HENRY V (1944)
Let’s go back to one of the first major examples of British Royalty depicted in narrative: a certain playwright named William Shakespeare. At the tail end of the Second World War, the ‘Greatest Living Actor’ Laurence Olivier both directed and starred in this adaptation of the titular King Henry V titled ‘The Chronicle History of King Henry the Fift with His Battell Fought at Agin Court in France’. Olivier’s film was presented in glorious (at the time) technicolor and served very much as a morale boosting rallying cry to the British troops on the march to Berlin. Indeed, it was partly funded by the government for that very purpose. Olivier went on to win a special Academy Award for an achievement many considered to be the first commercially successful adaptation of Shakespeare for cinema.
Has it stood the test of time? Perhaps not as a piece of cinema compared to subsequent adaptations, as Olivier struggles to betray his theatrical roots, but his speech as Henry at the Battle of Agincourt remains a seminal moment in 20th century cinematic history.