21 user 18 critic

Queen Kelly (1929)

Passed | | Drama | 1 January 1929 (USA)
A convent girl is abducted and seduced by a prince before being sent off to a brothel in East Africa.


Erich von Stroheim (as Erich Von Stroheim), Richard Boleslawski (uncredited)


Erich von Stroheim (based on an original story by) (as Erich Von Stroheim), Marian Ainslee (titles) (as Marion Ainslee)

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Complete credited cast:
Gloria Swanson ... Kitty Kelly / Queen Kelly
Walter Byron ... Prince Wolfram
Seena Owen ... Queen Regina V


Prince Wolfram is the betrothed of mad Queen Regina V of Kronberg. Supreme ruler, her word is law and he is a playboy. On maneuvers as punishment for partying with other women, he sees Kelly walking the the other students of a convent. He is intrigued by her beauty and wants her. He kidnaps her that night from the convent and takes her to his room and professes his love for her. When the Queen finds them together the next morning , she whips Kelly and throws her out of the castle. Regina then puts Wolfram into prison for not wanting to marry the Queen. Kelly goes to German East Africa to visit her dying Aunt and is forced to marry the disgusting Jan. The Aunt dies after the wedding and Kelly refuses to live with Jan and becomes the head of Aunties Brothel. Her extravagances and style earn her the name 'Queen Kelly' and Prince Wolfram does not marry Queen Regina V. Written by Tony Fontana <tony.fontana@spacebbs.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




Passed | See all certifications »




Release Date:

1 January 1929 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Swamp See more »


Box Office


$800,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Gloria Swanson Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


(1985 restored) | (Swanson Version)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric System)| Silent
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The first scenes for the film were the meeting between Kelly and Wolfram on Kambach Road. See more »


The positions of the two different groups, the troops and the convent girls, are constantly changing in relation to the shrine on Kambach road. See more »


Kitty Kelly, aka Queen Kelly: [stunned to learn that Wolfram is engaged to the Queen] He's going... to marry... you?
Queen Regina V: *I* am going to marry *HIM*!
See more »

Alternate Versions

In the Force Video version the conditions of the Queen's letter are that the Prince must consummate the marriage to Kelly before the next sundown, or he must marry the Queen. This suggests that the Queen knows of Kelly's death. The additional scenes complete the European portion of the film's plot, and were probably filmed in the two days that the cast and crew re-convened under the direction of Richard Boleslawski, seven months after Von Stroheim was sacked. In her autobiography, however, Swanson claims that these two days were spent trying to turn the movie into a musical! See more »


Referenced in 'Sunset Blvd.': A Look Back (2002) See more »

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User Reviews

Good film but hard to enjoy restoration
2 February 2015 | by jrd_73See all my reviews

I am going to address the Kino DVD of Queen Kelly because that is how I saw the film (which is probably true of most of the film's North American viewers). Queen Kelly is never going to resemble anything close to what its director Erich von Stroheim imagined. Therefore, any version is a compromise. There are two options as releases go. An abbreviated version of what was filmed of the script was released with a hasty ending shot at the request of star Gloria Swanson. This version is called the Swanson cut. The second version is a restoration that includes all of the extant footage that was filmed (some materials having been lost). To fill in gaps, this release uses still photos and a scrawl at the end to inform viewers what was supposed to have happened had the production continued. Kino decided to release the film on DVD using the restoration while having the Swanson ending as an extra. I feel that this was a mistake, and Kino should have either released both versions of the film on the DVD (preferrably) or released the Swanson cut and had the found von Stroheim footage as an extra on the DVD.

The Swanson cut is a good movie, with a weak ending. However, it does a work as a movie, if a somewhat stunted one. There is a beginning (lovers meet), a middle (lovers spend an enchanted night together), and a quick ending. Along the way, the film conjures some wonderful scenes: Queen Regina with her cat descending upon Prince Wolfram and his dog, Kelly meeting the Prince and losing a piece of clothing, Kelly in the church sanctuary bathed in candlelight, and the climatic meeting between Kelly and the Queen.

By contrast, the restoration is problematic because it fails to go anywhere. There is a beginning, the start of a middle, and then a bunch of scenes, great masterful scenes, but scenes that do not pay off. Then the film ends with an epilogue explaining what the viewer might have seen had the film finished shooting and had then been edited and released the way von Stroheim intended (not a guarantee considering what happened with Greed which was all filmed).

I can appreciate Kino's dilemma. The found, unused scenes from the film feature some of the most astounding visuals and drama of any American silent film. The brothel setting oozes ornamental decadence. Film fans owe a lot to whomever preserved these scenes. Yet, I don't think the restoration works as a self-contained film. The found footage plays like a fascinating twenty minute trailer for a grand epic that no one will ever get to see. By taking out Swanson's ending and putting in this footage, the restorers end with an unfinished film and a frustrating viewing experience.

I happened to be reading Andrew Sarris's The Primal Screen during the same period I watched Queen Kelly. A quote stood out from that book which fit director von Stroheim.

"I think it is a mistake for critics to scold artists or event to bemoan their bad luck . . . . It is better to accept and appreciate the supposed 'disappointments' of our time - Welles, Mailer, Salinger - for what they have done rather than for what they might have done if we had been able to crack the whip over them. They have all done as much as they were humanly capable of doing, and so did Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Dos Passos before them, and thank God for The Great Gatsby, The Sun Also Rises and U.S.A. and never mind the rude avoidance of encores."

Yes, thank God for any version of Greed and Queen Kelly, even if I do believe that the restorations of both films are less satisfying for viewers than the original, theatrical cuts.

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