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In a videotaped interview conducted in March 2010 at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, dancer Marge Champion noted that her father, dance instructor Ernest Belcher, worked as a choreographer in the ballroom sequence of this film. According to her, he worked extensively with leading lady Mae Murray. When Champion recently watched the film on TCM, however, she was surprised to see that her father received no on-screen credit. See more »
A title card reads "a prince has a duty to his country higher then [sic] his duty to himself," a grammatical error unusual for such a prestigious studio as MGM. See more »
Big-budget version of the classic stage production marked the final time MGM would work with director von Stroheim who was hired on for what was suppose to be a short film but he would take it and mold it into a 137-minute epic of sorts. The story is pretty well known but it centers on an American dancer (Mae Murray) who gets stranded in a small town where she meets a Prince (John Gilbert) who quickly falls for her. The two have many troubles throughout their relationship including the King (George Fawcett) objecting. According to legend, MGM offered von Stroheim a $10,000 bonus if he could shoot this movie in a three week period. Each week he was over that the bonus would be sliced by $2,000. Needless to say, it ended up taking four months to shoot and MGM pocketed any bonus money that was to be given out. Apparently this film nearly brought the studio down but it turned out being a hit and the rest is history. von Stroheim certainly has a very sinister look and atmosphere running throughout the film and this is something I'm not sure would be in future versions. Since this is the first version I've seen I really can't compare it to anything but I'm sure fans of the director or silent film buffs will really eat this film up even if it isn't the masterpiece one would hope for considering the talent involved. The highlight is clearly the visual look of the film, which is quite stunning from the opening shot to the final one. There are all sorts of strange camera set ups including my favorite that happens around the fifty-minute mark as Murray and Gilbert are having dinner and the director keeps the camera in a long shot with the two actors sitting at the very right of the screen, nearly off camera. This is such a strange shot that it can't help but grab your attention and make you take notice. There are countless other great trick shots throughout the film and von Stroheim certainly builds a wonderful atmosphere that is quite thick and at times haunting. The performances by the two leads are very good as well with both playing off one another wonderfully. I thought the romantic aspect of the story was fully believable as both actors perfectly nail the more dramatic parts and Gilbert getting a special notice for some nice comic timing. If I had any problem with the film its the running time as I felt there could have been some trims here and there and nothing would have been lost on the story. Apparently Clark Gable and Joan Crawford are extras in the mammoth ballroom sequence but I was unable to spot them.
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