Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Overlooked Movies -- The Prisoner of Zenda (1937)

The Prisoner of Zenda is far from overlooked, but my usual excuse for including a movie like this one is that maybe some of my faithful readers have overlooked it.  You shouldn't have.  It's great.  I saw and loved the Stewart Granger color version when I was a kid, and I loved it.  This older B&W version is the definitive one, I believe, but the Granger version is on TCM at 3:00 P.M. CDT this afternoon, so I'll watch it and find out.  I'll report on it next week if I can remember to do it.

Ronald Colman plays both Major Rudolf Rassendyll and the man who's about to be crowned king of some unnamed European country and who becomes the prisoner of Zenda.  Colman is on vacation in the country and discovers that he's an dead ringer for the future king. This becomes important when the king, thanks to being drugged by his half brother, the villainous Black Michael (Raymond Massey), is unable to attend his coronation. If he doesn't get crowned, Black Michael will become king.  Rudolf is recruited to take the true king's place, but reluctant to do so.  He's talked into it by Colonel Zapt (C. Aubrey Smith) and Fritz von Tarlenheim (David Niven), and then he falls for Princess Flavia (Madeleine Carroll), as who wouldn't?  She falls for him, too, as he seems to be an entirely different person from the man she was supposed to marry.

As you probably know, things don't work out exactly as planned.  Black Michael's buddy Rupert of Hentzau (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.) kidnaps the future king and takes him to a castle near Zenda.  It's up to Rudolf to rescue him, which results in some nice derring-do and a sword fight that's not bad at all.

Great cast, great acting, and a bittersweet ending (I wonder if Carroll lobbied to say, "'Tis a far, far better thing I do . . . ," to echo a Colman role of a few years earlier).  You really can't go wrong here.

Side note:  I really enjoy Ronald Colman and his wife Benita Hume on The Jack Benny Show on radio.  And back in the olden days I loved The Halls of Ivy both on radio and TV, a series that might not have had as much to do with my becoming an English teacher as Our Miss Brooks, but one that certainly had a big influence on me.

9 comments:

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

I miss the old days.

Greg Daniel said...

I love love love The Halls of Ivy. Back before I gave up and declared the sun & humidity of Florida the winner and hired someone to cut the grass, I would listen to that on my iPod (or some-such) while mowing the yard. (Love The Prisoner of Zenda too.)

Bill Crider said...

I thought I was the only one who remembered THE HALLS OF IVY. Glad to know I'm not.

George said...

Like Jeff, I miss these classic movies, too.

Fred Blosser said...

Perfect swashbuckler. Bill, the Stewart Granger remake is good, and the Technicolor is beautiful, but even so, it somehow lacks the sparkle of the Colman version. The relatively obscure 1922 silent version with Lewis Stone is a real slog, how not to make an adventure movie, notable only for Ramon Novarro's breakout performance as Rupert.

Don Coffin said...

One heck of a cast.

Bill Crider said...

And every member of the cast is wonderful.

Todd Mason said...

I became aware of THE HALLS OF IVY because of THE BIG BROADCAST anthology umbrella, and it was a lovely radio series...seen a couple of the tv episodes, and they're fine, too. Not alone at all. Bill.

bob hendricks said...

The Halls of Ivy had great writers. Created by Don Quinn.