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Maria Montez was accorded top billing in this film by contractual agreement, although she is in the picture only long enough to take a bath in a tricky 17th century bathtub while sipping coffee with Charles Stuart and delivering dialogue in a barely-understandable French-accent. This is the second major film released within a short period with King Charles II as a primary character, and Charles here and Charles (George Sanders) in "Forever Amber" are two very varied approaches to the same character. This one takes place prior to the beginning of "Forever Amber" when Charles II and his followers are hiding out in Holland from Oliver Cromwell's puritan Round Heads. Being temporarily at liberty (or unemployed), Charles takes a day job at the farm/estate of Katie, and falls in love with her. Meanwhile he eludes his enemies by agility, enterprise and sword play, some of the latter performed while riding the blades of a Dutch windmill. He is summoned back to the throne and has to leave ... Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
When Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. started his career in silent screen he did not go for the swashbuckling roles that his famous father did. My guess is he wanted to be judged on his own as a player. In fact it was his mother who when Fairbanks, Sr. was slow with the child support who got him into film in the first place, hoping to capitalize on the name. Later as he got older and was established in his own right, Fairbanks made claim to the legacy of his father in such films as The Exile.
In fact Fairbanks both wrote the screenplay and produced this film and got European director Max Ophuls for the piloting. He plays a most famous exile, Charles Stuart, Charles II of Great Britain who is exiled in the Netherlands and poised to reclaim his own in 1660.
The story is based on a historical novel by British writer Cosmo Hamilton and it tells of that brief interregnum in British history between the sudden death of Oliver Cromwell and the restoration of Charles II. Charles Stuart had narrowly escaped from his country after the Puritan takeover and was living in exile in somewhat humble circumstances wherever in Europe he could find shelter. In 1660 it was the Netherlands.
Historians have debated long about the collapse of the military dictatorship of Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell. He had things pretty much his own way and when he died his son Richard wasn't up to the job he inherited. It was a close run thing that the United Kingdom did not break apart into civil war again at this time.
By 1660 just about everybody except the most committed of Puritans felt that only a Stuart Restoration would keep the country united. But some of those most committed Puritans had a big vested interest in seeing that the Restoration did not occur. Therein lies the tale of this film.
Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. is a perfect Charles Stuart, in fact he looks quite a bit like him. As in real life sharing his exile is Lord Clarendon who is played here by Nigel Bruce. When Charles reclaimed his throne, Lord Clarendon became his first minister. In the film as in life Clarendon was constantly reminding him of his duty and not to spend all his time on frivolity and chasing skirts. In real life after the action of this film, Charles got rid of Clarendon, but with a decent pension for loyalty and services rendered.
As petitions come from various folks over in Great Britain to resume the monarchy, Charles plays coy all the time dodging Puritan agents. Several have come to the town where he's staying and Charles has a bit of sport with them by just pretending he's a penniless exile. He even takes a job as a laborer on Paula Corday's farm. He even falls for her as he did with MANY women.
But a most cunning and ruthless Puritan in the person of Henry Daniell arrives to take over the hunt and kill the king before he can set sail back to his realm. This is one of Daniell's finest performances on screen, you can believe he's one cold and merciless killer and a true believer in the Puritan Revolution. Fairbanks and Daniell have a duel in a Dutch mill that's the equal of the one Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone had in Robin Hood.
As per her contract Maria Montez got top billing as a French countess who finds Charles Stuart as a farm hand and delivers a message of support from his cousin Louis XIV of France. Robert Coote has a very funny part as an unemployed actor who is passing himself off as Charles Stuart and who the Puritans nearly kill for such a good performance. Fairbanks uses Coote to his own end to further his deception, but steps in when Daniell's about to run him through.
The Exile is one of Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.'s finest films and he really does the part in a way that would have made Dad proud.
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