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I was quite impressed with the restoration of Marion Davies's breakout picture
When Knighthood Was In Flower. For its time the film is quite lavish and an
awe inspiring spectacle. I wouldn't be surprised if William Randolph Hearst
made sure that Paramount had whatever financing it needed to bring his
Marion's breakout film to the big screen. The only thing that surprised me was
that he didn't get Cecil B. DeMille to direct. But more than likely DeMille did
not want to be second guessed by WR Hearst.
With or without DeMille this film is the definition of spectacle. Many of you
have probably seen the Disney classic film The Sword And The Rose made
during the 50s that starred Richard Todd as Charles Brandon and Glynis Johns
as Mary Tudor with James Robertson Justice as Henry VIII. Marion Davies is
Mary Tudor, sister of Henry VIII and a pawn in the power play game of medieval Europe.
Lyn Harding is Henry VIII and this is back in the day before he became changing
wives like underwear and beheading a pair of them. He's married to Catherine
of Aragon aunt of the Hapsburg Emperor Charles V whose many titles also
included King of Spain and ruler of the Netherlands as well as all that German
and Eastern European territory. Henry VIII thought that if he could get sister
Mary hitched to the aged Louis XII of France he'd have things all sewed up
But Mary has a mind of her own. Marion Davies catches one look at Charles
Brandon at jousting tournament and she decides this is the guy I want and I
don't care if he's not noble.
The long forgotten Forrest Stanley is Charles Brandon. I'm sure WR Hearst
didn't want a leading man getting all the attention in Marion's film. Time
and the coming of sound have erased our memories of most of the cast. But
William Powell plays Francis I of France who succeeded Louis XII when he died.
This was Powell's second film and he's properly sinister as Francis. Not that
Francis was any more or less bad than any of the other monarchs of the day
including Henry VIII in real life. But Powell in his silent years played swarthy
sinister villains and Francis I is done in the best Snidely Whiplash tradition.
Historically accurate its not. Anne Boleyn makes a brief appearance here as a
girl Henry VIII was beginning to check out. Anne was a mere 13 when all this
action is taking place and was not drawing Henry's or anyone else's attention
It's been remarked that Davies's strong suit was a gift for comedy and she has
a great old time fleeing from the king with her lover and going to a tavern in
male drag. She has a great old time in this part of the film, you could tell
Davies was enjoying herself.
I'm glad this film is now restored and we can see both Marion Davies and
William Powell in their salad days.
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