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The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex - the famous slap w/the ring


kathan12
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Please - I must know:

 

 

Why oh why was such a famous short scene eliminated from the wonderful film The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex? Last Friday night I watched this film again (one of my all-time favorites). I waited for the famous scene where we see Bette slap Errol with that very large ring - causing Errol to react as if he saw stars; it was so painful when she slapped him.

 

 

 

 

 

This is such a famous scene, with all sorts of stories about that "slap" and the look on Errol's face as Bette hit him. Why was it eliminated - I've watched it many times on TCM (just love it) and the scene was never "cut out". I just couldn't believe it!

 

 

 

 

 

Why in the world did this occur? I admit I am stumped. So is my mom, who noticed exactly the same thing.

 

 

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Well, just a guess here kathan, but maybe it was cut from the film because it just ain't politically correct for English Queens to slap around people anymore.

 

Uh huh...they have Press Agents to take care of THAT kinda stuff nowadays, ya know. ;)

 

(...sorry, I just couldn't resist...oh and btw, welcome to the boards)

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> {quote:title=kathan12 wrote:}{quote}

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> This is such a famous scene, with all sorts of stories about that "slap" and the look on Errol's face as Bette hit him. Why was it eliminated - I've watched it many times on TCM (just love it) and the scene was never "cut out". I just couldn't believe it!

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> Why in the world did this occur? I admit I am stumped. So is my mom, who noticed exactly the same thing.

 

 

I believe that the scene WAS there -- I watched for it specifically because of the famous "slap" anecdote. (And it didn't look like that big a slap to ME but then, it wasn't my face.)

 

I even remember thinking at the time, "oh, the slap scene comes later in the film than I remembered . . . " but it was definitely there.

 

I'm pretty sure it's this scene and that Flynn is reacting to it:

 

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Thank you to those who replied to my post of yesterday re the above.

 

 

 

 

 

Well, all I can say is that the scene I saw did NOT show Bette actually slapping Errol hard across his most handsome face. The pic shows the reaction to the slap, not the slap itself, where bette just about bangs that huge ring across errol's cheek. My mom even mentioned it to me the next day! Where was it? (We were both waiting for it).,

 

 

 

 

 

Oh well, I suppose we see different things in different scenes. That one w/that famous slap has been talked about since the filming of the wonderful film; even the last Mrs. Flynn, Patrice Wymore, mentioned that Errol was so stunned by the slap Bette gave him, made him see stars. Errol himself has said he spoke to Bette about it, and even spoke to the director, Michael Curtiz, about the pain of that slap. There was even a rumor that she did it to him again on another take!

 

 

What a wonderful place the golden era of Hollywood was; what tremendous films.

 

 

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I had never seen this movie before [ pretty good if a little on the talky side ] and was taken aback by the slap, which seemed genuine. So, yeah, I saw Bette give Errol the slap to the kisser too. Maybe it was a glitch in your cable system that prevented you from seeing it.

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That slap on the set from Bette Davis made enough of an impression upon Errol Flynn that nearly twenty years later when he worked on his autobiography he devoted almost six pages to it.

 

The thing is, though, that what we see on screen is NOT a real slap. Flynn states so in his book. It was in the rehearsal for the scene we see that she basically slugged him with a fistful of rings.

 

Flynn wrote, "Then, of a sudden, I felt as if I had been hit by a locomotive.

 

"She had lifted one of her hands, heavy with those Elizabethan rings, and Joe Louis himself couldn't give a right hook better than Bette hooked me with.

 

"My jaw went out.

 

"I felt a click behind my ear and I saw all these comets, shooting stars, all in one flash.

 

"It didn't knock me to the ground.

 

"She had given me that little dainty hand, laden with about a pound of costume jewelry, right across the ear.

 

"I felt as if I were deaf."

 

Again, though, this traumatic incident, which Flynn wrote caused him to throw up afterward several times, was during the rehearsal. Flynn wrote that he spoke to Davis in her dressing room about it twice afterwards, the second time implying to her that there would be retaliation on his part if she did it again.

