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The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)

aka The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex

Directed By: 
Written By: 
Details: 106 mins · English, Deutsch


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Small The Earl of Essex
Small Elizabeth I of England
Small Lady Penelope Gray
Small Francis Bacon
Small The Prince of Tyrone
Small Sir Walter Raleigh
Small Lord Burghley
Small Sir Robert Cecil
Small Sir Thomas Egerton
No_movie_poster Mistress Margaret Radcliffe (as Nanette Fabares)
Small Lord Knollys
Small Lord Mountjoy
Small Sir Edward Coke


Small Michael Curtiz Director
No_movie_poster Hal B. Wallis Production
No_movie_poster Robert Lord Production
Small Maxwell Anderson Writer


The Earl of Essex (Errol Flynn) returns in triumph to London after having dealt the Spanish a crushing naval defeat at Cadiz. In London, an aging Queen Elizabeth (Bette Davis) awaits him with love, but also with fear, because of his popularity with the commoners and his consuming ambition. His envious rivals include Sir Robert Cecil (Henry Daniell), Lord Burghley (Henry Stephenson), and Sir Walter Raleigh (Vincent Price). His only friend at court is Francis Bacon (Donald Crisp).

Instead of the praise he is expecting, Essex is stunned when Elizabeth criticizes him for his failure to capture the Spanish treasure fleet as he had promised. When his co-commanders are rewarded, Essex protests, precipitating a break between the lovers. He leaves for his estates.

Elizabeth pines for him, but refuses to degrade herself by recalling him. But when Hugh O'Neill, 2nd Earl of Tyrone (Alan Hale, Sr.) revolts and routs the English forces in Ireland, the Queen has the excuse she needs to summon Essex. She intends to make him Master of the Ordinance, a safe position at court. However, his enemies goad him into taking command of the army to be sent to quash the rebellion.

Essex pursues Tyrone, though his letters to Elizabeth begging for much-needed men and supplies go unanswered. Unbeknownst to him, his letters to her, and hers to him, are being intercepted by Lady Penelope Grey (Olivia de Havilland), a lady-in-waiting who loves him herself. Finally, Elizabeth, believing herself to be scorned, sends him an order to disband his army and return to London. Furious, Essex ignores it, orders a night march and thinks he has finally cornered his foe. However, at a parley, Tyrone points out the smoke rising from the English camp, signifying the destruction of the food and ammunition the English army needs. With no alternative, Essex accepts Tyrone's terms; he and his men disarm and sail back to England.

Thinking he has been betrayed, he leads his army in a march on London, to seize the crown for himself. Elizabeth offers no resistance to his forces, but once alone with him, convinces him that she will accept joint rule of the kingdom. He then naively disbands his army and is quickly arrested and condemned to death.

The day of his execution, Elizabeth can wait no longer. She summons him, hoping he will abandon his ambition in return for his life (which she is eager to grant). However, Essex tells her that he will always be a danger to her, and walks to the chopping block.

Release Dates:

DVD : 2005-04-19