Sunday, 22 August 2010

Anne Boleyn in the Movies

"I know my husband! He is a hunter... When he has sported, he will kill. 'Tis his nature. And I am the prey." - From the television series The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1970)

British actress Laura Cowie, seen here as Anne Boleyn, played the role in the silent movie Henry VIII (1911.) She later married her on-screen co-star, Arthur Bourchier.

Considered one of the greatest German actresses of her generation, Henny Porten -  shown in a studio still - played the doomed Queen in the 2-hour long silent movie epic Anna Boleyn (1920), directed by Ernest Lubitsch.
"Isn't it a pity to lose a head like this?" Merle Oberon, seen here in the role, gave her break-out performance as Anne Boleyn in the Oscar-winning British costume drama, The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933.) Oberon, who went on to become one of the great beauties of Hollywood in the 1930s and 1940s, had a relatively small role in the movie, with the story beginning on the day of Anne's execution. Yet, it was a memorable appearance and Oberon herself became fascinated by the character, hanging portraits of Anne in her Knightsbridge apartment. 
"I need an English teacher for the Dauphin." A poster for the French-language epic, Les perles de la couronne (1937), which chronicled the adventures of a fictitious set of royal jewels through history, with what would now be called an "all-star cast." Anne Boleyn was briefly played by Barbara Shaw, appearing as a young woman at the French Court and then later as Queen of England.

German actress Lilli Palmer played Anne Boleyn in the American television drama The Trial of Anne Boleyn (1952), opposite Rex Harrison as King Henry VIII. This was not Lilli's last performance as a royal figure - her last on-screen job in 1986 was as the Dowager Tsarina Natalya of Russia in the mini-series Peter the Great and she also played the pretender, Anna Anderson, in Anastasia: The Czar's Last Daughter (1956.) Today, Lilli Palmer is perhaps best-known for having played Holocaust victim, Edith Frank, in The Diary of Anne Frank (1967.)

The beautiful American model, Elaine Stewart, made a brief appearance as Queen Anne in the lavish movie based on the early life of her daughter, Young Bess (1953.)

American actress, Beatrice Straight, played Anne in the American television drama, The Crisis of Anne Boleyn (1954), which was set on May 16th, 1536, the day after the Queen's trial.  The episode was part of the successful Omnibus television series.

The lovely Czechoslovakian actress, Jeanette Sterke, played Queen Anne in the drama The White Falcon (1956), part of the BBC's successful Sunday Night Theatre series.
Oscar-winning actress Vanessa Redgrave is seen her making her brief, non-speaking cameo as Anne Boleyn in the screen adaptation of the Robert Bolt play, A Man For All Seasons (1966), based on the downfall of Catholic politician, Sir Thomas More.
"The only love I can ever give you is that of a loyal subject for her King." The performance of French-Canadian actress, Genevieve Bujold, in the Oscar-winning Anne of the Thousand Days (1969), is considered by many people to have been the definitive on-screen portrayal of Anne. Bujold was nominated for an Academy Award, but she lost to Maggie Smith in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. The trailer for Anne of the Thousand Days can be watched here

"I must pray to God to give me a son!" British theatre actress, Dame Dorothy Tutin, appeared as Anne in two episodes of the acclaimed BBC series The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1970.) Her performance was critically praised and in the same year she was fantastic as Queen Henrietta-Maria in the movie Cromwell, opposite Richard Harris and Sir Alec Guinness.

"I think my lady will have all - or nothing." Following the success of The Six Wives of Henry VIII, actor Keith Michell was cast once again as the King in a cinema-released production Henry VIII and his Six Wives (1972.) This time, the role of Anne Boleyn was played by British actress, Charlotte Rampling, shown here in her first scene in the movie. Henry VIII and his Six Wives was the only movie to portray Anne's alleged deformities - the vestigial sixth finger and mole - part of the "black legend" of Anne Boleyn concocted in the 1570s.

"’Tis better to be lowly born,
And range with humble livers in content,
Than to be perked up in a glistering grief
And wear a golden sorrow."
Perhaps best known to British audiences for her role as the White Witch in the television production of C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, Barbara Kellerman is shown here as a young Anne Boleyn in the screen version of William Shakespeare’s The Famous History of the Life of King Henry the Eighth (1979.)

A promotional poster for the movie God's Outlaw (1986), based on the life of Protestant intellectual, William Tyndale. Oona Kirsch is shown as a pious Anne Boleyn in the bottom of the poster, with Keith Barron as Henry VIII.

Julia Marsen played Anne Boleyn in the documentary series, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (2001), narrated by Cambridge historian, Dr. David Starkey, author of Elizabeth: Apprenticeship, Six Wives and The Reign of Henry VIII: Personalities & Politics.

Jodhi May, on the right, is shown playing Anne Boleyn in the BBC dramatisation of Philippa Gregory's novel, The Other Boleyn Girl (2003), with Natascha McElhone as her sister, Lady Mary Carey.

