Young Prince Karl Heinrich has spent his entire life behind the palace gates protected from the world. He has been raised in a melancholy atmosphere of strict discipline and duty, yet he often looks out at the frolics of youths and maidens who live beyond the walls. When he passes his exams, Karl is sent to Heidelberg to complete his studies. It is a heady new world of brew, song, and comradeship. Karl falls in love with Kathi, a pretty barmaid, and she reciprocates. But can the love survive their disparate backgrounds? Will Karl ever find happiness or will duty deny it to him? Written by
Thomas McWilliams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Ramon Novarro (as Karl Heinrich) is the Crown Prince of Karlsburg. He is envied by his subjects, but lonely and isolated behind castle walls. Quite Princely in appearance, and capable of performing royal duties, he is, nonetheless, not enamored with dutiful royalties. With help from tutor Jean Hersholt (as Dr. Juttner), he becomes an honor student, and is goes to university at Old Heidelberg. There, he meets and falls in love with commoner Norma Shearer (as Kathi).
"The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg" is a first rate silent film production, expertly directed by Ernst Lubitsch. Mr. Novarro is appropriately exuberant as the young Prince - his performance is excellent throughout, but really starts to dazzle in the scenes beginning with his witnessing of Ms. Shearer's downing a German beer. Mr. Hersholt is great as Novarro's tutor; both men are superior with the necessary "silent screen" acting, and the more forward "underplaying". Ms. Shearer is just a step behind her co-stars in artful acting; but, it's a a gap she will very quickly fill. Shearer is terrific in the scene when she learns Novarro is leaving, and helps him pack. Philipe de Lacy is notable, playing the Prince as a boy; his characterization matches the older Novarro - director Lubitsch directs these early sequences effectively, creating the image of a young prince in his castle prison.
When a couple of important people in the Prince's life die, the story becomes necessarily more somber in tone. Of course, Novarro must eventually become King - these scenes are beautifully symbolic, and extraordinarily well photographed. The visit by an old friend prompts Novarro's return to Old Heidelberg, with unexpected results. Don't miss a later scene, when Novarro returns to his Old Heidelberg bedroom - especially, watch how Novarro briefly strokes his bed, obviously thinking of Shearer; it's a superb little bit of sexual suggestion. It would be nice to know whether the gesture originated with Novarro or Lubitsch - but, it's probably not possible to determine. "Is it Good to be King?" You'll know when you see Novarro's beautifully acted final scene, in his royal carriage - certainly, it's one of the most memorable performances in silent cinema.
********** The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg (9/21/27) Ernst Lubitsch ~ Ramon Novarro, Norma Shearer, Jean Hersholt, Philippe de Lacy
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