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who plays the best henry and why?
May 21, 2010
9:42 am
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Sharon
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I have not seen the Ray Winstone portrayal of Henry yet. But he has the look.

 My favorite would have to be Richard Burton.  I think he had Henry down perfect.  I'm dating myself here, but I think he was one of the finest actors to come out of England.  I love all of his films.  He was a wonderful Shakespearean actor. He was a joy to watch. The best in his field.  When I was younger, I played thealbum of the broadway play of Camelot constantly until it was worn out.  It took years before I found the version on CD; and now, I play that one all the time. 

May 21, 2010
3:40 pm
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Bella44
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I like Keith Michell in the 'Six Wives of Henry Vlll' TV series and movie, especially when he's the older Henry.  He had the look and mannerisms down pat and he's still the Henry that I judge all the others by.

May 24, 2010
6:40 am
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Jenny
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I gave up TV and Cinema a long time ago but from when I did watch I would rate Keith Mitchell as a brilliant henry and Glenda Jackson as a brilliant Liz 1

June 1, 2010
1:57 pm
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Wendy
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I'm with Bella on this one.  I judge all 'Henry's' by Keith Michell's standard. He was superb.

June 23, 2010
11:17 am
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TinaII2None
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Keith Michell's was the first Henry I ever saw — he just seemed to capture everything I learned about the man as time went on, whether as Renaissance Prince or monster. My second favorite is probably Richard Burton (Anne of a Thousand Days), and I saw the Ray Winstone version once — he wasn't bad at all; I also like Robert Shaw's version in A Man For All Seasons.  

Any of you have a least favorite Henry or one you can't quite put your finger on? Least favorite of all: German actor Emil Jannings in Anna Boleyn (aka Deception) — that whole movie left me cold. Frown The one I'm still trying to put my finger on after all these years: Charles Laughton. I know he played Henry at least twice, but I can't decide if I like his performance or not (and I've seen the movie about 6 times). Confused Maybe he's okay but it's the wives that have me scratching my head Laugh

Henry: Mistress Anne, will you teach the king of England how they dance in the French court?
Anne: There is nothing that France can teach England, your majesty.
King Henry VIII: Well said. Well said.
– Anne of the Thousand Days (1969)

October 12, 2010
6:09 am
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Anne
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Up until now,I guess I’m between JRM and R.Burton.Of course neither of them is remotely close to him in looks(my favourite Henry based in looks is R.Shaw.Red-haired,tall,charming with an air of royalty and arrogance.Perfect).

R.Burton first of all was one of the greatest actors.I liked his Henry’s portrayal as a Rennaisance king,a poet,a musician,a dancer.His voice and accent,that little thing with his voice,being rythmical and musical.

JRM,up until the first half of season 2(around Katherine’s death)was for me the worst Henry ever.I wanted to slap my tv because I couldn’t slap his Henry.But from that point on he really grow into his role(maybe it was the script’s fault).Although I disagree with having Henry looking gorgeous,JRM managed to make me forget his looks.Actually,he gave the most believable edition of Henry and how things progressed with each wive.He played the narcissit king,the lover,the madmam,the tyrrant,the man.Also,for me it is the first time that the succesion of wives seemed logical,realist.And I loooved the fact that his interpretation shows that Anne was his true,great and tragic love*,that he was attracted to Catherine Parr and didn’t “hire” her like a nurse,that it was mostly his need for tranquility,his qualms and her sacrifice that Jane was his “beloved wife”.

 

*In this version he is actually heartbroken,enraged by the accusations against her,almost lunatic before her death,her death transforming him to a monster(according to the Tudors,it looks like it was the deaths of his first 3 wives that changed him).Even in season 3,4 it it shown that he misses her,that her  remembrance still pains him and his hate was actually mad and twisted love,born of hate,lies and rejection.His love didn’t just banished,it stayed in his heart and drove him mad

October 17, 2010
5:36 pm
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Boleynfan
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There are some ‘Ray Winstone as Henry’ fans here I see…surprisingly I really wasn’t all that taken with his portrayal, he just seemed like a hulking nonentity to me. And I could never imagine him as being a golden Renaissance prince when he was younger. What does everyone think of the Henry in Anne of the Thousand Days? (which is, by the way, my favorite Anne movie ever!!)

