he should sign the warrant for the execution of his second wife, Anne Boleyn: then, in a long flashback which takes up virtually the entire film, the whole truth is revealed. Starting in 1527, Henry has a problem: he reveals his dissatisfaction with his wife, Catherine of Aragon (Irene Papas). He is currently enjoying a discreet affair with Mary Boleyn, a daughter of Sir Thomas Boleyn who is one of his courtiers; but the King is bored with her too. At a court ball, he notices Mary's 18-year-old sister Anne (Geneviève Bujold), who has just returned from her education in France. She is engaged to the son of the Earl of Northumberland and they have received their parents' permission to marry. The King, however, is enraptured with Anne's beauty and orders his Lord Chancellor, Cardinal Wolsey, to break up the engagement.

When news of this decision is carried to Anne, she reacts furiously. She blames the Cardinal and the King for ruining her happiness. When Henry makes a rather clumsy attempt to seduce her, Anne bluntly informs him how she finds him: "I've heard what your courtiers say and I've seen what you are. You're spoiled and vengeful and bloody. Your poetry is sour and your music is worse. You make love as you eat with a good deal of noise and no subtlety."

Henry brings her back to Court with him, whilst she continues to resist his advances out of a mixture of repugnance for Henry and her lingering anger over her broken engagement. However, she becomes intoxicated with the power that the King's love gives her. "Power is as exciting as love," she tells her brother George Boleyn, "and who has more of it than the king?" Using this power, she continually undermines Cardinal Wolsey (Anthony Quayle), who at first sees Anne as just a passing love interest for the King.

When Henry again presses Anne to become his mistress, she repeats that she will never give birth to a child who is illegitimate. Desperate to have a son, Henry suddenly comes up with the idea of marrying Anne in Catherine's place. Anne is stunned, but she agrees. Wolsey begs the King to abandon the idea because of the political consequences of divorcing Catherine. Henry refuses to listen.

When Wolsey fails to persuade the Pope to give Henry his divorce, Anne points out this failing to an enraged Henry. Wolsey is dismissed from office and his magnificent palace in London is given as a present to Anne. In this splendour, Anne realises that she has finally fallen in love with Henry. They sleep together and, after discovering that she is pregnant, they are secretly married. Anne is given a splendid coronation, but the people jeer at her in disgust as "the king's whore".

Months later, Anne gives birth to a daughter: Princess Elizabeth. Henry is displeased since he was hoping for a boy, and their marital relationship begins to cool. His attentions are soon diverted to Lady Jane Seymour, one of Anne's maids. Once she discovers this liaison, Anne banishes Jane from court. "She has the face of a simpering sheep," she informs Henry, "and the manners, but 'not' the morals. I don't want her near me."

During a row over Sir Thomas More's opposition to Anne's queenship, Anne refuses to sleep with her husband unless More is put to death. "It's his blood, or else it's my blood and Elizabeth's!" she cries hysterically. More is put to death, but Anne's subsequent pregnancy ends as a result of a stillborn boy.

Henry demands that his new minister, Thomas Cromwell, find a way to get rid of Anne. Cromwell tortures a servant in her household into confessing to adultery with the Queen; he then arrests four other courtiers who are also accused of being Anne's lovers. Anne is taken to the Tower and placed under arrest. When she is told that she has been accused of adultery, she laughs. "I thought you were serious!" she says, before being informed that it is deadly serious. When she sees her brother being brought into the Tower, Anne asks why he has been arrested. "He too is accused of being your lover," mutters her embarrassed uncle. Anne's face shudders with horror before she whispers, "Incest?... Oh God help me, the King is mad. I am doomed."

At Anne's trial, she manages to cross-question Mark Smeaton, the tortured servant who finally admits that the charges against Anne are lies. Henry makes an appearance, before visiting Anne in her chambers that night. He offers her freedom if she will agree to annul their marriage and make their daughter illegitimate. Anne refuses, saying that she would rather die than betray their daughter. Henry slaps her before telling her that her disobedience will mean her death.

Moving back to 1536, Henry decides to execute Anne. A few days later, Anne is taken to the scaffold and beheaded by a French swordsman. Henry rides off to marry Jane Seymour and the film's final shot is of their young daughter, Elizabeth (Amanda Jane Smythe), toddling alone in the garden as she hears the cannon firing to announce her mother's death.


Historical accuracy


The film received mixed reviews from critics, most commonly the plot was considered dull and plodding. Beyond the story itself, the performances of Genevieve Bujold, Richard Burton and Irene Papas were met with universal acclaim, especially that of Bujold. Her Anne Boleyn has gone down in cinematic history, considered to be the finest portrayal of the Queen ever made. Bujold remains the only actress ever nominated for an Oscar in playing Anne Boleyn.


1970 Oscars Won Best Costume Design (Margaret Furse)
1970 Oscars Nominated Best Actor in a Leading Role – Richard Burton
1970 Oscars Nominated Best Actress in a Leading Role – Geneviève Bujold
1970 Oscars Nominated Best Actor in a Supporting Role – Anthony Quayle
1970 Oscars Nominated Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Maurice Carter, Lionel Couch, Patrick McLoughlin)
1970 Oscars Nominated Best Cinematography (Arthur Ibbetson)
1970 Oscars Nominated Best Music, Original Score for a Motion Picture (not a Musical) (Georges Delerue)
1970 Oscars Nominated Best Picture – Hal B. Wallis
1970 Oscars Nominated Best Sound – John Aldred
1970 Oscars Nominated Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Bridget Boland, John Hale, Richard Sokolove)
1970 Golden Globes Won Best Motion Picture Actress – Drama – Geneviève Bujold
1970 Golden Globes Won Best Motion Picture – Drama
1970 Golden Globes Won Best Director – Motion Picture – Charles Jarrott
1970 Golden Globes Won Best Screenplay – Bridget Boland, John Hale, Richard Sokolove
1970 Golden Globes Nominated Best Motion Picture Actor – Drama – Richard Burton
1970 Golden Globes Nominated Best Supporting Actor – Anthony Quayle
1970 Golden Globes Nominated Best Original Score – Georges Delerue
1971 BAFTA Nominated Best Art Direction – Maurice Carter
1971 BAFTA Nominated Best Costume Design – Margaret Furse

See also


  1. "Big Rental Films of 1970", Variety, 6 January 1971 p 11
  2. Anne of the Thousand Days, Google books, accessed 15 April 2012
  3. "Anne of the Thousand Days seems to have been made for one person: the Queen of England", Time Magazine
  4. Canby, Vincent (21 January 1970). "Screen: A Royal Battle of the Sexes:'Anne of 1,000 Days' Bows at Plaza Burton Cast as Henry Miss Bujold Stars". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 8 October 2013.
  6. "Cinema: The Lion in Autumn". Time. 2 February 1970. Retrieved 25 April 2010.
  7. Inside Oscar, Mason Wiley and Damien Boa, Ballantine Books (1986) pg. 434
  9. Kent Film Office. "Kent Film Office Anne of the Thousand Days Film Focus".
  10. Weir. Henry VIII: The King and His Court. p. 216.
  11. "The 42nd Academy Awards (1970) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  12. "NY Times: Anne of the Thousand Days". NY Times. Retrieved 27 December 2008.

External links

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