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Prince Wolfram is the betrothed of mad Queen Regina V of Kronberg. Supreme ruler, her word is law and he is a playboy. On maneuvers as punishment for partying with other women, he sees Kelly walking the the other students of a convent. He is intrigued by her beauty and wants her. He kidnaps her that night from the convent and takes her to his room and professes his love for her. When the Queen finds them together the next morning , she whips Kelly and throws her out of the castle. Regina then puts Wolfram into prison for not wanting to marry the Queen. Kelly goes to German East Africa to visit her dying Aunt and is forced to marry the disgusting Jan. The Aunt dies after the wedding and Kelly refuses to live with Jan and becomes the head of Aunties Brothel. Her extravagances and style earn her the name 'Queen Kelly' and Prince Wolfram does not marry Queen Regina V. Written by
Tony Fontana <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This is Director Eric Von Stroheim's last film, produced by it's star, Gloria Swanson. There is much to be learned from the commentaries and additional features on the deluxe Kino DVD of this silent film. The film itself is a wonderful lesson in film-making of its period. Von Stroheim loved to take shots of all the props and costume details of a character believing that this focus on detail told you more about the character than the actor alone could convey. This technique was later perfected by Hitchcock, where details shots are followed by reaction shots to move the story and emotional life along.
QUEEN KELLY is the story of a convent girl who falls in love with a dissipated prince who is promised to a debauched Queen. By today's standard, Seena Owen's performance as the queen is laughably over the top; she slithers and glowers and when she's really angry, she seems to have something stuck in her eye. Swanson herself was the prototype of today's tiny body, big head build favored in television. In her long shots her build looks almost like a pygmy, especially in comparison to Owen. But Swanson has that riveting face, and remains really a fine actress. The interview sections done as introductions to a television viewing of QUEEN KELLY show her to have retained those gorgeous and expressive eyes. This was considered her last film as a real ingénue - she was a bit long in the tooth to be playing a convent girl - but that was the style, bless them.
The original story was only about 1/3 completed when the production went way over budget and delved into areas that would never be approved by censors. Arguably, given Seena Owen's almost 100% nude (wearing either chiffon negligee, or a strategically held cat) performance, most of it may not have passed censors.
The restoration makes much ado of finding reels from the abandoned "African brothel" sequences, but when all is said and done, the "Swanson Ending" (the only way it was shown after talkies had come in and silents were pretty much a done thing) is a very serviceable and good ending evoking Shakespearian tragedy. Most silents were big on action, short on story, with fairly simple plots. Granted the original was supposed to have a happy, if rather suspicious, happy ending, but this makes total sense, and makes Queen Kelly seem very complete.
The only real loss of the Swanson ending is losing the believably sick (in both senses of the word) performance of Tully Marshall. Between Owen and Marshall, it is a lesson in why the production "code of decency" was developed in the first place. The irony is that, as much as she may have been considered heavy handed or intrusive for firing Von Stoheim, Swanson's ending demonstrates that Swanson really did know what she was doing as a producer. A memorable and informative trip into film history.
If you're not interested in film history or silent film, skip it.
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