"Grumble all you like, this is how it's going to be"

October 18, 2010
6:49 am
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TinaII2None
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Boleynfan said:

There are some ‘Ray Winstone as Henry’ fans here I see…surprisingly I really wasn’t all that taken with his portrayal, he just seemed like a hulking nonentity to me. And I could never imagine him as being a golden Renaissance prince when he was younger. What does everyone think of the Henry in Anne of the Thousand Days? (which is, by the way, my favorite Anne movie ever!!)


 Richard Burton’s Henry is one of my faves — along with Keith Michell (the first Henry I ever saw) and yes, even JRM (who grew on me, and who I like the more I replay the episodes, even sans red hair, height and Laugh accurate weight gain).

Henry: Mistress Anne, will you teach the king of England how they dance in the French court?
Anne: There is nothing that France can teach England, your majesty.
King Henry VIII: Well said. Well said.
– Anne of the Thousand Days (1969)

October 24, 2010
12:52 pm
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royalfalcon
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I absolutely love JRM in this part. I have also thought that Keith Mitchell and Richard Burton were very good.  I know that Jonathan does not look remotely like Henry, but to me he captures the energy and charisma of the King totally. I also thought that the chemistry between him and Natalie Dormer as Anne was amazing.

October 24, 2010
3:43 pm
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TinaII2None
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royalfalcon said:

I absolutely love JRM in this part. I have also thought that Keith Mitchell and Richard Burton were very good.  I know that Jonathan does not look remotely like Henry, but to me he captures the energy and charisma of the King totally. I also thought that the chemistry between him and Natalie Dormer as Anne was amazing.


I'm watching season 4 right now and JRM being delusional in his “victory” of Boulogne (sp?)…and now he just collapsed on the floor and where the heck are his gentlemen to attend him? (Sorry LOL). When I first heard he was cast as Henry, I think my eyes rolled so far back into my head that they nearly got stuck Laugh but then when I finally saw his performance, I was convinced he was doing a great job of capturing Henry as young Renaissance prince and Henry as what he became as an old man! And since I've also gone back to watching Seasons 1 and 2, you are SO right about him and Natalie Dormer.  

Henry: Mistress Anne, will you teach the king of England how they dance in the French court?
Anne: There is nothing that France can teach England, your majesty.
King Henry VIII: Well said. Well said.
– Anne of the Thousand Days (1969)

October 26, 2010
8:10 am
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Sharon
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Richard Burton will always be my favorite Henry. He was magic on the screen. However, JRM comes in as a really, really close second.  Really close.  First of all, I have never found a painting of Henry in which I can say, 'yes, he was the most handsome Prince in Christendom.' So I'm thinking that JRM was the 21st century's answer to the 16th century's idea of handsome.  And JRM is oh so handsome and athletic. The chemistry between JRM and Natalie was exactly how I believe the chemistry was between Henry and Anne.  Cudos to them both for that portrayal.  JRM showed Henry as loving and kind, yet at times as cold as ice. We saw Henry's volatile temper, his severe pain, his tyranny and his miserable last years. All in all I thought JRM was brilliant.

October 26, 2010
10:37 pm
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TinaII2None
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Sharon said:

Richard Burton will always be my favorite Henry. He was magic on the screen. However, JRM comes in as a really, really close second.  Really close.  First of all, I have never found a painting of Henry in which I can say, 'yes, he was the most handsome Prince in Christendom.' So I'm thinking that JRM was the 21st century's answer to the 16th century's idea of handsome.  And JRM is oh so handsome and athletic. The chemistry between JRM and Natalie was exactly how I believe the chemistry was between Henry and Anne.  Cudos to them both for that portrayal.  JRM showed Henry as loving and kind, yet at times as cold as ice. We saw Henry's volatile temper, his severe pain, his tyranny and his miserable last years. All in all I thought JRM was brilliant.


