SPOILER ALERT (1)The Six Wives Of Henry VIII, first broadcast by the BBC in 1970, became one of its most celebrated historical drama series. The nine hour six part series went on to be shown in some 70 countries and attracted no less than seven major awards, winning for the quality of the performances and for its historical authenticity.
Towering over the series was the gargantuan figure of Henry himself, played by the unknown Australian actor Keith Michell, who earned an award for Best Television Actor. Michell, who started out as an art teacher, owed the role to Laurence Olivier, who had been impressed by Michell while on tour in Australia and had brought him back to England in order to advance his career. The faith the BBC put in the young actor was more than amply rewarded as Michell went on with extraordinary lengths to vitalize the larger than life character of King Henry VIII.
The series was neatly split into six episodes, each one dealing with one of the six wives and tracing their varied experiences and sometimes bloody ends at the hands of one of England's most infamous rulers. The wives themselves were played by Annette Crosbie, Dorothy Tutin, Anne Stallybrass, Elvi Hale, Angela Pleasance, and Rosalie Crutchley, all respected and proven stars of stage and screen. Annette Crosbie, playing Catherine of Aragon, won Best Actress Award for her performance. (See below for further info)
Michell, though, was always the focus of attention. The task for the actor was to portray Henry at the different stages of his life, beginning with the athletic 18-year-old monarch and culminating in the oversize 56-year-old tyrant plagued by a variety of physical ailments. Playing the aging Henry in the later episodes proved the most demanding challenge. Michell, who boasted only half the girth of the real king, spent some four hours each day getting his make-up on and was then unable to take any sustenance except through a straw because of the padding tucked into his cheeks. The impersonation was entirely convincing, however, and critics hailed the attention to detail in costume and sets. No one, it seemed, twigged that Henry's mink robes were really made of rabbit fur, or that the fabulous jewels studding his hats and coats were humble washers and screws sprayed with paint.
The lavishness of the costumes and settings and the brilliance of Michell and his co-stars ensured the success of the series, though some viewers expressed reservations. Whatever the criticisms, the success of The Six Wives of Henry VIII brought stardom to Michell and also did much to establish the BBC's cherished reputation for ambitious and historically authentic costume drama, consolidated a year later by the equally-acclaimed series Elizabeth R, starring Glenda Jackson as Henry's daughter.
(1) the above came from the site http://www.museum.tv/eotvsection.php?entrycode=sixwivesof and was written by David Pickering
David Pickering is an experienced reference books compiler. He has contributed to (and often been sole author and editor of) some reference books, mostly in the areas of the arts, language, local history and popular interest.
PLOT BY EPISODE (Details from wikipedia):
Part 1 - Catherine of Aragon
Part 2 - Anne Boleyn
|Dorothy Tutin as Anne Boleyn|
Part 3 - Jane Seymour
|Anne Stallybrass as Jane Seymour|
Part 4 - Anne of Cleves
Part 5 - Catherine Howard
Part 6 - Catherine Parr
|Rosalie Crutchley as Catherine Parr|