You know the speech. The one where a youthful Kenneth Branagh references “manhoods” and makes a big deal about this guy called St. Crispin and how it means the English are going to wreak destruction on the French at Agincourt. Not gonna lie, I sat entranced, jaw on floor, as a wide eyed 15 year old Sarah in front of the screen when I first watched Branagh’s break-out film, Henry V.
It. Was. Epic.
Also, Branagh looked a lot like a boy I had a crush on, Andrew. Andrew turned out to be gay, despite pretending to french kiss me during his 14th birthday party. Not sure if this applies to anything, but you know, full disclosure. Andy, if you’re reading this, you weren’t fooling anyone.
Anyway. Do you know that October 25 is actually St. Crispin’s day? And did you know what Crispin is the patron saint of? Is it:
Ok, so now that that’s been squared away we can move in for the tie-in to the actual topic of this blog… The costumes from Branagh’s Henry V.
Phyllis Dalton was the costume designer for the film and won the Academy Award for Best Costume in 1990. Dalton is also the designer for none other than The Princess Bride, which now that I think about it, makes total sense. Both films have women’s clothing that has that late-medieval, lush, glittering, fairy princess quality to them.
Aparently, Dalton was also part of the Branagh tribe during the golden era of Kenneth Branagh films… She designed for Much Ado About Nothing (which will likely be an upcoming podcast at some point), and the break-out Branagh/Thompson film Dead Again, in which the hero and heroine travel between a contemporary (late 20th century) world and the 1940s.
Gosh, now that I look at Dalton’s IMDB page, I realize she was responsible for so many of the great costuming films prior to 1990. Her resume includes:
Oliver! (Staring my 1970s boyfriend, Oliver Reed being dark and brooding)
and the one series that almost everyone has on their 10 ten list of “Greatest 18th c. Costume Flicks Ever,” The Scarlet Pimpernel. (BTW, we are totally going to podcast this one eventually, too).
But let’s turn back to the costumes in Henry V. As many can probably suss out from the title of the play, on which this film is based, the subject matter deals with Henry V’s brilliant, yet brief reign as King of England, during the year 1415. So, we’ve established that we’re dealing with the early 15th century England and France, which the designer sticks very close to. Unfortunately, this film has flown under the online costuming radar, probably owing to the emphasis on male clothing and only having three females appear on screen, for less than fifteen minutes of screen time combined in a 2 hour film. So, sadly, I wasn’t able to turn up many screencaps of the lovely costumes that weren’t covered in fake blood and mud. Here’s what I was able to find:
Yeah. Not much. Though, I did realize that the robe that Buttercup wears in the scene where she confronts Humperdink after her nightmare, and the robe that Katherine wears during her English lesson with her lady in waiting, are actually THE SAME.
Except Buttercup’s robe is blue and Katherine’s is cream, but they’re the same cut and fabric. Wonder if the robe was from The Princess Bride, which was made a few years prior to Henry V? Wonder if there are other costumes from The Princess Bride that are recycled in Henry V? This is worth investigating, but as I sadly only own very worn out VHS copies of both movies, I’m not sure when I’ll be able to get around to watching both back to back (which would be an interesting double feature, now that I think about it). And speaking of VHS copies, neither Amazon Prime, nor Netflix streams Henry V, and the going rate for a DVD copy is $60. I find this highly irritating. Even YouTube wasn’t much help, since most of the clips are potato quality.
So, I’m just going to leave you with two YouTube clips of my favorite parts of the film: The English lesson, and Henry wooing Katherine. Gosh, Emma Thompson is adorable!
Special thanks to Movie Screencaps, which although doesn’t have Henry V capped, they have some very nice caps of The Princess Bride which I happily snagged for this post.
I know I’m nearly a year late to the party, but please podcast Henry V! Especially if you can compare costumes to Princess Bride. This librarian reminds you to check your local library for a dvd copy :)
I have both films on DVD or bluray and love bothe of them.
I too was born on 25 October. But I always associated it with Johann Strauss II composer of Blue Danube and other Viennese waltzes.
I enjoyed Branagh Henry V. Emma Thompson’s English lesson scene was a favourite.
I LOVE this film–it’s probably my favorite Shakespeare film, partly because it came out as I started grad school in Stratford-upon-Avon. The French look awfully groovy in this–and the French herald (my fave role) has a terrific hat that he uses to convey his character’s changing attitude toward Henry.
I’m also late, but just want to say that Laurence Olivier did a splendid job of this speech. It’s less realistic, the whole film is, and more propagandistic (WWII). But I loved
Just wanted to note that not only did Katherine and Buttercup have the same dressing gown, take a hard look at their coronets. They are in fact the same one, I think.