Anthony Hope's classic tale gets a decidedly 'un-classic' treatment at the hands of Peter Sellers. Following the story somewhat, friends of the new King Rudolph of Ruritania fear for his ... See full summary »
In the mid-1700's the East India Company has power over commerce on the sub-continent, with the blessings of the British government. A clerk in the company, Robert Clive, is frustrated by ... See full summary »
This is a classic swashbuckler. Rudolph Rassendyll, Rudolf V's identical distant cousin, is asked to risk his life and impersonate the would-be king when his relative is kidnapped before his impending coronation. If Rudolf V isn't present at the ceremony, he will forfeit the crown to his older half-brother. Complications ensue when Princess Flavia, the king's cousin and betrothed, begins to notice a "personality change" in her fiancé. Written by
Albert Sanchez Moreno <email@example.com>
On November 2nd, 1937, this film opened the world famous Odeon Cinema, in London's Leicester Square. See more »
Colman's hairstyle changes during the scene on the terrace with Madeleine Carroll. In the brief dialogue with Aubrey Smith, his hair is longer and swept back. Presumably this part of the scene had to be re-shot a few weeks later. See more »
Sir Anthony Hope Hawkins was a successful London barrister, who got his measure of permanent fame as the author of several novels. Some were quite popular in their day, like "The Dolly Dialogues" and "The Man In The Car" (which bases it's central figure on Cecil Rhodes). But it is his two "Ruritanian" Romances, "The Prisoner Of Zenda" and "Rupert Of Hentzau" that are the main novels he is recalled for, especially "The Prisoner Of Zenda". Set in a middle European kingdom, it was (for it's day in the last decades of the 19th Century) an updating of the swashbuckling novels of Alexandre Dumas. Dumas had some stories set in "modern Europe" ("The Count Of Monte Cristo" is set in the period of 1815 - 1830, and was written in 1844 - 1845), but most were in earlier periods, such as the 16th, 17th, and 18th Centuries. Hope Hawkins (who wrote under the name Anthony Hope) figured that there was sufficient intrigue and deviltry in modern Europe to transplant the plot style to the 1870s - 1890s.
And there was considerable intrigue, especially in Eastern Europe. In the 1880s Prince Alexander of Battenberg seemed set to become first Prince or King of Bulgaria. He had won admiration in Europe for his stunning victories over the armies of the Kingdom of Serbia in a war of 1885 (the war that was the background to Shaw's ARMS AND THE MAN), and was poised to get his crown, when the Russian Empire balked. They thought Alexander was too pro-German, and too close (due to family relationships) to Great Britain. So Alexander was toppled, and forced to leave Bulgaria under very humiliating circumstances. Eventually Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg got the Bulgarian throne.
"The Prisoner Of Zenda" is not based on the story of Alexander of Battenberg, but it shows the type of conspiracy atmosphere that pervaded the area. Basically the plot is an old one of substitutions concerning political figures. Dumas had used one in "The Vicomte De Bragalone", a huge multi-volume novel that included "The Man In The Iron Mask". One of the theories about the Iron Mask (the one that Dumas used)was that it was the twin brother of King Louis XIV. In that novel D'Artagnan has to thwart a plot to replace the Sun King with his brother - a plot that almost succeeds. Hope changed this slightly. Here the King is threatened by his ambitious half-brother, and the King's distant twin cousin replaces him to save the throne.
The 1937 film version of the novel is usually considered the best of several (including the 1951 version with Stewart Granger and Deborah Kerr, and a comic version with Peter Sellers and Lionel Jeffries in 1978). David Selznick was the producer, this being part of his series of movies-based-on-famous-novels that included "A Tale Of Two Cities" (also with Colman), "David Copperfield" (with W.C.Fields), and finally "Gone With The Wind". His casting was top notch, with Colman supported by Madeleine Carroll, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Raymond Massey, Mary Astor, C. Aubrey Smith, and David Niven. It is an exciting and well made film, and definitely worth watching.
Selznick hoped to do the sequel "Rupert Of Hentzau", but that book is a comparative downer. Several of the main characters from the first novel are killed, and one of them shows a less likable side to his personality than in the first story. He toyed with a total rewrite of the story, to try to make Fairbanks a hero instead of a villain. The project never reached fruition. Probably just as well. It is rare for a successful film production to be replicated in a sequel.
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