Anne of the Thousand Days
Original theatrical poster
Directed byCharles Jarrott
Screenplay byBridget Boland
John Hale
Story byRichard Sokolove
Based onAnne of the Thousand Days
by Maxwell Anderson
Produced byHal B. Wallis
StarringRichard Burton
Geneviève Bujold
Irene Papas
Anthony Quayle
John Colicos
CinematographyArthur Ibbetson
Edited byRichard Marden
Music byGeorges Delerue
Hal Wallis Productions
Distributed byThe Rank Organisation (UK)
Universal Pictures (US)
Release dates
  • 18 December 1969 (1969-12-18) (United States)
  • 23 February 1970 (1970-02-23) (United Kingdom)
Running time
145 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget$4.5 million[1]
Box office$6,134,264 (US/Canada rentals)[2] or $15-20 million (world gross)[1]

Anne of the Thousand Days is a 1969 British historical drama film based on the life of Anne Boleyn, directed by Charles Jarrott and produced by Hal B. Wallis. The screenplay by Bridget Boland and John Hale is an adaptation of the 1948 play of the same name by Maxwell Anderson.

The film stars Richard Burton as King Henry VIII and Canadian actress Geneviève Bujold as Anne Boleyn. Irene Papas plays Catherine of Aragon, Anthony Quayle plays Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, and John Colicos plays Thomas Cromwell. Others in the cast include Michael Hordern, Katharine Blake, Peter Jeffrey, Joseph O'Conor, William Squire, Vernon Dobtcheff, Denis Quilley, Esmond Knight, and T. P. McKenna, who later played Henry VIII in Monarch. Burton's wife Elizabeth Taylor makes a brief, uncredited appearance.

Despite receiving some negative reviews[3] and mixed reviews from The New York Times[4] and Pauline Kael,[5] the film was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won the award for best costumes. Geneviève Bujold's portrayal of Anne, her first in an English language film, was very highly praised, even by Time magazine, which otherwise skewered the movie.[6] According to the Academy Awards exposé Inside Oscar, an expensive advertising campaign was mounted by Universal Studios that included serving champagne and filet mignon to members of the Academy following each screening.[7]


In London, 1536, Henry VIII considers whether or not he should sign the warrant for the execution of his second wife, Anne Boleyn.

Nine years earlier, Henry has a problem: he reveals his dissatisfaction with his wife Catherine of Aragon. He is enjoying a discreet affair with Mary Boleyn, a daughter of one of his courtiers, Sir Thomas Boleyn; but the king is bored with her too. At a court ball, he notices Mary's 18-year-old sister Anne, who has returned from her education in France. She is engaged to the son of the Earl of Northumberland, and they have received their parents' permission to marry. The king, however, is enraptured with Anne's beauty and orders Cardinal Wolsey, his Lord Chancellor, to break the engagement.

When news of this decision is carried to Anne, she reacts furiously. She blames the cardinal and the king for ruining her happiness. When Henry makes a rather clumsy attempt to seduce her, Anne bluntly informs him how she finds him.

Henry brings her back to court with him, and she continues to resist his advances out of a mixture of repulsion for Henry and her lingering anger over her broken engagement. However, she becomes intoxicated with the power that the king's love gives her. Using this power, she continually undermines Cardinal Wolsey, who initially sees Anne as a passing love interest for the king.

When Henry again presses Anne to become his mistress, she repeats that she never will give birth to an illegitimate child. Desperate to have a son, Henry suddenly comes up with the idea of marrying Anne in Catherine's place. Anne is stunned, but she agrees. Wolsey begs the king to abandon the idea because of the political consequences of divorcing Catherine. Henry refuses to listen.

When Wolsey fails to persuade the pope to give Henry his divorce, Anne points out this failing to an enraged Henry. Wolsey is dismissed from office, and his magnificent palace in London is given as a present to Anne, who realizes she has finally fallen in love with Henry. They sleep together, and after discovering that she is pregnant, they secretly are married. Anne is given a splendid coronation, but the people jeer at her in disgust.

Months later, Anne gives birth to a daughter: Princess Elizabeth. Henry is displeased because he wanted a son, and their marital relationship begins to cool. His attentions are soon diverted to Lady Jane Seymour, one of Anne's maids. Once she discovers this liaison, Anne banishes Jane from court.

During a row over Sir Thomas More's opposition to Anne's queenship, Anne refuses to sleep with her husband unless More is put to death. More is executed, but Anne's subsequent pregnancy ends with a stillborn boy.

Henry demands that his new minister Thomas Cromwell find a way to get rid of Anne. Cromwell tortures a servant in her household into confessing to adultery with the queen; he then arrests four other courtiers who are also accused of being Anne's lovers. Anne is taken to the Tower and placed under arrest. When she is told that she has been accused of adultery, Anne laughs until she sees her brother being brought into the Tower and learns he faces the same accusation.

At Anne's trial, she manages to cross-question Mark Smeaton, the tortured servant who finally admits that the charges against Anne are lies. Henry makes an appearance, then visits Anne in her chambers that night. He offers her freedom if she will agree to annul their marriage and make their daughter illegitimate. Anne refuses, saying that she would rather die than betray their daughter. Henry slaps her and tells her that her disobedience will mean her death.

Henry decides to execute Anne. A few days later, Anne is taken to the scaffold and beheaded by a French swordsman. Henry rides off to marry Jane Seymour, and their young daughter, Elizabeth, toddles alone in the garden as she hears the cannon firing to announce her mother's death.


