Her Highness and the Bellboy (1945)
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I was fortunate in that my extensive American network was able to track down a copy to a dealer in the U.S. who specialises in rare videos.Well to the film!
Robert Walker is very good playing light comedic roles.His timing is good and in the central role of the bellboy he is...well...loveable.Its a similar part he was to play in "One Touch of Venus (1948) with Ava Gardner who he likewise addresses as "your majesty".Its a modern fairy tale where a European princess (the devine Hedy Lamarr), comes to New York to search for her American long lost love and to escape for a time royal protocol and the royal groom the court wants to assign to her.Her real love is a columnist on "The Gazette" who hangs out in a low dive and bar writing his stories for the paper.There is a touch of the plot of "Roman Holiday (1960) with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in the storyline of the royal princess socialising and having a romantic relationship with a commoner.Due to a misunderstanding, the bell-boy thinks she loves him instead and he temporarily abandons his crippled girlfreind Leslie (June Allyson) who lives in the flat above his, painting dolls for a living. The main sub plot involves keeping his simple frind Albert from joining the local hoodlums since Albert was once in a boys reformatory and has picked up some rather unsavory company.When the king of Hedy's country dies she becomes Queen and has to return at once to her native country.Being a generous queen she invites the bellboy to come back with her and for one mad moment the bellboy thinks she is in love with him and he might even become king!!.Hedy is courageous and participates in a bar room brawl, even getting arrested by the cops, then giving the other arrested "dames" a valuable diamond-studded cigarette case as a keepsake of the evening.Her American boyfriend is also startled to see her carted off in the police wagon.
Of course, we all knew from the first that the bellboy would end up with Leslie his crippled girl friend whose incapacity the doctor informs us is probably psychosomatic and not a purely physical disability.She just needs love (don't we all!).In a moment of truth Robert Walker sees the light and tactfully declines Hedy's offer of a passage on the boat back to her country.This inspires the new queen to abdicate at once as she wishes to live for love in the U.S. as well and become just a plain Mrs with the man she loves.So of course it all ends happily ever after.
Hedy is of course utterly gorgeous to look at and in her prime.That genuine Viennese accent perfectly convincing us of her central European pedigree.She is attended by a duchess lady in waiting played by Agnes Moorhead who puts on a passable accent.Robert Walker is very effective in the role of the bellboy and his real love, June Allyson, warms to her part and even shows us a little dancing sequence.There is a very imaginative scene where she dreams that she can walk and meets her prince charming who transforms from a frog to a prince in a court presided over by a kingly Albert!I wonder, did Michael Powell get his idea for the dreamlike never ending stairway for "A Matter of Life and Death (1946)from the one shown in this sequence?
Everyone is portrayed in a very sympathetic light so no one goes to bed unhappy.Good old fashioned Hollywood story telling at its best.I rated it 7/10.
This movie seemed on the long side, but it's very warm and entertaining fare. Six years later, Walker will look as if he's aged 20 years. He's a light that went out too soon, and it's nice to remember him at his most vibrant.
I have to say, this film has to have some of the best performances I've ever seen! Robert Walker is his usual adorable self, but I was greatly surprised and impressed by June Allyson's performance. This is my favorite of hers, as she is just so incredibly sincere and easy to love as Walker's invalid girlfriend, Leslie. Rags Ragland gives a brilliant performance as Albert, the slow, but loving friend.
Hedy Lamarr is of course, lovely, but she and Agnes Moorehead seemed to be totally overshadowed by Walker, Ragland, and Allyson who seem to steal the show right out from under them!
It's really a beautiful movie, that makes you think of who your friends really are.
If you are a fan of old films simply for the sake of their age, then this might be a film you would enjoy. Most others would not be impressed with this film.
Unfortunately, the storyline is obvious, although I'll admit at the end of the film you aren't sure if the two people in love will figure it out in time. The movie seems to run a bit long as well, dragging out the inevitable ending.
If all that sounds like this is a bad film, it isn't. It is a typical love story of the 40s film genre, however there really aren't any "bad guys" in this film, which might account for some of where the film seems to run long. You want to cheer for the hero, but there is no villain for the hero to fight against.
