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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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Entertaining story of Francois Villon and Louis XI
Ronald Colman gets his wish in "If I Were King," a 1938 film also starring Basil Rathbone and Francis Dee. Colman plays the vagabond poet Francois Villon, who is overheard by the disguised King (Basil Rathbone) criticizing His Highness and talking about what he would do if given the chance. He and his entire party are arrested, and Louis makes Villon the Lord High Chancellor. Villon gets to work immediately and elevates the king's reputation among the people. He opens up the stores of food at the palace and gives it to the citizens - they have no food because the city is being held by the Burgundians. The sentences he passes out to anyone arrested are merciful and fair. It seems as if he has succeeded. But what the King has failed to inform Villon is that he is only Chancellor for a week - and he has that week to convince the French army, who are refusing to fight the Burgundian army, to do so and win.
"If I Were King" is a great deal of fun, and Ronald Colman is delightful as Villon. But first, in response to a previous post, a word about accents. The previous poster asks if there was a vocal coach available, as there were people speaking in British and American accents - no French accents. Hollywood often confuses the accent issue of films set in foreign lands by casting one or two people who have some type of accent while the rest do not. The rule in acting is that no accent is necessary when doing a film or a play set in a foreign country. Why? Because the people of that country are not speaking English. They are speaking their own language. They are NOT walking around France speaking English with a French accent. This is why when actors perform Russian plays, or Hollywood did films set in Nazi Germany, Budapest, Spain or anywhere else, the actors did not have to use an accent of that country. An accent would only be necessary if a German were in America speaking English, for instance.
To get back to the cast, led by the wonderful Colman, Basil Rathbone is excellent as the hated Louis, and Frances Dee is lovely as Katherine de Vaucelles, who falls in love with the Lord High Chancellor.
Someone complained because Errol Flynn did not play this role. Flynn would have been marvelous, as he was a very charismatic actor, but I think Colman is marvelous. His Louis is not only energetic and charming, but highly intelligent, and Colman is able to shade the role in a way that Flynn, who tended to be much more superficial in his characterizations, could not.
An enchanting film, highly recommended.
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