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When his bride-to-be finds him much too stiff, heir to the throne Prince Karl is sent off to the university in Heidelberg to learn how to socialize. He makes friends with the students there and falls for the down-to-earth Kathie, a barmaid. The two are soul mates, but when Karl's grandfather the king falls ill, he must choose between his country and his own happiness... Written by
In August 1952 Mario Lanza recorded the soundtrack. The whole recording was done in single takes. Every phrase in it was Lanza magic at its best. However, on the film set things were not to go well at all. The first scene to be shot was the song "Beloved" on the terrace. Director Curtis Bernhardt did not like the way the song was sung and corrected Lanza, telling him that he was putting too much emotion in his singing instead of sounding more stuffy and rigid like a Prussian prince. Lanza informed Bernhardt that he was to direct only his acting, and that Lanza's singing was strictly Lanza's department. Bernhardt would not accept this, and Lanza would not be told how to sing by a movie director. The end result was that Lanza walked off the set and vowed not to return as long as Bernhardt was the director. The studio took an injunction against Lanza for damages and losses. He could not perform in public, on radio, or in the recording studio for the remaining time of his contract with MGM (which was then 15 months). A solution was reached in May 1953: the studio would remove the embargo on Lanza if he would allow his voice to be used while another actor played the part of the prince. This was agreed to and the filming got under way with Edmund Purdom lip-synching Lanza, which he did marvelously. The irony is that when the film was finally made, the director was no longer Bernhardt, but Richard Thorpe, who had worked harmoniously with Lanza on The Great Caruso (1951). See more »
Shortly after the "Serenade" segment Kathie is in her room. She puts out the candles until only one is left yet, when she goes to the window, a large electric stage light can be seen reflected in the glass. See more »
Witty dialogue, sparkling performances, and the unsurpassed singing of Mario Lanza
Edmund Purdom does a fine job of lip-synching to Mario Lanza in this beautiful fairytale of a movie. The combination of Lanza's glorious romanticism and Purdom's very British demeanour is an odd combination, but it works - after a fashion. It helps that Purdom was actually singing along with Lanza's pre-recorded vocals - a daunting task for any singer, let alone a non-professional like Purdom. (The actor spent three months practising with the recordings, and commented 20 years later: "It was enough to make you sweat - just listening to the voice.")
It's to Purdom's credit that he persevered, for Lanza's singing is at the very core of this movie. The Serenade, Drinking Song, Beloved, Golden Days and I'll Walk With God are without peer, and represent the pinnacle of Lanza's achievement in English language song. Lanza's timbre was at its most ravishing by this time (1952) and he imbues these songs with such magic that every word sparkles - a feat not lost on Purdom, who later compared Mario's poetic artistry to that of the great soprano Elizabeth Schwarzkopf.
The Student Prince is loosely based on Sigmund Romberg's operetta, with three new songs (Beloved, I'll Walk With God and Summertime in Heidelberg) by Nicholas Brodszky replacing some of the more dated Romberg numbers. The film is a decided improvement on the creaky original and boasts a witty script, replete with memorable one-liners from the screen-writing duo of Sonya Levien and William Ludwig, scenarists for Lanza's The Great Caruso. As a previous reviewer has noted, the original lyrics have been changed in some instances, but the alterations are tastefully done.
Ann Blyth provides worthy support as Kathy, the barmaid with whom The Student Prince falls in love, and the hilarious supporting cast includes such seasoned pros as Edmund Gwenn, SZ (Cuddles) Sakall and John Williams.
Aside from Lanza's absence, what ultimately makes this merely a good movie rather than a classic is Richard Thorpe's uninspired direction. His stolid by-the-numbers approach (ie long shot, then medium shot, then close-up) is at its most obvious during the musical numbers, where he lacks the magical touch that the story - and the music - demands. Still, he was undoubtedly a better choice than Curtis Bernhardt, the "Prussian pickle" (to paraphrase one of the characters in this movie) originally slated to direct, and the real reason for Lanza walking out on The Student Prince.
But watch this movie for its irresistible fairytale appeal, and the magic of Mario Lanza at his extraordinary best.
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