Elizabeth Taylor has an uncredited cameo appearance as a masked courtesan who interrupts Queen Catherine's prayers. Kate Burton makes her acting debut as a maid.

Background and production

The play Anne of the Thousand Days, the film's basis, was first enacted on Broadway in the Shubert Theatre on 8 December 1948; staged by H.C. Potter, with Rex Harrison and Joyce Redman as Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn respectively, running 288 performances; Harrison won a Tony Award for his performance.

Cinematically, Anne of the Thousand Days took 20 years to reach the screen because its themes – adultery, illegitimacy, incest – were then unacceptable to the U.S. motion picture production code. The film was made on such locations as Penshurst Place and Hever Castle,[8] and at Pinewood and Shepperton Studios. Hever Castle was one of the main settings for the film; it was also the childhood home of Anne Boleyn.[9]

British actress Olivia Hussey was the first choice for the role of Anne Boleyn.[10] When producer Hal B. Wallis first met Hussey in New York in November 1967 at a party for her then upcoming film Romeo and Juliet (1968), he offered her the title role. In addition, he also offered her to star with John Wayne in True Grit (1969). In her 2019 memoir, Hussey stated that she had "mumbled something about being interested in Anne of the Thousand Days” but added that she "couldn’t see herself with Wayne". She claims that this "adolescent and opinionated" remark inevitably ended her professional relationship with Wallis, and he immediately withdrew his offer from her. "It had taken me less than a minute to talk my way out of it" Hussey stated.[11]

Maxwell Anderson employed blank verse for parts of his play, but most examples of this were removed from the screenplay. One blank verse episode that was retained was Anne's soliloquy in the Tower of London. The opening of the play was changed, with Thomas Cromwell's telling Henry VIII the outcome of the trial and Henry's recalling his marriage to Anne rather than Anne's speaking first and then Henry's remembering in flashback.[12]

Historical accuracy


The film received mixed reviews from critics, as most commonly they considered the plot dull and plodding. Beyond the story itself, the performances of Geneviève Bujold, Richard Burton, and Irene Papas were met with universal acclaim, especially that of Bujold. Bujold remains the only actress to have been nominated for an Oscar for playing Anne Boleyn.

The film was one of the more popular movies of 1970 at the British box office.[14]


Awards[15][16] Category Nominee Result
42nd Academy Awards Best Picture Hal B. Wallis Nominated
Best Actor in a Leading Role Richard Burton Nominated
Best Actress in a Leading Role Geneviève Bujold Nominated
Best Actor in a Supporting Role Anthony Quayle Nominated
Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium Bridget Boland
John Hale
Richard Sokolove
Best Art Direction - Set Decoration Maurice Carter
Lionel Couch
Patrick McLoughlin
Best Cinematography Arthur Ibbetson Nominated
Best Costume Design Margaret Furse Won
Best Music, Original Score for a Motion Picture (not a Musical) Georges Delerue Nominated
Best Sound John Aldred Nominated
27th Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Drama Hal B. Wallis Won
Best Director - Motion Picture Charles Jarrott Won
Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama Richard Burton Nominated
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Geneviève Bujold Won
Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Anthony Quayle Nominated
Best Screenplay Bridget Boland
John Hale
Richard Sokolove
Best Original Score Georges Delerue Nominated
24th British Academy Film Awards Best Art Direction Maurice Carter Nominated
Best Costume Design Margaret Furse Nominated
1970 American Cinema Editors Awards Best Edited Feature Film – Dramatic Richard Marden Nominated
1970 Writers Guild of America Awards Best Adapted Screenplay Bridget Boland
John Hale

See also


  1. ^ a b Haber, Joyce (30 January 1972). "Presenting the exclusive, reclusive Hal Wallis". The Los Angeles Times. p. 15.
  2. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1970", Variety, 6 January 1971 p 11
  3. ^ "Anne of the Thousand Days seems to have been made for one person: the Queen of England", Time Magazine
  4. ^ Canby, Vincent (21 January 1970). "Screen: A Royal Battle of the Sexes:'Anne of 1,000 Days' Bows at Plaza Burton Cast as Henry Miss Bujold Stars". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 8 October 2013.
  5. ^ "Pauline Kael".
  6. ^ "Cinema: The Lion in Autumn". Time. 2 February 1970. Archived from the original on 14 January 2009. Retrieved 25 April 2010.
  7. ^ Inside Oscar, Mason Wiley and Damien Boa, Ballantine Books (1986) pg. 434
  8. ^ "Anne of the Thousand Days (1969) - IMDb" – via
  9. ^ Kent Film Office. "Kent Film Office Anne of the Thousand Days Film Focus".
  10. ^ Groucho. "Groucho Reviews: Interview: Olivia Hussey—Romeo and Juliet". Groucho Reviews. Retrieved 1 October 2008.
  11. ^ Hussey, Olivia (31 July 2018). The girl on the balcony : Olivia Hussey finds life after Romeo & Juliet (First Kensington hardcoverition ed.). pp. 84–85. ISBN 978-1496717078.
  12. ^ Anne of the Thousand Days, Google books, accessed 15 April 2012
  13. ^ Weir. Henry VIII: The King and His Court. p. 216.
  14. ^ Harper, Sue (2011). British Film Culture in the 1970s: The Boundaries of Pleasure: The Boundaries of Pleasure. Edinburgh University Press. p. 269. ISBN 9780748654260.
  15. ^ "The 42nd Academy Awards (1970) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  16. ^ "NY Times: Anne of the Thousand Days". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. 2012. Archived from the original on 18 October 2012. Retrieved 27 December 2008.