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The Prisoner of Zenda (1922)

When the king is drugged and abducted by his ambitious brother, a lookalike relative must take his place to keep the evil sibling off the throne.


Rex Ingram


Anthony Hope (novel), Mary O'Hara (written for the screen by)

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An Englishman on a Ruritarian holiday must impersonate the king when the rightful monarch, a distant cousin, is drugged and kidnapped.

Directors: John Cromwell, W.S. Van Dyke
Stars: Ronald Colman, Madeleine Carroll, C. Aubrey Smith


Complete credited cast:
Lewis Stone ... Rudolf Rassendyll / King Rudolf
Alice Terry ... Princess Flavia
Robert Edeson ... Colonel Zapt
Stuart Holmes ... Grand Duke 'Black' Michael
Ramon Novarro ... Rupert of Hentzau (as Ramon Samaniegos)
Barbara La Marr ... Antoinette de Mauban
Malcolm McGregor ... Captain Fritz von Tarlenheim
Edward Connelly ... Marshal von Strakencz
Lois Lee ... Countess Helga
John George ... Dwarf-Assassin
Snitz Edwards ... Josef
Fairfax Burger Fairfax Burger ... Bersonin (as Fairfax Burgher)
S.E. Jennings S.E. Jennings ... De Gautet (as Al Jennings)


Upon the death of his father the King, Rudolph V is set to assume the throne of Ruritania. Both he and his half-brother, Grand Duke Michael, love Princess Flavia, their orphaned cousin who lives in a wing of the palace located in the Ruritanian capital of Strelsau. While half the populace favor the King and the other half the Grand Duke, the entire populace loves Flavia. She is attracted to the Grand Duke's magnetism, but she, in a sense of obligation to her country to support his reign, believes that she will marry the King despite she not being in love with him due to he indulging excessively in his vices, such as the drink, and thus often acting irresponsibly and not in the manner of a king. The Grand Duke, with his longtime faithful companions De Gautet, Bersonin, Detchard, and Rupert of Hentzau, plan to detain the King at the Grand Duke's hunting lodge on the grounds of his castle at Zenda on the day of the coronation so that Michael can assume the throne in Strelsau in his place... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Adventure | Romance


Passed | See all certifications »






Release Date:

11 September 1922 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A zendai fogoly See more »


Box Office


$323,062 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


(Turner library print) |

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Film debut of Malcolm McGregor. See more »


During the climactic fight scene, a stool is kicked over twice. See more »


Rudolf Rassendyll: While you're unhung, Hentzau, hell lacks its master!
See more »

Alternate Versions

The Turner library print is a re-release of the original version, with an uncredited piano music score and a running time of 113 minutes. Its opening credits were changed to list Ramon Novarro first, as he was then very popular, and also uses the name he is now known by. Also credited onscreen was and . See more »


Followed by Rupert of Hentzau (1923) See more »


Music and Lyrics by Louis Breau and Ernst Luz
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User Reviews

Excellent Silent Swashbuckler
27 August 2000 | by Ron OliverSee all my reviews

Rudolf V, the King of Ruritania, has been kidnapped by Black Michael, his evil half-brother, and locked in the dungeon of the fortress of Zenda on the eve of his coronation. By a wild twist of fate, it falls upon a look alike distant cousin, the Englishman Rassendyll, to impersonate the king and effect his rescue before either one or both of them are killed by Black Michael or his henchman, Rupert of Hentzau. With two beautiful women complicating matters, and danger lurking at every turn, how can THE PRISONER OF ZENDA possibly be saved?

It is unfortunate that this fine silent film is completely overshadowed by its 1937 talkie remake starring Ronald Colman. It is also unfair. Silent films & talkies are two different art forms and should not be put into competition against each other. Each art form is perfect in its own way. And so it is with the 1922 PRISONER OF ZENDA. Excitingly produced, with excellent production values & good acting, this movie stands on its own merits and on its own feet.

Those familiar with Lewis Stone only as a fine character actor during his talkie career at MGM may be surprised to see him here as a romantic lead, and in a swashbuckler no less. But he is very good in his dual roles of Rudolf & Rassendyll. Strangely, at times he closely resembles Colman, but this is a coincidence no one could anticipate.

This was also the breakout picture for Ramon Novarro. Born to a large wealthy family in Mexico, he had arrived in California as a 15-year old looking to become a singer. That led him into dancing & finally to acting and the movies. Working incredibly hard for years, and largely supporting his family (driven North by Revolution) he finally caught the eye of director Rex Ingram. In ZENDA, the 22-year old Novarro plays rascally Rupert, who, with his little beard & moustache & face wreathed in constant cigarette smoke, looks quite sardonic. He does very well with the unsympathetic character. Playing a mid-European, Novarro begins a career which would have him acting every sort of ethnic role, from Hebrew, to Polynesian, to Chinese.

The rest of the cast all lend able support: Stuart Holmes as the wicked Black Michael; Alice Terry as the beautiful Princess Flavia; Barbara La Marr as the lovely Antoinette de Mauban, desperately in love with Michael; and Robert Edeson & Malcolm McGregor as two staunchly loyal officers of the king. Little comedian Snitz Edwards has a small role as a funny butler.

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