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Biopic of the famed British Prime Minister focusing on his concern about Russia's growing interest in the Indian subcontinent and his attempts to buy the Suez Canal. He sees the Canal as the key strategic resource in maintaining the Empire in the East but is unpopular in many quarters. With antisemitism rife at the time, Disraeli finds little support for his plan to purchase the canal or his foreign policy in general. There is no doubt that the Russians are plotting against British interests and he is surrounded by spies, even in his office at 10 Downing St. When the Bank of England refuses to finance the purchase of the available shares he turns to private sources to raise the available cash only to find the conspirators one step ahead of him. Written by
Adapted from a Broadway play by Louis N. Parker. The original stage production of "Disraeli" also starred George Arliss and opened on Sep 18, 1911 at Wallack's Theatre in New York and ran for 280 performances. It was revived in 1912, 1917 (again with George Arliss) and 1927. See more »
The great and unfortunately forgotten George Arliss
This is one of the few very early talkies that is neither a musical nor an overly dull stage production. It is a fascinating look into a very brief episode in the professional life of British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli - specifically his effort in obtaining the Suez Canal for Great Britain. Arliss gives a well-deserved Academy Award winning performance as the prime minister, and he is so adept at dialogue and with conveying his mood with glances and small gestures and the pace of the film is so brisk that you hardly notice the 1929 movie camera that cannot budge an inch. In this short 90 minute film Disraeli plays matchmaker, mentor, breaker of a spy ring, and master dealmaker with a sophistication of dialogue and acting that is rarely seen in films for another ten years. Particularly moving is the portrayal of Disraeli's relationship with his wife, played by Arliss' actual wife to whom he was wed in 1899 until his death. The mutual respect and tenderness the couple show for one another is quite touching.
The audio and video of the VHS version of this film is really in bad shape. There is very bad background hissing in the audio which can make the dialogue - so important to the development of the plot - sometimes difficult to understand. The video doesn't have much scratchiness to it, but there are periods of time when blurry areas will appear on the screen that can be quite distracting, and the contrast is quite poor. However, this film is quite enjoyable 80 years after it was made. Seeing that it is much more than a rickety curio, it would be nice to see Warner Home Video clean up the film technically as much as is possible and put it on DVD.
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