 

The actor wrote that he was determined to not be pushed around by the great Miss Davis (who told him she could do it no other way) and he was determined, for the sake of his own self respect, as horrible as it would be for newspaper headlines, that he would slug her right back if she did it again.

 

When it came to the second take of the slap scene Flynn wrote, "It came time for her to hit me and I braced myself . . . ready.

 

"She did it in the most beautifully technical way. Her hand came just delicately to the side of my nose, missed by a fraction of an inch. I don't believe she touched me, but I could feel the wind go by my face, and it looked technically perfect."

 

So there you go, boys and girls, according to Errol Flynn the real fireworks of the slap were during the rehearsal, not what finally appeared on screen. What you do see on screen, though, is a Flynn who was anticipating that he might get really slapped, but didn't.

 

By the way, for those would have not yet availed themselves of Flynn's My Wicked Wicked Ways, which was ghost written by Earl Conrad who splendidly captured Flynn's witty conversational style (they worked hand in hand on it for months on the actor's Jamaician estate), it's a darned good read. Flynn could be a highly amusing writer, but the book also has poignant passages in which the swashbuckling star candidly reveals his own insecurities.

 

The incredible thing is that My Wicked Wicked Ways is still on sale today, over fifty years after it was originally published (two months after Flynn's death). Not only has the book lasted longer than its author, it is also, I believe, the longest selling show business autobiography in history!

 

Read it, and while you're scrolling through those pages, Flynn seems to come alive once again. (Mind you, there's also a lot of balderdash in it. After all, Flynn was never a man to let the facts get in the way of a good story!)

 

books-mwww.jpg

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>the slap with that heavy ring on has become a story in itself.

 

He probably deserved that slap (and more). He had been so overhyped and Bette was determined to bring him back to reality, which she did. She was the boss, not him.

 

Still, this lowers my opinion of her, because I think her improvising was motivated out of her own real-life insecurities and jealousies that she was losing control over the picture, instead of doing it for the sake of the character. Though it does play remarkably well and is a highlight of the picture.

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*TopBilled wrote: He probably deserved that slap (and more). He had been so overhyped and Bette was determined to bring him back to reality, which she did. She was the boss, not him.*

 

That's a pretty presumptuous statement, isn't it now. And what do you mean when you say that Davis was the boss, not Flynn. It's clear that you don't think much of Flynn but so what. He was a major box office star, as was Davis. There's nothing overhyped about his string of box office hits, nor his command of the screen when he played a role.

 

Davis got top billing in that film (just as he had the year before in The Sisters) but he got a bigger pay cheque than she for E & E. That may have rankled the lady, plus the fact that she regarded herself (as did so many others, including Flynn) as a real actress, and looked down upon his abilities.

 

But to say that Davis was the boss (sort of like Flynn should have respected that fact, and known his place around her) has no basis in reality. So what are you saying, he should have just taken the slap from her because, after all, she's Bette Davis, two time Academy Award winner, and he should feel lucky to be even on the same set with her?

 

Errol Flynn was a star of the first magnitude in 1939, and Bette Davis, as a professional actress, would know enough to pull her punch, which she elected to not do during rehearsal. She was wrong in what she did (especially as he had no warning that it would happen), pure and simple. She showed no respect for Flynn for doing what she did to him just as you are showing no respect for him now by writing that inane "he probably deserved that slap (and more)" comment.

 

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Thanks MUCH, TomJH, for setting the record straight -- I never knew that the "savage slap"

occurred during a rehearsal.

 

Apparently, Davis believed that disharmony and conflict created the optimal conditions

for her creative juices to flow and if she felt that a film set had become too convivial, she'd

actually do her best to break it up, on one occasion explaining, "Every picture I've worked

on that was 'hail-fellow-well-met' was a *BOMB* !"

