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No one has ever gotten the Mark Twain satire down quite right in any of the versions of A Connecticut Yankee that have been filmed including the best known versions, this one and the one done in 1949 starring Bing Crosby. But along the way we've gotten some fine entertainment out of the notion of time travel, very unique at the time that Twain wrote the novel.
With both Will and Bing a built in audience was guaranteed for their respective versions, A Connecticut Yankee being privileged to have two of America's most beloved entertainers taking the role. Each invested their personalities in the part which made both films the success they respectively were.
This version is slightly updated from the novel which takes place at the cusp of the new 20th century. It starts during the present, the present of 1931 in the midst of the Great Depression. Will Rogers is not a blacksmith, he's a radio repairman who is called out on a dark and stormy night to fix a radio in the mansion where some strange characters inhabit. An accident knocks him out and he's taken back some 1400 years to the court of King Arthur at Camelot.
During the course of the film Rogers brings about far more of the "blessings" of technology to Camelot than Crosby did in his film. The absurd climax with the Knights of the Round Table storming Morgan Le Fay's castle with all kinds of 20th century weaponry is the ultimate proof of that.
In the novel Twain had the Yankee's character be his mouthpiece for his views. In that sense Rogers as the voice of the modern era was uniquely suited to the part even though his accent was far more Oklahoma than Connecticut. In a gentler way Rogers made a lot of the same points in real life that he does in this film, in his newspaper columns and on his lecture tours.
Two women who later went to MGM around the same time co-star with Will Rogers in A Connecticut Yankee. Maureen O'Sullivan who was a year away from her breakout role as Jane in Tarzan the Ape Man plays Lady Melisande, the daughter of William Farnum as King Arthur. Young Frank Albertson who Rogers takes under his wing as a protégé is in love with her and the Connecticut Yankee plays cupid. And before she became the perfect American wife Myrna Loy was playing all kinds of villainous roles as she is here as Morgan LeFay. Ironically in The Thin Man where Loy forever changed Loy's image Maureen O'Sullivan also had a prominent role in that classic film.
The most recent version of this often filmed tale is Bad Knight with Martin Lawrence, not a bad version either. However I don't think Martin Lawrence would even say he's quite up there in the public consciousness that Will Rogers or Bing Crosby ever got. Though this film is more Rogers than Twain, that's not a bad thing at all.
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