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Movie Review:
The Private Life of Henry VIII

Philip Wuntch
3 Nov 1991
The Dallas Morning News, Page 44

This witty historical pageant, sometimes told in the format of a bedroom farce, has been often imitated since its 1933 release.

Charles Laughton gives one of the screen's classic performances as petulant, vain, child-like, pathetic Henry. The opening sequence, in which Henry's upcoming wife, Jane Seymour, selects her bridal gown as the chopping block is prepared for his departing spouse, Anne Boleyn, is both dramatic and perversely comedic.

Although Mr. Laughton is magnificent (and seems to know it), The Private Life of Henry VIII is not a one-man show.

Binnie Barnes brings bracing wit and sensuality to the role of the glory-seeking Catherine Howard, who breaks Henry's heart while sealing her own inevitable fate, and Robert Donat is superb as the devoted Thomas Culpepper, an unfortunate victim in Catherine's web.

Made in Britain, the film enjoyed an enormous international success, which made audiences eager for other English imports during the pre-World War II years.

Obituary for Binnie Barnes
Played Catherine Howard in
"The Private Life of Henry VIII"
3 Aug 1998
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Page B-4

Binnie Barnes, an English actress who was lured to Hollywood after her role as Catherine Howard in The Private Life of Henry VIII, a 1933 film starring Charles Laughton, died last Monday at her home in Beverly Hills. She was 95.

After a stint as a milkmaid at 15, the auburn-haired beauty, who was born in London, flitted through a series of jobs - nurse, chorus girl, dance hostess - before becoming a partner of Tex McLeod, a rope-spinning vaudeville entertainer of the Will Rogers school, eventually assuming the name "Texas Binnie Barnes," though she had never met an American cowboy.

In 1929, she made her stage debut in Silver Tassie, which featured Laughton. After a year of dramatic training, she made her film debut in the 1931 English movie Night in Montmartre, starring Heather Angel.

Later, in a series of 26 Stanley Lupino comedy shorts, she played vampish character roles. Producer Alexander Korda then signed her to a contract to appear in his films, including  The Private Life of Henry VIII and The Private Life of Don Juan" opposite Douglas Fairbanks.

After seeing her in Henry VIII, Carl Laemmle Jr., son of the founder of Universal Studios, brought Miss Barnes to Hollywood in 1934 to star opposite Frank Morgan in There's Always Tomorrow. More than 75 movies followed, including Diamond Jim with Edward Arnold, The Adventures of Marco Polo with Gary Cooper and The Three Musketeers with Don Ameche, in which she typically played a tart-tongued "man's woman" - an image she often maintained in public in her earlier years.

"I'm no Sarah Bernhardt," she once said. "One picture is just like another to me," as long as "I don't have to be a sweet woman."

In 1940, she married Mike Frankovich, a Columbia studio executive and former football star at the University of California at Los Angeles. He died in 1992. At the end of World War II they moved to Italy, where she made several films, including Fugitive Lady with Janis Paige and Eduardo Cianelli.

She resurrected her career in the 1960s for a role on "The Donna Reed Show." She appeared in The Trouble With Angels, starring Rosalind Russell, in 1966 and in the sequel two years later.

In 1973, Miss Barnes appeared in her last film, 40 Carats, with Liv Ullmann and Gene Kelly.

Culpepper Connections Note:

The Private Life of Henry VIII is still shown from time to time on the AMC channel.

Last Revised: 04 Jan 2000

 

 
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