 

A seemingly still-shocked Celeste Holm described the first time she said "Good morning !"

to her tempermental co-star on the set of All About Eve and Davis loudly retorted, "Oh, s*** !

Good manners !"

 

article-0-0662E87D000005DC-179_468x317.j

 

*I wonnnnnnder how I can make somebody's life miserable today . . . ?*

 

As a result of her anti-social behavior, Davis supposedly became THE most disliked star

on the Warner Bros. lot. and, in her autobiography -- appropriately titled The Lonely Life --

Bette described a couple of truly horrific events which appear to bear this out: on one

occasion a heavy light somehow came loose from the grid and crashed to the stage floor

inches from where she was standing, and once while using eyewash in between takes her

eyes suddenly started burning and it was discovered that someone had put some sort of

corrosive liquid in it.

 

793088_327f_625x1000.jpg

 

*Davis -- Warped ?*

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And what I said is that I stand by it and if it has relevance in a future thread, I may mention it again.

 

If you look at my earlier post, you will realize that I do not let Bette off the hook for taking a swipe at him, since I think it was borderline unprofessional. But I can see where he may have elicited that sort of wrath from her, he was certainly not perfect...except to his admirers. LOL

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I believe Bette went into the production with concerns about Errol upstaging her. The famous slap gave her the edge, because in that moment, she upstages him and steals the picture.

 

Right from the beginning, she insisted that he not be promoted or publicized over her. The original working title was THE KNIGHT AND THE LADY. She didn't like that, because it mentions his character first.

 

Since she prevailed with the title and with the slap, she proved that she was the boss on the set in more ways than one.

 

They were both at Warners for the next ten years together, but never made another picture together. I am sure he balked at being paired with her again after this experience. And who could blame him.

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There was no justification for Davis to have slapped Flynn in such an unprofessional manner. Bette WAS upset that WB cast Errol in this film, for a number of reasons. First of all, she had implored the studio to hire Olivier for the role; the studio would hear none of it, especially since they had Flynn perfectly suited for their costume epics. Secondly, Flynn's contract called for his character's name to be in the title, so Bette was less than happy that it was changed from"Elizabeth the Queen" to TPLOE&E. Further, she thought that his was a lesser talent, had not been happy with him in the previous year's THE SISTERS, and she felt that all he brought to his role was his looks and his looking dashing in the costumes of the day.

 

None of this justifies the slap; she was wrong and should have admitted it and apologized. That the studio didn't castigate her for it does show her power as the top feminine star at the studio, but Flynn was up there with her as one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. So I don't think her power was any greater than his at this time with the studio bosses; she was most certainly not "the boss".

 

I've posted here before that many years later, Davis wrote (or was quoted) as having again seen TPLOE&E, and realized that Flynn had been perfect for the part, and at that time stated that she had been wrong about him all along.

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*The original working title was THE KNIGHT AND THE LADY. She didn't like that, because it mentions his character first.*

 

*Since she prevailed with the title and with the slap, she proved that she was the boss on the set in more ways than one.*

 

I guess we missed each other with our posts. The original title was going to be "Elizabeth the Queen", but he had to have a reference in the title, so "The Knight and the Lady" was the first of the provisional replacements. She would have truly prevailed if it had remained "Elizabeth the Queen". And she didn't really prevail with the slap, as per the quotes from his autobiography, because she (apparently) dared not repeat it.

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I am going to be stubborn here and hold to my views and comments in the thread.

 

In my view, the slap is truly important because she seems to get away with emasculating him on camera. I am just glad it was not cut and that we have all been able to see it. She was brutal, intense, and he was no match for her strong-willed theatrics.

 

This said, they still manage to have some chemistry here. I felt they sorely lacked it in THE SISTERS.

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Bette Davis, as everyone knows, was a domineering personality (let's face it, the B word would have been used to describe the lady on more than one occasion). Whether she was trying to send Flynn a message with the slap I don't know but it certainly would seem to fit her personality if that was the case. (Flynn knew that she didn't want him on the film, she having made her preference for Laurence Olivier as Essex well known to all).