Sharon — you're right about the portraits of Henry. I've seen a couple in which I thought him moderately attractive, but I can't say I've seen one that had me saying “Now that Henry VIII is HOT!” I try to imagine him in life, just as I do most historical figures; try to imagine him walking about, talking, interacting as he did when he was alive, and am able to get beyond the one-dimensional figure we see in the paintings and more into what would have been the three-dimensional man. So you've hit the nail on the head in what you wrote about JRM being our equivalent to what Henry's time frame would have thought of handsome. Which is why I gave up on the “why aren't we getting a historically accurate physical appearance” and accepting JRM for what he was giving us in his performance. You are also DEAD-ON about JRM and Natalie's chemistry. Watching the eps from Seasons 1 and 2 made me realize just how much those two lit up a screen! Although I know there was irony intended when Henry tells Anne “I love your neck,” there is something so beautiful in the way he says it and her response that makes one smile and sigh. This time I'm watching even closer their reactions to one another and I think we're seeing something very close to what they were in real life.

And Sharon, I love Richard Burton's Henry very much too. Laugh

Henry: Mistress Anne, will you teach the king of England how they dance in the French court?
Anne: There is nothing that France can teach England, your majesty.
King Henry VIII: Well said. Well said.
– Anne of the Thousand Days (1969)

October 27, 2010
9:16 am
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Sharon
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Tina, Okay now I'm trying to picture a 16th century woman saying, “Now that Henry VIII is HOt!”…LOL. We have come a long, long way!  I try to see these characters walking and talking too.  But Henry always looks mean to me in the paintings.  His eyes are beady…not gentle or kind or jovial.  I even have trouble picturing Anne in real life.  So many people have portrayed these characters, and yet, few really look like them.  Not to me anyway. No matter who portrays them, there always seems to be something missing. So I'm going with the 21st century look.  It's the only way I can appreciate the way they might have been.  If not in exact looks, JRM and Natalie Dormer gave me a way to see how electric Henry and Anne were together.  I felt that was the way of it. 

Yes, that was a wonderful moment when Henry said he loved Anne's neck.  Despite the symbolism, it was very sexy.

October 27, 2010
1:13 pm
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TinaII2None
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Sharon said:

Tina, Okay now I'm trying to picture a 16th century woman saying, “Now that Henry VIII is HOt!”…LOL. We have come a long, long way!  I try to see these characters walking and talking too.  But Henry always looks mean to me in the paintings.  His eyes are beady…not gentle or kind or jovial.  I even have trouble picturing Anne in real life.  So many people have portrayed these characters, and yet, few really look like them.  Not to me anyway. No matter who portrays them, there always seems to be something missing. So I'm going with the 21st century look.  It's the only way I can appreciate the way they might have been.  If not in exact looks, JRM and Natalie Dormer gave me a way to see how electric Henry and Anne were together.  I felt that was the way of it. 

Yes, that was a wonderful moment when Henry said he loved Anne's neck.  Despite the symbolism, it was very sexy.


ROFL about the 16th century woman! I'm trying to think if I've see a painting of Henry where he didn't look like an arrogant so-and-so. Oh you called his eyes beady. It was either Alison Weir or Antonia Fraser — in a documentary on Henry — that called them “piggy” (the famous Holbein was the portrait being shown at the time)! You're right about the numerous portrayals — either they come close to caricature (Charles Laughton or Emil Jannings), they don't look anything like him but come close to pegging him in other ways (JRM), or they come real close but something still feels like it's missing (Keith Michell, Richard Burton, Robert Shaw). I guess it'll always be that way in any historic performance.

It's funny that I have trouble visualizing the real life person from the portraits we see (I've been saying 'could you actually picture them walking around in real life' for years); even odder is that while it's difficult when it comes to Henry VIII or his wives or children or any other painted figure,  no matter how brilliant the artist, I can very easily conjure up Abraham Lincoln or Winston Churchill. Why? Because I've seen photographs of them — something which is very near to reality, and even with Churchill, I've heard his voice and seen video of him. That makes them more real. And makes me sorry that photography wasn't around at the time of the Tudors. 🙁

I'll say it again — you pegged it about the chemistry between JRM and Natalie. And there was something I noticed in several scenes — when Henry meets with Anne after she recovers from the Sweating Sickness; when they go riding in the final ep of Season 1 and end up making love…they walk with one another and towards one another with such purpose, such confidence — even a certain equality I don't remember Henry exhibiting with any of his other wives. If the real Anne was anything like this, then it's part of what I think may have drawn Henry to her — she was likely as close to an equal to him than any woman would ever be (equal might not be the right word, but it's as close as I can think of right now).

