Before he became one of Hollywood's legendary directors, Ernst Lubitsch was among the leading figures in the German film industry during the silent era, known both for his biting comedies and his groundbreaking costume dramas. His historical epic Anna Boleyn
found success at the American box office under the title Deception, and viewed today, it is a rare opportunity to see Lubitsch working in a genre other than his usual realm of sophisticated comedy.
The tragic story of the second wife of England's Henry VIII is given a first-class treatment by Lubitsch, complete with opulent sets and some beautifully-shot exterior sequences. Henny Porten (Kohlhiesel's Daughter, Backstairs) gives a memorable performance as Boleyn, but the film really belongs to Emil Jannings (The Last Laugh, The Blue Angel), one of Germany's greatest screen stars, playing Henry. Jannings's bravura performance conveys Henry's decadence through his insatiable appetite for both food and women, but never reduces him to caricature or pure villain. Jannings also establishes the screen model for Henry that would be further developed by Charles Laughton almost fifteen years later in The Private Life of Henry VIII.
Anna Boleyn was the second of Lubitsch's German films to be released in the U.S., following Madame Dubarry. It was a notable success with both the critics and the public, and helped to elevate Lubitsch's international reputation. After making three more films in Germany, Lubitsch accepted an invitation from Mary Pickford to come to Hollywood to direct her film Rosita - and the rest, as they say, is history.
Ernst Lubitsch's silent classic ANNA BOLEYN has been restored to its original glory. The film follows Henry VIII's second wife, played by Kenny Porten, as she comes to terms with her husband's unstoppable appetite for other women as well as food. The film, Lubitsch's second German feature to be released in the U.S., features decadent set design and exquisite costumes.