 

Nor did Flynn want to make the film either and there was indeed a contest of wills between the two stars over the title. He was also a strong willed individual who did not want to be dominated by anybody, and certainly not by Davis.

 

That's why, if you choose to believe the writing in his autobiography, he says he subtlely conveyed the message to Davis that if she slapped him a second time he would retaliate. That was his message back to her, I believe, that no, you are not the boss, and I won't let you treat me that way. Since she didn't strike him again it would appear that she got the message.

 

Later in the making of the film, when Flynn as Essex had to give the Queen a playful swat on the rear, Flynn really did it during the rehearsal. It was his vengeance for the slap.

 

As he later wrote, "The idea worked up in me and at the rehearsal scene, when it came time for me to give her the playful pat, I said to myself, Here comes my chance . . .

 

"I held my hand way out there . . . it must have looked like a piece of ham . . . and it went sailing right through her Elizabethan dresses, slappo, smack on her Academy Award behind. She went about two feet off the ground."

 

That was another message from him to let her know that she wasn't going to dominate him.

 

As for whether Davis stole the film, certainly that was the consensus of critics at the time. But then, in my opinion, Flynn never did get his rightful due from the critics for his performances.

 

As you undoubtedly know, years later when Davis saw E & E again she made it known that she had been wrong in her criticism Flynn's performance, and considered him to be marvelous in the part. I give the lady credit for being honest enough to admit that she had dismissed his abilities (at least in this role) too quickly.

 

Davis, in my opinion, wanted to be the boss over Flynn, and he wouldn't let it happen. As a matter of fact, the final title was a compromise and not, as you said, a victory for Davis. Originally it was to be called Elizabeth the Queen. Flynn then suggested The Knight and the Lady, so that his character would be acknowledged. Davis balked. That final rather cumbersome title was a compromise for both stars' egos.

 

So, you see, Davis prevailed with neither the slap nor the title.

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My theory about these two is that she probably wanted to have a sexual relationship with him, but she was not his type and he rebuffed her advances. Because she felt an air of superiority over him, she became very vengeful on set and thought she would teach him a lesson.

 

Years later when she watched this film with friend Olivia de Havilland and others, she obviously still had (unrequited) feelings for him and admitted she liked him in the part. But she had alienated him terribly and never had the chance to work with him again. She lost one of the screen's sexiest leading men because she sabotaged her working relationship with him.

 

I also have the feeling that as close as she was with Olivia, she was probably jealous that Olivia had a lot more chemistry and lot more film credits with Errol. She would ask to screen this film, not any of the three other pictures she and de Havilland made together, because she was not only boss over Errol on this one, but she was boss over Olivia, too.

 

I am sure she was a very twisted woman in real life, but she is a fabulous performer and her pictures continue to hold up to this today because of her undeniable talent.

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> {quote:title=TomJH wrote:

> }{quote}Bette Davis, as everyone knows, was a domineering personality (let's face it, the B word would have been used to describe the lady on more than one occasion).

 

 

 

Miss Davis was an unapologetically unhappy woman.

 

f4aae602c1583e2114_awm6berb3.png

 

A FASCINATING read from Larry Cohen (pictured above) who produced and directed Davis'

swan song in films, Wicked Stepmother -- not for those who don't like to see their idols toyed

with, the article is called "I Killed Bette Davis":

 

 

 

http://www.filmlinc.com/index.php/film-comment-2012/article/i-killed-bette-davis

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TopBilled, you have the right to have whatever theory you wish about Davis having to dominate a man she found sexually desirable, except that it is just that, a theory. Nor, as I and Arturo have both pointed out to you, did she succeed in dominating Flynn, with either the slap or the title.

 

Warners gave them both a compromise title, and she didn't slap him again, after he had warned her. He, in fact, slapped her afterward, through her skirts. Flynn refused to be dominated by her, as much as she may have tried.

 

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