All in all, the film is sweet, definitely what would be referred to as a "chick flick." If you catch it, that's fine, but you don't need to worry if you miss it.
This routine princess-falls-in-love-with-ordinary-American comedy is joined with a love story between Walker and Allyson, the woman he really loves without realising it. Nothing wrong with that, but she is paralysed from the waist down. Why? Because--the doctor gives us his medical opinion--in childhood she was not loved enough!
Can you imagine the feelings of parents of crippled children on hearing such a thing? Back in the Forties, most people would have thought such a question absurdly oversensitive, but now it's a matter of common decency. Not only that, there is a long dream sequence in which Allyson imagines herself, in a feathered evening gown, dancing with Walker. Worse yet, at the end she actually begins to walk! and starts dancing with him! In the absence of a FAIRY princess to wave a magic wand, this is repulsively vulgar and cruel.
Not only that, but Allyson is portrayed in a manner right out of cheap Victorian sentimentality. She does not sit in an ugly wheelchair but reclines on a couch, rising from it only when Walker, visiting her in the evenings, carries her to the roof for some fresh air. I wonder if any kid in the audience ever piped up, "How does she go to the bathroom?" She has a lovely flat, full of antiques and beautifully kept, which is understandable, as she works at painting dolls, and earns as much as--$3 a day! Poor June! She spends the whole film in cotton pyjamas or a floor-length, high-collared, puffed-sleeve nightie, while Hedy gets to float around in one fabulous evening gown after another.
Some more hypocrisy: The princess wants to see some low life, so Walker, very reluctantly and apologetically, takes her to a place where the floor show is a couple in 19th-century costume, singing "Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie." Positively decadent! One man punches another, leading to the kind of phoney free-for-all that happens only in the movies. I have always wondered why, if two men start fighting in a saloon, other men should suddenly start fighting each other all over the place, and women should whack them over the head with bottles. Never happens when fights break out in the low dives I go to.
This picture also features a song "Honey" which back in 1928, Rudy Vallee had a hit with. I wish I could get a copy of June Allyson's rendition of it, she did in the flick, no soundtrack is available.
Most of this film is very nice, though occasionally the film drops the ball. First, there's the bizarre illness which can only happen in a Hollywood flick! Second, there's a very long and irrelevant dream sequence which just would have been better left out of the movie. Despite these complaints, the film is generally very nice-- sort of like a modern fairy tale and with some nice performances. Well worth seeing even with its flaws.
It's a modern day fairy tale that importantly suggests not all princesses wear crowns. But the movie itself is uneven, lacking engagement from director Thorpe who does nothing to provide overall sparkle. Thus, a meandering storyline breaks down into a few amusing moments-- Jack Norton's drunk, Ragland's fractured English, Walker's clumsy enthusiasm. But the movie itself lacks overall style of the kind that would make it, and not just a couple of the performers, a success.
(Hard to believe that the excellent comedic actor Rags Ragland would pass away only a year after this production.)
The plot itself is bloated with so many unnecessary and distracting subplots (perhaps as filler for the lackluster main plot) that it is hard for the audience to care deeply about what happens. Examples of these distractions include Albert's penchant for petty crimes and Jimmy's desire to keep him out of the employ of a particularly brutish street thug, Leslie's illness which has left her crippled and Jimmy's desire to help her get better (apparently according to the doctor she is just sad and Jimmy's love can help her legs work again), Jimmy's financial woes and his desire to buy an expensive radio, Veronica's mysterious past with her ex-husband and ex-lover, the success of Leslie's Santa Claus painting business (really, that is really a sub-plot), and the exploits of a newspaper journalist writing a story on Jimmy and Veronica. Most of these distracting scenes are simply excuses for quips and one-liners or zany physical comedy, such as getting into an intendedly humorous fight with street thugs which was indistinguishable from a rugby scrum; at worst, they are unexplained and jarring departures from the story. The main story focuses on the relationship between Princess Veronica and Jimmy, and explores the clichéd scenario of a princess being mistaken for a common woman. This storyline has a proved track record, and has worked to great effect in Roman Holiday and even the animated film Aladdin, and excellent variations of this "princess and the commoner" theme, where a huge gap in social or cultural standing exist, include The Princess Comes Across, Ninotchka, Here is my Heart, and It Happened One Night. To varying degrees, these films worked, and ranged effectively from screwball comedy to heartfelt romance. The same cannot be said for Her Highness and the Bellboy. The fault for the film failing to match the artistic success of even its low-budget contemporaries lies with the script, but also with Hedy Lamarr's turn as the princess. Lamarr's princess lacks the spunk, charm, and exuberance of Audrey Hepburn's later portrayal of the archetype in Roman Holiday, yet she doesn't have the humorously distant detachment and ignorance of common culture seen in Greta Garbo's Ninotchka. Instead, she falls somewhere in between the two: not quite sober and reserved enough to be a funny foil for Robert Walker's Jimmy, and not quite excited or chipper enough to appear changed or affected by her romance with a bellboy. She is, in a word, boring. The fact that the princess maintains a servile relationship with Jimmy throughout the film hamstrings any attempt to make their love story believable. Similarly, Jimmy's unabashed altruism leaves his character a bit one-dimensional and renders his romance with either Veronica or Leslie problematic; he is always trying to save the girls, Leslie from her paralysis and Veronica from her responsibilities as a ruler.
