Anne Boleyn (movie, 1920)

Anne Boleyn ( Anna Boleyn ) is a silent German film in 6 acts directed by Ernst Lubitsch , released in 1920 .


During the journey from France to England

Anne Boleyn returns by boat to her native country, England , after several years spent in France . She lives with her uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, and finds his childhood love, Heinrich Norris, who has since become a knight in the service of King Henry VIII of England .

The feast day of Queen Catherine of Aragon

The queen is in her room, and receives her daughter, Princess Marie. She tells him that he is happy that the king can not stay away from her on this important day. A servant comes to tell him that the king has still not returned from the hunt. Queen Catherine of Aragon declares that she does not want to welcome guests until the king has returned. Upon his arrival at the court, Heinrich Norris is sent urgently to seek the king.

He is indeed feasting with his men, and is forced to announce his arrival. At the moment of his departure comes a large mounted room, from which a beautiful girl emerges. King Henry VIII is seduced and does not return to see his wife, who begins to welcome the guests alone. In the middle of the procession, the queen seeing that her husband still does not leave the audience at the very moment when Anne Boleyn was presented to her.

The Duke of Norfolk still conducts his niece to the queen’s chamber, but the king announces his arrival at this moment. The Duke of Norfolk and Anne Boleyn quickly disappear, but Anne’s dress remains stuck in the door. The king notices the stuff, opens the door and falls in love with the girl.

Anne Boleyn becomes lady of honor, and undergoes the advances of the king, in particular during a party of campaign, where it pursues it in a thicket. The court is outraged by this behavior and rejects Anne Boleyn. She remains, however, in love with Heinrich Norris, who rejects her because he suspects her of being in love with the king, who has actually offered him the crown of England.

The divorce decree

Henry VIII of England divorces his wife Catherine of Aragon on the pretext that she did not give birth to a male heir. As the Pope does not consider this argument admissible, King Henry VIII separates from the Catholic Church of Rome and founds Anglicanism . In spite of the opposition of the people, he marries Anne Boleyn who has not long ago dismissed Heinrich Norris. She still loves Heinrich Norris, but is loyal to the king.

King demands that Princess Mary (who will become Mary I of England), born of her marriage with Catherine of Aragon, leaves the city before her marriage with Anne Boleyn. The Princess Mary refuses to leave, and says that the king has only to come and chase her himself. She meets him in the castle, and King Henry orders Heinrich Norris to ensure that the princess disappears from the city before marriage. The princess is slow to leave the city, and leaves in coach at the time of the coronation of Anne Boleyn. On the way, onlookers recognize and acclaim it: they drive it to the place of marriage, and are repressed by the police. Nevertheless, Princess Marie manages to enter the cathedral, and interrupts the ceremony by asking that the crown be removed from the head of Anne Boleyn. She is hunted, and the wedding takes place.

At the moment when the royal couple leave the cathedral, Heinrich Norris who was on the forecourt fainted, disturbing Anne Boleyn. He is evacuated by some soldiers.

At the grand banquet given in honor of her marriage, Anne Boleyn can not hide her fear and sadness. The king still drives her into the bridal chamber.

We see before that the fool of the king enter the room of Heinrich Norris and give him a jewel from Anne Boleyn, who wishes him a speedy recovery.

In the nuptial chamber, Queen Anne is terrified by the king. He asks her if she is happy, to which she replies that she is queen of England, before being led to bed by her husband.

During the following scene, we see Heinrich Norris who has recovered, then the king who comes to admire his wife embroidering: he makes a joke by cutting the thread she uses, and they kiss. Anne Boleyn has become smiling and looks soothed. Heinrich Norris comes to visit the royal couple, to return to the service of the king. But the latter returns it, on the pretext that he has served it badly. Anne Boleyn intervenes and Henry VIII finally accepts the services of the knight.

Leaving the room, the king’s madman warns Anne against Mark Smeaton , who is a musician at the king’s court.

The spring festival

The king’s poet suggests organizing a spring festival to celebrate the wedding. All the castle is working for the preparations.

The royal couple finally opens the ball, and the festivities begin. Quickly, the king spotted a seductive young woman disguised as an elf and fled to court in the woods. While looking for them, Queen Anne and Heinrich Norris cross in the woods: the knight tries to kiss Anne Boleyn who rejects him. Smeaton understands that something has happened and blackmailed the queen, who faints.

She is taken to her room, and the King comes to see how she is doing: he then learns that she is pregnant, a news that fills him with joy. He orders that the whole country pray in the churches so that the child is a boy.

The day of birth

Anne Boleyn gives birth to a little girl, Princess Elizabeth (future Elizabeth I of England ). The king collapses on hearing the news, and drives out the people who had gathered in the main square to celebrate the birth. Anne Boleyn sends a servant to seek the king, who, rather than come directly, tries to seduce the maid.

The following days, while the Princess Elizabeth is presented to the king, the latter deposits her on a seat and court to Lady Jeanne ( Jeanne Seymour ), responsible for caring for the infant.