Henry: Mistress Anne, will you teach the king of England how they dance in the French court?
Anne: There is nothing that France can teach England, your majesty.
King Henry VIII: Well said. Well said.
– Anne of the Thousand Days (1969)

October 28, 2010
8:59 am
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Sharon
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Piggy is good.  I like that.  In fact it's better than beady.

I think you are correct in that we know Lincoln and Churchill through photography.  We can even recognise historical voices when we hear them.  Such as JFK, Churchill, FDR..etc.  We know them immediately.  It is more difficult with the Tudors.  We don't know how Henry sounded.  We just know what we think is him by the actors who have portrayed him. And they always make him such a blowhard. Except for JRM.  That's why I think I like him so much.  We see the man, not just some caricature.

Walking toward each other…Oh yeah…It's similar to when you see your oldest best friend.  You know their heart and they know yours.  You can't wait to talk to them and just be with them. When you are with that person, you don't have to watch what you say.  They will know what you mean and understand. To be your true self with that person. That's how I see Anne and Henry. (Until later when it all fell apart.)

October 28, 2010
11:42 am
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TinaII2None
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Sharon said:

Piggy is good.  I like that.  In fact it's better than beady.

I think you are correct in that we know Lincoln and Churchill through photography.  We can even recognise historical voices when we hear them.  Such as JFK, Churchill, FDR..etc.  We know them immediately.  It is more difficult with the Tudors.  We don't know how Henry sounded.  We just know what we think is him by the actors who have portrayed him. And they always make him such a blowhard. Except for JRM.  That's why I think I like him so much.  We see the man, not just some caricature.

Walking toward each other…Oh yeah…It's similar to when you see your oldest best friend.  You know their heart and they know yours.  You can't wait to talk to them and just be with them. When you are with that person, you don't have to watch what you say.  They will know what you mean and understand. To be your true self with that person. That's how I see Anne and Henry. (Until later when it all fell apart.)


They also said something about that codpiece, but can't remember what that specifically was LOL

You're also right about their voices, and the ones you mentioned are great examples of the memorable and recognizable. Now with the Tudors, we can be told that someone was “soft-spoken” or that “their voice boomed” or “they sounded like some wise old man even when they were a child” but even then it's hard to imagine as we still “hear” them in our heads in various ways. Yes, most Henrys come across as blowhards — even one of my faves, Keith Michell, only has a few scenes in the original BBC series where he speaks quietly, passionately, even to us getting to hear him sing (I'm pretty sure accompanied by Dorothy Tutin's Anne Boleyn). I'd try to find a link but considering my luck with links today, it probably won't work LOL I'm hoping that one day I'll live long enough to see the perfect Henry. Laugh

Love what you said in response to my mention of the way Henry and Anne approach one another in several scenes! If some of you don't remember, take a look at them again. Those alone are worth me trying to buy the DVDs for my collection. I'll say it again — absolute GREAT chemistry.

By the way — and I just thought of this — but in the Ghost Anne scene in the last episode, was Anne the only one of the ghosts that actually walked nearly right up on Henry as if to challenge him? I don't remember Catherine or Jane doing so, but I'm pretty sure Anne walked towards him, still defiant and proclaiming her innocence. When she did I could only think 'You tell him Anne! You tell him!' I'd love to think she did appear to him in his final moments, just long enough to whisper in his ear “You lose….Elizabeth is going to be Queen and there's nothing you can do to stop it.” (Ghosts always seem to have all that knowledge of the future don't they? LOL)

Henry: Mistress Anne, will you teach the king of England how they dance in the French court?
Anne: There is nothing that France can teach England, your majesty.
King Henry VIII: Well said. Well said.
– Anne of the Thousand Days (1969)

October 29, 2010
9:10 am
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Sharon
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I don't think any of the other wives walked toward Henry in the ghost scenes.  At least I don't recall them rushing toward him as she did.  But she would, right? She was never afraid to get right up close and personal with Henry when she had something to say. After saying she was innocent, she said, “I thought you knew?” The way he recoiled meant to me that he did know, and was shocked that she said something about it.  