"If I love you - will I be safe?" Helena Bonham-Carter was pregnant when she starred as Anne Boleyn in the 2-part television movie, Henry VIII (2003.) She is shown here in the role, opposite Ray Winstone as King Henry. Part One chronicled the love affair between Henry and Anne, whilst Part Two told the story of the King's final ten years of life, focussing primarily on the King's third and fifth wives, played by Emilia Fox and The Devil Wears Prada's Emily Blunt.

"Glory? What glory?" Israeli actress, Natalie Portman, is shown here as Anne in the Hollywood adaptation of Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl. The trailer can be watched here and this blog's review, read here.

Natalie Dormer gave a triumphant and sympathetic portrayal of Anne across two seasons and twenty episodes of the Showtime series, The Tudors in 2007 and 2008. She reprised the role in the 2010 finale as the ghost of Anne Boleyn, returning to the deathbed of her husband. In a dream sequence of Anne's childhood, the 6 year-old Anne was played by Irish actress, Muireann O'Donoghue. The Tudors' interpretation of the Queen's execution can be seen here, with Jonathan Rhys Meyer as the King, George Irving as Sir William Kingston, James Frain as Thomas Cromwell, Henry Cavill as the Duke of Suffolk


  1. Another great post! I love ANNE OF THE THOUSAND DAYS.

  2. I love Vanessa Redgrave's portrayal of Anne Boleyn. She looked alot like the famous painting of Anne come to life!

    Same for the excellent Barbara Kellerman.

  3. It's fantastic, isn't it? The physical resemblance between Miss Bujold and the Hever Castle portrait of Anne with the rose is strong, I think.

    Roland, Barbara Kellerman's performance was fantastic and it says a lot for Vanessa Redgrave that even with no lines, her work in "A Man for All Seasons" is still remembered.

  4. ‘Anne of the 1000 Days’ is definitely my all time favorite movie. Genevieve Bujold is a magnificent actress, and I’m an admirer of her many other film and tv appearances too.

    Here is a picture I took a few years ago in Montreal, Canada (where Ms. Bujold is originally from) of her blue ‘Anne’ costume (the scenes where Henry VIII strikes Anne Boleyn in anger, and when they play chess together as Cardinal Wolsey arrives).


    The dress was on display at the ‘Planet Hollywood Restaurant’, which unfortunately is no longer around. That the mannequin was headless was surely unintentional – LOL!

    Beside the glass case is a photograph of Ms. Bujold wearing the dress in the film. In comparing the photo to the costume itself, I had noticed that there were a few minor decorative alterations here and there. The dress was probably reused for another movie afterwards.

    And this is an 8 x 10 photo I received signed from Ms. Bujold herself in 1998:

    I had sent her a note (to her home in Malibu, California) saying that I greatly admired her work, along with this photo with a request for an autograph. Ms. Bujold was kind enough to mail it back to me with her signature.


  5. I have a question for you. I see a documentary(BBC,2008) about Anne, with this girl:

    The documentary is these:

    But.. who is the girl that plays Anne? They don't say her name on the end of the film...
    I appreciate more informations.

    Oh, my english sucks, sorry. I'm brazilian :]
    by the way, your post is amazing =]

  6. Hi! Thank you very much for your comment - and your English is much more impressive than my Portuguese is.

    The actress who played Anne Boleyn in "Days that shook the World" is called Jo Martell. Hope this helps and glad you enjoyed the article!

  7. Ahh! Thank so much for the information!
    I'm thinking to make a portuguese site about her, and for this, i'm trying to make a schedule with the name of all the actresses who played Anne, and I really wanted that name! Thanks =]
    I found the site very good because i never heard about Henry VIII (1911) and about some actress, like Beatrice Straight, Elaine Stewart and Lilli Palmer !
    I'll pass you address for some friends :D

  8. I'm sorry, but can you help me again?
    These images are what the movie of Anne Boleyn?

  9. Hi Nyelehendrick,

    Those photos are actually of a movie presentation of Anne's daughter, a young Elizabeth I, played by Lalla Ward in a production of "The Prince and the Pauper." It shows Elizabeth wearing some of her late mother's jewellery.

  10. Thank you so much for this article! It's amazing look at my blog, please.

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  11. Since you don't have a article about Elizabeth I in the movies, I will have to aske it here again, so sorry...

    Do you have any idea of who is this lady? In the subtitle is said that she is Anne-Marie Duff of the show Elizabeth The Virgin Queen (2005), but I have pretty shure that is not.

  12. It is not Anne-Marie Duff, you're right. I believe it's a historical re-enactor at a Renaissance fair.

  13. RHIS IS WRONG :"The lovely Czechoslovakian actress, Jeanette Sterke, played Queen Anne in the drama The White Falcon (1956), part of the BBC's successful Sunday Night Theatre series."
    She is Annamaria Pier Angeli with Vic Damone!!!


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