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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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The restored version of "Queen Kelly' shown on TCM recently was a revelation to those of us who only knew Gloria Swanson from "Sunset Boulevard" in the '50's. Swanson in 1928 had incredibly large and luminous (?green?) eyes, as well as that curiously angular lower jaw still evident in "Boulevard". She seemed fairly tall and almost husky in "Kelly", compared to many women (and men) of the 20's to the 50's who were physically quite small, and looked it in their screen roles. She was lovely in a unique way.
More importantly, I thought Swanson was GREAT in the part. What an incredible range of facial and body expressiveness! Given the restrictions of the plot, and doubtless a domineering director, Swanson did a tremendous job in making her character seem believable. Yes, perhaps she did look older than 18, but in my opinion, she could pass for 21 or so. She certainly didn't look older than her 31 years, as another reviewer opines. Perhaps her sheer acting skill and range of motion were convincing enough to play 10 years younger than her true age. It's done all the time on the stage and screen, why wouldn't it be acceptable in this 1928 film?
I found Walter Byron gorgeous, and strangely modern in his good looks. Not of the now-hackneyed strong-profile leading man variety popular in early films. Instead, he was impeccably groomed and costumed, with short, straight, slicked-back hair. A beautiful sight to behold. He did a very good job within the constraints of silent acting. I'll be looking for more of his work.
The Jan VanHeidt character was almost too-disgusting to be credible, but archetypes were more pronounced in the silent genre. The actor did a very credible job, doubtless under the director's specific instructions about how to convey his debauched and depraved condition.
Perhaps it's because so much of the film was lost and/or cut, but Kelly's acquiescence to marrying the dissolute Jan seemed inexplicable to me. Von Stoheim went to a lot of trouble to give Swanson a L-O-N-G flashback while the wedding ceremony was being read which included the Prince's admonition to Kelly not to "forget him", "forsake him", or words to that effect. Yet she says yes anyway. You have to make a lot of assumptions about Kelly's character and personality to justify her decision, and rationalize in your own mind why on earth she didn't manifest some gumption and say after due consternation and anguish, "No, No, Never!".
This is a technically beautiful film. The lighting, sets, costumes, etc. are wonderful! Well worth seeing, even with the missing film and downbeat ending.
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