The film also feels cheap and technically deficient, with poor direction, even when compared to low-budget contemporaries. The lighting for the film is distracting, the film apparently used full frontal flood lighting which created an array of glints and glares throughout the picture, led to awkward shadows, and destroyed any illusion or reality. The sets for the castle are remarkably fake looking and the static city skyline in various scenes looks cheap and lazy. Leslie's dream sequence is a mixed bag: the fading technique and shots creating the illusion of her dream and ultimate ascension to the castle in the sky were well done, nothing revolutionary but a believable sequence of movie magic. The dream sequence itself, complete with a handicapped June Allyson dancing away with giant frogs, Santa Claus, chorus girls, and Rags Ragland's goofy king seems jarringly and bizarrely out of place with the rest of the film. The real strength of the movie is Robert Walker's performance as Jimmy. Walker is charismatic, likable, suave, and approachable. He shines through the film's weaknesses and shows chops as a leading man. Rags Ragland's performance as the oafish Albert likely garnered laughs when the film first aired, but his irreverent japes and madcap physical comedy routines have aged very poorly. At one point, Albert tells Leslie that he didn't mean to make her laugh. I don't think he will have to worry about that with modern audiences.
The other half belongs to Hedy Lamarr as a visiting princess from some Ruritanian country in Eastern Europe. She's staying at the swank hotel where Walker is employed as a bellboy. One afternoon she decides to go out incognito and runs into Walker doing his dogwalking thing for some of the guests. They hit it off.
In one of those Hollywood coincidences Walker just happens to know newspaper columnist Warner Anderson with whom Lamarr had some history back in the old country before her family got wind of it. Walker also has some involvement with crippled June Allyson from the neighborhood.
On these plot premises a nice romantic tale is spun and these players along with others who support them. Outstanding in the supporting cast is Rags Ragland as Walker's good natured lunkhead friend.
My big criticism here is that June Allyson might have gone overboard with the sweet innocence. But that's how MGM cast her back in the day.
It also had to have been taken for granted that this was set in the immediate past before World War II. There's nary a mention of it in this film that came out in 1945.
Still after over 70 years the film retains a nice sheen of innocence that is charming.
go to 13:40 and watch a pair of charming dancers (barbara boylan and bobby burgess) with an original dance to this song, the lyrics are plainly hearable in the background.
A nice film for a Sunday afternoon. Well photographed, charming in almost all aspects.
Raggs Ragland is great. He always is especially with his, "ONEST" (won- st) which gets me every time.
This was released during WW2, though very close to the conclusion.
Robert Walker plays a bellboy who falls for Princess Hedy Lamarr. He actually thinks she is smitten with him, while she is really in love with a columnist.
June Allyson plays a girl that he knows who is unable to walk and grows increasingly jealous as Walker becomes enamored with the princess.
Real comedy sets in when Walker takes the princess to a low regarded place and a fight breaks out. Lamarr is arrested along with the other patrons.
Walker, at times, had the ability to speak as if he were Walter Denton (Richard Crenna) of Our Miss Brooks fame.