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ANNA BOLEYN (aka: DECEPTION)(director: Ernst Lubitsch; screenwriters: Fred Orbing/Hans Kraly; cinematographer: Theodor Sparkuhl; cast: Henny Porten (Anna Boleyn), Emil Jannings (King Henry VIII), Paul Hartmann (Sir Henry Norris), Ludwig Hartau (Duke of Norfolk), Aud Egede Nissen (Jane Seymour), Hedwig Pauly-Winterstein (Queen Catherine), Hilde Müller (Princess Marie), Maria Reisenhofer (Lady Rochford), Ferdinand von Alten (Mark Smeaton), Adolf Klein (Cardinal Wolsey); Runtime: 118; MPAA Rating: NR; Kino; 1920-Germany-silent)
“The glutton king is portrayed by Jannings more comically as a pervert than as an evil villain.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Atypical Ernst Lubitsch (“The Marriage Circle”/”The Wildcat”/”The Oyster Princess”) film, during his Berlin period, that shuns his celebrated later films of sophisticated comedy for a sumptuous but ponderous straight-forward historical costume drama. It was the German filmmaker’s second film, following Madame Dubarry, shown in America under the title of Deception and it received critical acclaim and public support at the box-office. After the fifth film Lubitsch showed in America, he accepted an invitation by Mary Pickford to come to Hollywood and direct her in Rosita. From there-on Lubitsch made America his home.

Writers Fred Orbing and Hans Kraly for some inexplicable reason call Anne Boleyn Anna. The guileless Anna (Henny Porten) was a 30-year-old former lady-in-waiting, staying with her uncle, the Duke of Norfolk (Ludwig Hartau), and was romantically linked to the pompous unobservant Sir Henry Norris (Paul Hartmann), who spurns her thinking she is having an affair with the married lecherous King Henry VIII (Emil Jannings). The king was so smitten with her, even though she fended off his advances without completely rebuffing him, so that the king in heat divorced his wife Queen Catherine (Hedwig Pauly-Winterstein) using the excuse that she failed to bear him a male heir and married his second wife Anna in 1533. This marriage wasn’t approved by the pope (causing a permanent rift with the Catholic Church), was unpopular with the masses who proclaimed that Catherine was their rightful queen, and the poor girl was ostracized by royal society who formed the wrong impression of her as a seductress. It all leads to the circumstances that has the hapless Anna caught between the furious Catherine and the cunning real seductress Jane Seymour (Aud Egede Nissen), as the king pounds the table to get a male heir and Anna by not handling things that well is imprisoned and tragically is beheaded for not giving birth to a male heir.

Porten is too bland to make for a moving Anna, while the glutton king is portrayed by Jannings more comically as a pervert than as an evil villain. His hammy performance steals the acting honors. But the pic might dazzle as spectacle ala D.W. Griffith, but is too flat to be thoroughly enjoyable.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”