Review: Lights, Camera Action: Hever Castle on Stage and Screen

Hever Castle is the former home of Anne Boleyn, otherwise known as Anne of the Thousand Days for the short time she was married to Henry VIII as his Queen. Anne bore Henry one child, a daughter, Elizabeth I. Boleyn was famously later beheaded at the Tower of London. Many films have been made of her tragic story including the 1969 version, with Richard Burton in excellent form as Henry VIII and Geneviève Bujold as the luckless Queen, filmed in part at Hever Castle. A current exhibition Lights, Camera, Action Hever Castle on Stage and Screen includes two costumes, dresses worn by Geneviève in the film.

Poster for the film Anne of the Thousand Days.

The pearl necklace with a ‘B’ pendant in the photograph above is authentic as a portrait of Anne Boleyn elsewhere at the castle shows. The costume designer on the film was Margaret Furse, who was awarded an Academy Award for Best Costume Design. Bujold was petite at 5ft 4ins and the dress on the right was made even shorter for Barbara Windsor who at 4ft 11ins also wore the dress in Carry On Henry (1971). As did Swedish actress Essy Persson in Cry of the Banshee (1970) and Emily Blunt in 2003 for the television series, Henry VIII. This is sustainability in action. Is it seen as a ‘lucky dress’ in theatre, having been the subject of an Academy Award?

Two dresses worn by Geneviève Bujold in Anne of the Thousand Days (1969)

The Passionate Pilgrim

The exhibition is modest and some of the images and text are quite small and positioned low down so there’s a lot of stooping to read. It is, though, a fascinating peek into the films and television series that have been filmed in part at Hever. Another favourite story involves Eric Morecombe and Tom Baker in a short comedy film The Passionate Pilgrim (1984) in which they face up to each other with swords. Morecombe, of course, backing down to the imposing Tom Baker in his inimitable comedic style. Hilariously, Tom Baker dropped his sword during filming into the moat and it was only recovered 27 years later when the moat was drained.

Geneviève Bujold and Richard Burton ride across the drawbridge at Hever Castle in a scene from the film Anne of the Thousand Days (1969).
The sword used by Tom Baker in The Passionate Pilgrim (1984) and rescued from the moat where he dropped it during filming credit Hever Castle

La Taylor’s Revenge

Elizabeth Taylor playing golf during filming of Anne of the Thousand Days credit Hever Castle

Elizabeth Taylor, then married to Richard Burton and turned down for the coveted role of Anne in Anne of the Thousand Days, had a cameo part. Taylor, an actress of Hollywood royal stature, was not to be outdone. For her part, she wore the breathtakingly beautiful $11m La Peregrina Pearl given to her by Burton. It was the first time the pearl was seen on screen and no doubt secured for Taylor the press attention she craved. Make no mistake I am not criticising here, I adored Taylor. Both the actress for her work (superb in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf? in 1966) and for the woman and her life, her struggles and sheer magnificence in carving a niche for herself during her remarkable life.

Hever Castle from the moat, credit

Further exhibits include photographs from an opera about Thomas Boleyn performed for the previous owners of Hever Castle, the Astors, in 1972 and some images from some of the TV programmes filmed at the castle.

Lights, Camera, Action: Hever Castle on Stage and Screen runs until November

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