Friday 27 August 2010

Katharine Parr in the Movies

"Six wives. And the best of them's the worst." - The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933)

Everley Gregg was the first on-screen Katharine Parr in The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933), in which Henry's sixth and final wife was cast as a bossy but protective nursemaid during her husband's twilight years.

Deborah Kerr, perhaps best known for her role in The King and I, played an elegant and gracious Queen Katharine in the biopic Young Bess (1953), opposite Charles Laughton, Stewart Granger and Jean Simmons. With her red hair and alabaster skin, Kerr had a strong resemblance to the real Queen Katharine, although she was undoubtedly a more beautiful version of the original.

Real-life aristocrat, Sarah Beauchamp, daughter of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, played Queen Katharine in Hallmark's A Queen's Way (1953.)

Czech actress, Jana Brejchov√°, played Catherine Parr in the 1967 Czechoslovakian television movie The King and Women.

"I think it would be better to be your mistress than your wife, Your Majesty." Rosalie Crutchley had already played one of Henry's wives before - Katherine of Aragon in The Sword and the Rose - when she played a matronly Katharine Parr in the final episode of the BBC's The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1970.) She reprised her role in the first episode of its sequel, Elizabeth R (1971), starring Glenda Jackson.

Keith Michell and Barbara Leigh-Hunt as Henry VIII and Katharine Parr in Henry VIII and his Six Wives (1972.) Leigh-Hunt's physical resemblance to the real Katharine was particularly marked when compared to the red riding outfit portrait of the Queen allegedly painted by William Scrots.

Caroline Lintott as Katharine in Episode 4 of Dr. David Starkey's documentary The Six Wives of Henry VIII (2001.)

Clare Holman had a small but memorable role as Queen Katharine in the concluding part of the ITV television movie Henry VIII (2003), opposite Ray Winstone.

"You know what happens to his queens! Everybody knows." Joely Richardson, seen here in a publicity still for the series, played Katharine Parr in the final five episodes of The Tudors (2010). Katharine's charm and Protestant religious fervour were well-displayed and it was an elegant, sympathetic portrayal from the actress. When asked who I would cast as Henry VIII's wives from actresses working today a few years ago, I remember saying that either Kate Winslet or Joely Richardson would have been my choice for Katharine Parr, so I felt validated when I saw the excellent performance given in The Tudors.

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