The king’s men ring out the hunt, and the king tells Lady Johanna to go get ready to accompany him: the two protagonists leave the room leaving Princess Elizabeth alone on a seat. Anne Boleyn finds her child alone, and her uncle warns her: it could happen to him the same as Queen Catherine of Aragon if she does not fight to keep her husband. Queen Anne then prepares and joins the convoy of the hunt. Seeing it, King Henry VIII gets angry and orders him to leave the scene. She then meets Lady Johanna and understands that her husband wanted to deceive her. The queen then rides Lady Johanna with her by car, to keep her away from her husband.

In the evening

The king plays dice with his men, then joins the dining room. Smeaton then sings a song in which he implies that Queen Anne would have a relationship with Knight Heinrich Norris. The two then fight on the stairs, and Anne’s uncle intervenes, telling Knight Norris that he will be able to take revenge during the knights’ tournament the next day.

But Smeaton runs to see the king to tell him that his wife is cheating on him with Heinrich Norris. The king is furious and orders Smeaton to tell his story. Anne Boleyn’s uncle opposes and claims that these are lies, her niece and Heinrich Norris having lived a simple love of youth.

The king remains suspicious, and will then find his wife sleeping. He grabs the baby and asks the nurse if he looks like him. Luckily, the nurse Lady Johanna reassures him. As the king kisses her, Anne Boleyn wakes up and surprises them. Furious, she comes to pick up her child and attacks Lady Jeanne, who replies that she serves her as Anne served Catherine of Aragon.

The next day, Anne comes to see her next Lady Jeanne Seymour to implore him to spare his household and his child, but Lady Jeanne remains insensitive. The king arrives at this moment and no longer hides his relationship with Jeanne, saying that she will be the most beautiful during the tournament.

The tournament begins, and Anne Boleyn arrives dressed in her finery. Meanwhile, Anne Boleyn’s uncle gives orders to a knight: Heinrich Norris must not leave the tournament alive under any circumstances. Heinrich Norris is badly wounded in the arena, and the desperate queen shouts her name as the assembly, including the king, leaves the tournament.

The king’s men come to arrest Queen Anne by order of their sovereign. Anne’s uncle tries to convince the king of the innocence of his niece, but Jeanne Seymour enters the room, and the king becomes inflexible: he has a reason to marry Lady Jeanne. He orders the Duke of Norfolk to remove his niece.

He visits his niece in prison, to give him the charge. Anne refuses to sign because they are lies.

The day of the trial

Anne Boleyn appears in front of the judges, led by her uncle. She is accused of infidelity with Heinrich Norris. The latter enters the court, and dies while questioned. Smeaton testifies against the queen. The latter accuses him of testifying for the simple reason that she rejected him: Smeaton is also arrested. After being tortured, he signs forced confessions and claims to have had a relationship with the Queen, and is sentenced to hang by the Duke of Norfolk.

The latter brings Smeaton’s confession to his niece.

The death sentence

Anne Boleyn is sentenced to death, and begs the priest to say goodbye to her child. The priest refuses. Anne receives a message from King Henry VIII where he signs the death sentence of his wife.

The executioners take Anne to the courtyard where she is beheaded with an ax.

Technical sheet

  • Original title: Anna Boleyn
  • French title: Anne Boleyn
  • Directed by: Ernst Lubitsch
  • Scenario: Ernst Lubitsch
  • Sets: Kurt Richter , Ferdinand Bellan (assistant)
  • Costumes: Ali Hubert
  • Photography: Theodor Sparkuhl
  • Music: Eduard Prasch
  • Musical Director: Hans Landsberger
  • Production  : Paul Davidson
  • Production Company (s): Oskar-Messter-Film GmbH / Projektions-AG “Union” for Universum Film AG (UFA)
  • Country of origin: Germany
  • Language: German
  • Format: black and white – 35 mm – 1.33: 1 – silent movie
  • Genre  : historical sentimental drama
  • Duration: 118 minutes
  • Release dates:
    •  Germany  :


  • Emil Jannings  : Henry VIII
  • Henny Porten  : Anna Boleyn
  • Hedwig Pauly-Winterstein  : Queen Catherine of Aragon
  • Aud Egede Nissen  : Jeanne Seymour
  • Hilde Müller  : Princess Marie
  • Ludwig Hartau  : the Duke of Norfolk
  • Paul Hartmann  : Heinrich Norris
  • Maria Reisenhofer  : Lady Rochfort
  • Ferdinand von Alten  : Marc Smeaton
  • Adolf Klein  : Cardinal Wolsey
  • Wilhelm Diegelmann  : Cardinal Dampeggio
  • Friedrich Kühne  : Archbishop Cranmer
  • Paul Biensfeldt  : Jester, the buffoon
  • Karl Platen  : the private doctor
  • Erling Hanson  : Count Percy
  • Sophie Pagay  : the nurse
  • Joseph Klein  : Sir William Kingston, Commander of the Tower of London

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