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In 1500, Duke Cesare Borgia hopes to marry his sister (widowed by poison) to the heir apparent of Ferrara, which impedes his conquest of central Italy. On this delicate mission he sends Andrea Orsini, his cousin Angela's lover and nearly as unscrupulous as himself. En route, Orsini meets Camilla Verano, wife of the count of Citta' del Monte (Borgia's next intended conquest); and sentiment threatens to turn him against his deadly master, whom no one betrays twice... Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Orson Welles made this film during some of the several breaks in the filming of his own movie of "Othello" (which he began in 1949 and which was not finished until 1952). Everett Sloane, whom he had cast as Iago in his own film, came with him into this one, with his role built up by extensive script rewrites by the uncredited Welles. This may have been partially an attempt by Welles to ensure that Sloane remained with him to complete "Othello" - but, in fact, Sloane walked off the "Othello" film, creating an extra difficulty for Welles, who never forgave him. See more »
This story takes place during the time of Cesare Borgia, who died in 1507; however, the first scene of the movie--which shows Borgia with other characters--takes place in a room decorated with a fresco of Saint Michael by Federico Zuccari, who was born around 1540, and who started to work in Rome during the reign of HH Pius IV (1559-1565). See more »
Orson Welles & Sir Felix Aylmer Revel Amid Medieval Pomp & Panoply
A cunning young soldier of fortune finds himself in the employ of Cesare Borgia, THE PRINCE OF FOXES. The young man is sent on a diplomatic mission to pave the way for Borgia's conquest of Italy, but instead he falls in love - exposing himself to the full force of his master's wrath...
Strangely overlooked & underrated, this is a wonderful film, full of swashbuckling action, intrigue & adventure. The acting is mostly first rate and the production values & photography are both sumptuous. But beyond this, PRINCE OF FOXES is blessed with a literate, intelligent script & story line in which it is an actual pleasure to immerse oneself. Intelligent viewers are amply rewarded for their time & attention.
Tyrone Power is the valiant hero and he gives a good performance, even if his American accent seems a bit out of place. Always concerned that his handsome looks were more appreciated than his thespian abilities, he finds himself here surrounded by co-stars replete with protean skills.
What can one say about Orson Welles? That he takes the small role of Cesare Borgia and turns it into a fascinating character study? This is only to be expected. But there is more. Welles' oversized talent & personality nearly overwhelm the screen - the medium was almost too small to contain him. He imbues his part with such sardonic humor & sly cunning as to almost make Borgia - and this is high praise indeed - stand on a par with his forthcoming Harry Lime. In fact, Cesare & Harry have much in common, beyond the fact that they were both portrayed by the same splendid actor. They both reveal human evil in all its charming rapacity. Both are utterly, deadly ruthless. Borgia is Lime with an army.
A further joy in watching PRINCE OF FOXES is the chance to see the wonderful old actor Sir Felix Aylmer in a role worthy of his skill. For nearly four decades this quiet, unassuming man appeared in a multitude of British films, usually in small, unexciting parts. Here, he is given a generous role as an elderly count who must contend with Borgia. Deftly underplaying his scenes & giving his lines full justice with his unique voice, Sir Felix gives a master's class in good acting.
Everett Sloane, Welles' old buddy from their Mercury Theater days, gives a finely nuanced performance as a hired assassin - his face a mask of treacherous villainy. As Power's peasant mother, Katina Paxinou is powerful in her small role.
Filmed throughout Italy in various magnificent Renaissance locations, it is the fairy tale walls of San Marino which stand out in particular, doubling for the fictitious Citta del Monte. This tiny republic, the world's oldest, spreads its 23 square miles over Mount Titano, east of Florence, and is completely surrounded by Italy. (Ironically, San Marino was actually captured by Cesare Borgia at one time). The triple fortresses of its capital, crowning the heights of Titano, provide the film with its most memorable vistas. And herein lies an interesting bit of cinematic trivia. Although it had been a safe haven for anti-Mussolini dissidents during the Second World War, the Republic had suffered damage to its majestic walls after being mistakenly bombed by the Allies near the end of the conflict. When the folks from Twentieth Century Fox arrived wanting to make PRINCE OF FOXES and use San Marino as a pivotal backdrop, the Republic agreed, on condition that the film company repair the bomb damage to the fortifications on Mount Titano. Which is why San Marino reminds some tourists today of a Hollywood set...
The film ends very ambiguously as to the fate of Cesare Borgia, but history is not so vague. The illegitimate son of Pope Alexander VI, Cesare (1475-1507) started his rise to power early, first in his ancestral Spain and later in Italy. At the age of seven he was created prothonotary & canon of the cathedral of Valencia - but it was in 1491 at the age of sixteen that his career really started to move. Over the course of the next two years Cesare was quickly created bishop, archbishop & cardinal. In 1498 he renounced his cardinalate to become Captain General of the Papal Army. Working hand in glove with the Pope, they furthered their schemes towards wresting a northern Italian kingdom for Cesare.
A marriage that same year with the sister of the King of Navarre and the acceptance of a French dukedom, gave Cesare & Alexander the French support they would need for their plots of conquest. The film begins in 1500, by which time Cesare was fully immersed in his generally successful campaigns. (The opening scene shows the funeral of Cesare's brother-in-law, Duke Alfonso of Bisceglie, the husband of Cesare's wicked sister Lucrezia; that unlucky gentleman had been stabbed by a quartet of Cesare's assassins and subsequently strangled in his sickbed by Cesare's servant. ) Hated & despised by the rank and file of the citizenry of Italy, Alexander & Cesare had to constantly fight against the overwhelming tide of public opinion.
Surviving one rebellion in his army - and treacherously murdering the ringleaders after feigning peace - Cesare's fortunes at last crumbled with the death of his father in 1503. The new pope, Julius II, was an implacable enemy and demanded the release of Cesare's dominions. Cesare was eventually captured by the Spanish, imprisoned in Spain, and made a daring escape. He now offered his services to his brother-in-law, the King of Navarre. Cesare Borgia's short, violent, utterly fascinating life came to an end in 1507 when he was killed in a skirmish with rebels.
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