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The hapless king of a small European nation must put up with a domineering queen, a daughter who wants to elope with her boyfriend, a peasant revolt and a scheming son who wants to be king himself and is plotting to take advantage of the situation. Written by
But what were those explosions?
Shells, my dear. The fact of the matter is, the revolutionaries stole General Northrup's artillery when he wasn't looking.
And they're trying to shell the palace?
It seems that way.
[Anne takes off her coat.]
What are you doing?
Do you think I'd go now?
But, my dear, you must go. This is your one chance; you can't lose it.
Too late, Father. I'm going to stay here because I love you. And because we must be together when they come.
Good for you, Anne.
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This is an early talkie by RKO based on a Broadway play by Robert Sherwood. I caught it one night on the late show on a Baltimore station. Sadly this station doesn't play these old/early sound movies as Turner Classics owns them all now. Needless to say this movie is a spoof or sendup of the trials and tribulations of a European Kingdom teetering on the brink of collapse. This kingdom is at war with it's own people, with neighboring countries as well as suffering from internal intrigue in the court. Director Sherman, in my opinion, is seemingly warming himself up for Becky Sharp three to four years later. There's a scene in Royal Bed in which General Northup(Robert Warwick wonderfully melodramatic)goes to a window of the court and says of his own army: "the stupid artillery, they're shooting the wrong way". Hilarious when you watch it. For fans of Becky Sharp(1935) there's a similar sequence as Rawdon Crawley stands by a window ... and it's filmed in color. Lowell Sherman well past 40 at this time had been acting in theatre since he was a child. He may be remembered today by some buffs as the villain in DW Griffith's silent "Way Down EA(1920) and for other silent films. Little remembered about Sherman is that he was an up & coming director of light, sophisticated, witty comedies in the early 1930s. Royal Bed is one, "Bachelor Apartment" still another as well "High Stakes", "The Pay Off" and one of Katharine Hepburn's earliest films "Morning Glory". This must have seemed natural for Sherman who had spent decades acting on the Broadway stage in this same kind of fare. As fate would have it Sherman was to die in 1934 just as he was hitting his stride... and while he began Becky Sharp, Rouben Mamoulian would end up completing it.
Sherman plays the lead in Royal Bed as the King, Nance O'Neil his discerning wife The Queen, Mary Astor their daughter, the wonderful Robert Warwick(later in Sullivan's Travels and numerous others)as the pompous General Northup and a host of characters. Basically the King is a softy. He's intimidated by his high ranking officials such as Northup. And also by his wife who seems to have been betrothed to the King decades earlier in an arranged marriage. Sherman's tender scenes are with his daughter Mary Astor. Her mother and General Northup want her to enter an arranged marriage so as to make the country look good. And Northup would gain more feathers in his cap so to speak. The girl wants out of the arranged marriage to a fop of an aristocrat. She eventually gets to marry the man she loves, her father's male secretary, after cooing him over. This disappoints her mother who decides to take a vacation to America on an ocean liner. Northup conspires to have the King deposed so that he can take over in a Coup. As the kingdom crumbles Sherman remains a calm and collected monarch eager to toss out one liners and play checkers with his butler. He's a down to earth monarch in a kingdom crying out for leadership.(Can't help wondering how much the recent history of the fall of the Romanovs influenced Sherwood as well as Sherman).
This may be a forgotten little comedy. One of many by RKO. RKO wanted to capitalize off of the hit play. The melodrama aka over-acting may seem corny today. But not really. Melodrama can be fun for the audience. And for the actors quite tiring when you think about it. All of that energy to pronounce vowels and consonants in an exaggerated manner.The interacting between the actors is hilarious as they read their over-the-top dialogue. Robert Warwick's deep stage trained voice is so well recorded that he's my favorite character in this. This is not a bad 90 minutes of viewing. Turner may dust it off once in a while. That's where you'll likely see this and many other Sherman directed early talkies if they don't come to video or dvd.
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