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In 1463, Paris is besieged by the Duke of Burgundy, arch-rival of the king, who is content to sit tight while the poor starve. But there are traitors in Paris, and King Louis goes undercover to find one, thereby meeting Francois Villon, poet, philosopher and rogue. By chance Villon kills the king's traitor and is ordered to replace him...as Grand Constable of France! But there's a catch... Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
Ronald Colman and Basil Rathbone and a Preston Sturges script can't be beat.
I knew I was in for a treat when I saw Preston Sturges was scriptwriter for this film, which was clever and energetic, but I didn't expect such wonderful performances from both Basil Rathbone (who received an Oscar nomination) and Ronald Colman. I always felt Colman didn't pick up his lines fast enough (at least in his later years), but he's perfect playing the poet François Villon. Colman sounds like a poet whenever he speaks in all his roles! You've never seen Rathbone in any role quite like that of Louis XI. He sounds at first almost childlike, but it is a mask - he's pretty wily and knows what he is doing all the time. The script, of course, is pure hokum. You can't imagine for one moment that a king would make Grand Constable a man who was caught stealing food from the royal storehouse. As Grand Constable, he runs France! The extended scene where he, while hidden, metes out sentences to his friends who were also caught stealing, is pure delight, and very worthy of Sturges. I found fault with Villon's earlier escape, as it was too easy, and with the casting of Ellen Drew in the role of one of the wenches at the Fir Cone tavern, and who loves Villon. There was too much to enjoy in the film so those were easy to forgive. His other love is Frances Dee, playing one of the nobles at court, and she is always stunningly dressed in Edith Head's costumes. The rest of the cast was all first rate, and the Oscar-nominated sets were excellent. Curiously, the film is set in 1463, the approximate year that Villon died at the age of 32. Also, William Farnum, who plays General Barbezier in this film, played Villon in the 1920 silent of the same name as this film.
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