I have a different take on what she would have whispered to him as he lay dying.  I think she would have told him about Elizabeth being Queen, but I think she also would have said something to the effect that this life is done, peace, you can come with me now, all will be well.  I think she would have been more forgiving.  A part of me would like to think of them as together in the afterlife smiling together as they observe their awesome daughter. Then there is the other part of me that would have truly loved it if she had said, “nananananana!”

I'm not sure we will ever see the perfect Henry on screen.  But there is hope.  When I first read “Gone With The Wind,” I pictured Erroll Flynn as Rhett Butler. It was him and that was it.  I almost didn't go to see the movie when it was re-released because I didn't think Clark Gable was the right man for the part and it made me angry.  Now I can't picture anyone but Gable. As to Scarlett…well I didn't really know, but I loved Claudette Colbert and I kind of thought it should be her.  Then I saw the movie.  Vivien Leigh was the perfect Scarlett. I thought Richard Burton the perfect King Arthur.  And I thought Peter O'Toole was the perfect Henry II.  So there may still be hope for the perfect Henry someday. I hope we live long enough to see it.

November 4, 2010
1:58 pm
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TinaII2None
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Sharon said:

I don't think any of the other wives walked toward Henry in the ghost scenes.  At least I don't recall them rushing toward him as she did.  But she would, right? She was never afraid to get right up close and personal with Henry when she had something to say. After saying she was innocent, she said, “I thought you knew?” The way he recoiled meant to me that he did know, and was shocked that she said something about it.  

I have a different take on what she would have whispered to him as he lay dying.  I think she would have told him about Elizabeth being Queen, but I think she also would have said something to the effect that this life is done, peace, you can come with me now, all will be well.  I think she would have been more forgiving.  A part of me would like to think of them as together in the afterlife smiling together as they observe their awesome daughter. Then there is the other part of me that would have truly loved it if she had said, “nananananana!”

I'm not sure we will ever see the perfect Henry on screen.  But there is hope.  When I first read “Gone With The Wind,” I pictured Erroll Flynn as Rhett Butler. It was him and that was it.  I almost didn't go to see the movie when it was re-released because I didn't think Clark Gable was the right man for the part and it made me angry.  Now I can't picture anyone but Gable. As to Scarlett…well I didn't really know, but I loved Claudette Colbert and I kind of thought it should be her.  Then I saw the movie.  Vivien Leigh was the perfect Scarlett. I thought Richard Burton the perfect King Arthur.  And I thought Peter O'Toole was the perfect Henry II.  So there may still be hope for the perfect Henry someday. I hope we live long enough to see it.


Finally getting to answer you on this one Sharon — it's been a rough couple of weeks (along with me having a fall at work — thankfully  nothing broken). First off…I think Errol Flynn was one of the many actors in the running for Rhett Butler, so you picturing him when you read the book isn't a far cry from what others may have had in mind. But now, I can't see anyone but Clark Gable in the role, just as I only see Vivien Leigh as Scarlett, Peter O'Toole and Katharine Hepburn as Henry II and Eleanor of Acquitaine, and Charlton Heston as Moses. But like you, one day, perhaps we'll finally get the “perfect” Henry. (There was a rumor a few years back that Russell Crowe had been approached to play Henry opposite Kate Winslet as Anne Boleyn, then I never heard another thing. I can't remember how long ago it was, so I don't know if this was intended as some new independent motion picture production or something we got in another form with a different cast. In other words, I don't know if this project turned into The Other Boleyn Girl or Showtime's The Tudors).

I mentioned over on the thread about the final episode of The Tudors that I had watched it a second time, and Ghost Anne IS the only one that approaches Henry, whereas Jane takes Edward by the shoulders and leads him away, and Catherine pretty much stays put and is told to go away. You're right. It felt very much in character for Anne to do so.

Oh I love your take on what Anne might have told Henry as he lay on his deathbed. Time to cast away that rotting flesh and that aged body and be at peace. (Reminds me of that moment in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir when Gene Tierney's Lucy dies in old age, and Captain Gregg's ghost returns to guide her to the other side and says, “Now you'll never be tired again.”)…..Oh and by the way…Elizabeth becomes Queen. Laugh (Why is it the spirits always know the future in these things? LOL)

Henry: Mistress Anne, will you teach the king of England how they dance in the French court?
Anne: There is nothing that France can teach England, your majesty.
King Henry VIII: Well said. Well said.
– Anne of the Thousand Days (1969)

December 23, 2010
3:46 pm
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David
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Without a doubt it was Keith Mitchell, he truly had the voice down, although I have read, can not remember where, that Henry's actually voice was not deep but was probably more like that of Jonathan in “Tlhe Tudors”  To find someone with Henry's small eyes, and somewhate tiny mouth is hard for sure, however, Keith Mitchell was able to purse his lips to be much like that of Herny.   The real problem yet solved is to find the perfect person to portray Cardinal Wolsey…….who was very fat indeed.  Not one Wolsey that I have seen has ever come close to his painting portrail.    What say all of you on this………..?

Also I have always felt that Henry just never felt deep inside that he was as good as others and was constantly trying to compete with all who crossed his path, good example, King Francis of France……if anyone told him he could not do something he seemed to always make that a top priority to prove them wrong.  Could it be that our Hal lacked self confidence throughout his life and that lack of self confidence I think really displayed itself in the bedroom as I do not believe him to have ever been a tender lover, more like a wham bang and next please.  This same animal lust he had seemed to be what his wives also reaped.  Does anyone else agree with this???

January 4, 2011
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Hi David and just getting to read your post. Gave me a lot to think about, especially about one of my favorite Henry's. As for Wolsey, was trying to remember who all I've seen in the role: Sam Neill of course; Orson Welles (A Man For All Seasons perhaps); and Anthony Quayle may be one of my favorites. Not sure if any of them captured him completely, physically or as the real man, but perhaps some day….

Henry remains one of those historic characters that fascinates me to no end, possibly because the more I learn about him, the more complex he is. We have the young, dashing Renaissance prince wanting to be loved by all (but even then revealing a monstrous side by having his father's two trusted ministers executed for treason); the religious King — one-time Defender of the Catholic faith and then Head of the English Church; the King who wants to be remembered as another Henry V; a man who — even when middle-aged — is still such a romantic, he appears to Anne of Cleves in disguise! Director Erich von Stroheim may have been “The Man We Love To Hate” but Henry comes very close to that title as well, and part of that may have been, as you said David, a lack of confidence in himself. I'm just not sure but as always, I hope this causes a lot of discussion. 

 

David said:

Without a doubt it was Keith Mitchell, he truly had the voice down, although I have read, can not remember where, that Henry's actually voice was not deep but was probably more like that of Jonathan in “Tlhe Tudors”  To find someone with Henry's small eyes, and somewhate tiny mouth is hard for sure, however, Keith Mitchell was able to purse his lips to be much like that of Herny.   The real problem yet solved is to find the perfect person to portray Cardinal Wolsey…….who was very fat indeed.  Not one Wolsey that I have seen has ever come close to his painting portrail.    What say all of you on this………..?

Also I have always felt that Henry just never felt deep inside that he was as good as others and was constantly trying to compete with all who crossed his path, good example, King Francis of France……if anyone told him he could not do something he seemed to always make that a top priority to prove them wrong.  Could it be that our Hal lacked self confidence throughout his life and that lack of self confidence I think really displayed itself in the bedroom as I do not believe him to have ever been a tender lover, more like a wham bang and next please.  This same animal lust he had seemed to be what his wives also reaped.  Does anyone else agree with this???


Henry: Mistress Anne, will you teach the king of England how they dance in the French court?
Anne: There is nothing that France can teach England, your majesty.
King Henry VIII: Well said. Well said.
– Anne of the Thousand Days (1969)

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