The Sword and the Rose (1953) Poster

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Not a swashbuckler but an enchanting romance
alberto f. cañas5 August 1999
This is not an action picture, but an enchanting historical or pseudo-historical romance taken from a Charles Major novel which was very popular, especially with women, many decades ago. It tells the story of Mary, the sister of Henry VIII who was married to king Louis XII of France. But the movie tells chiefly of his love for a commoner, Brandon, and how it eventually succeeded. An excellent reconstruction of the ambiance and ways of living,of the English Court in the 16th century, a screen play full of humor (incidentally, what became of the scenarist, Lawrence Edward Watkin, whose thirties novel "On Borrowed Time" was such a delight?), magnificent photography, all this contributes to make The Sword and the Rose one of the better Disney films. But what makes it exceptional, is the magnificent performances of Glynis Johns and James Robertson Justice. In Miss Johns' hands, Mary is a woman every man would be proud and satisfied to fall in love with. And the Henry VIII of Mr Justice justifies comparison with Charles Laughton's.
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Grand Disney entertainment
moonspinner559 September 2001
James Robertson Justice gives an Oscar-caliber performance as King Henry VIII, tangling with little sister, Princess Mary Tudor, over her love life: he wants to sell her to France where she would marry elderly King Louis XII, but she is madly in love with adventurer Charles Brandon. Disney film encompasses all of their early strengths as a studio: enchanting romance, sly good humor, sword-fighting action, terrific production values and beautiful background score (which, by the way, if you find on vinyl is worth a pretty penny). Pure fun, with captivating Glynis Johns as Mary, Richard Todd dashing as Brandon, and Justice the best English King I have ever seen on film. A joy! *** from ****
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Delightful Movie for the Whole Family
spotless-182520 January 2012
After reading all of the negative reviews on this movie, I just had to give one on my opinion. This is my all time favorite movie. I love the dynamics between the actors and the chemistry between Charles Brandon and the Princess Mary. I love that I can sit down to watch it and feel the emotion that was meant for the viewer to feel. So what if there are discrepancies in the storyline, the wardrobe, and the actors portrayal of the real people from history? I don't really care. This is a great movie, and it will always be at the very top of my favorites list. If you know what's good for you, you will watch it, you will LOVE it, and you will tell your friends how amazing it is, too!
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Charles Brandon wins his Tudor Rose
bkoganbing11 June 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This is a remake of the great 1922 silent film When Knighthood Was In Flower that starred Marion Davies as Princess Mary Tudor, sister of Henry VIII of England. Glynis Johns essays the part here and her verbal duels with James Robertson Justice as Henry VIII are what gives this film it's spark. Richard Todd is a fine and dashing Charles Brandon, object of Mary's affections.

It's a quaint tale for today's audiences which is now used to seeing royalty marry commoners. But back in the 16th century that wasn't done. Just entertaining the thought could get you clapped in irons. But the story of Charles Brandon and Mary Tudor is one of the great romantic tales of English royalty.

Charles Brandon is a soldier of fortune who catches the eye of Princess Mary Tudor while at Henry VIII's court. Henry's idea is to get an alliance going with France by offering up his sister as the second wife of the aged Louis XII. We also have the Duke of Buckingham as the constable of England who's got his own plans concerning Mary.

Mary does go to France and marries Louis XII. But inside of a year she's a royal widow. This being a Disney film and such things are not dealt with there, but it is clearly indicated that the young princess wore the old king out in every conceivable way, as might have been her plan in the first place.

Richard Todd and James Robertson Justice are doing their second film for Disney having both been in the earlier Robin Hood. Todd was at the height of his career and it's a pity he faded out in the sixties. He had the looks and charisma and should have been a lot bigger.

That booming voice of James Robertson Justice is a treat to listen to in every film he's in. It was years later that Henry VIII was busy changing wives and religions and chopping off heads. Here he's a merry king as he was reputed to be in those years of his reign. James Robertson Justice gives a delightful interpretation.

One of Disney's better products and highly recommended.
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Okay kiddie costume drama
neroville1 October 2004
I really think Disney, when doing period films, did best when sticking to the musical comedy vein, as in "Mary Poppins" or the lesser-known (but hilarious) "Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin." When they tried to play it straight, the results are usually nothing to write home about, such is the case in "The Sword and the Rose." Now, Glynis Johns is beautiful and provides a very fine performance, and James Robertson Justice as Henry VIII, doing his best Falstaff impersonation, is quite amusing. I also enjoyed many of the supporting players, from the pratfalling King of France to his evil Pepe le Pew successor, Francis.

Unfortunately, Richard Todd as Charles Brandon is dull, dull, dull. One thing is for certain, he is no Errol Flynn. I kept thinking- why would Princess Mary want to run off with this guy? Todd is unfortunately typical of many 1950s leading men, like Cornel Wilde and Rory Calhoun, who seemed to substitute square jaws and blank stoicism for actual charm, charisma, and talent. Perhaps I would have enjoyed the film more if there had been more action scenes and swashbuckling, but there were so many scenes of Brandon and the Princess cooing over each other that I found myself getting restless. At times like this, a vaudeville number would be much appreciated.

However, the movie is relatively fast paced enough, so I wasn't too bored. The costuming, for a '50s Disney movie, is okay, although of course no one will be surprised to hear that it actually bears little resemblance to early Tudor fashions circa 1514. Justice is way too old to be playing Henry (Henry would have been in his mid 20s at the time) and all of his clothes look to be taken from the Holbein portraits from the 1530s and 1540s. All the women are wearing farthingales (not introduced until later), and most annoying, is that Catherine of Aragon, who was really a plump, sweet-natured redhead, is portrayed as a dour stick-thin black-haired hag who flounces around in a succession of horrifically gaudy outfits. Well, what else can be expected of a Disney movie, I suppose. It's a reasonably pleasant, inoffensive way of passing the time, and I very much liked Glynis Johns, although I constantly expected her to burst out singing: "Well done, Sister Suffragette!"
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The Most Delightful Screenplay of Any Disney Live-Action Film
joe-pearce-119 August 2015
Amazingly, although this film is 62 years old, having come out when I was a teenager, and stars a load of some of my favorite English actors (Glynis Johns, James Robertson Justice and Michael Gough, to name only three), I had never seen it until tonight. I was absolutely amazed at how delightful it was, how great and authentic every scene in it looked, how seriously the actors took their very excellent dialogue - it's a bit more of a comedy than anything else, but it has its dramatic moments - and just the general air of intelligence that permeated what was, of course, a Disney film primarily intended for young audiences. Yet much in the screenplay was quite adult, perhaps most especially Mary Tudor's idea of getting the old French King (and her new husband) to imbibe liberally of the wine at their wedding festivities in order to incapacitate him and not have to consummate their marriage that night. That may not be very much in 2015, but in 1953 it was nearly licentious and quite a great deal to put into a Disney film meant primarily for kids. Of course, the trick here is that if one accepts the overly romantic nature of the film, it is one that will appeal to most intelligent adults, too, if only due to the excellence of the dialogue in the hands of Johns and Justice. And at the start I actually thought Michael Gough was going to play somebody truly noble - Michael Gough, noble? - but by the middle of the film he was deep into his usual villainy; one should never trust Michael Gough any more than one might have trusted Victor Jory a decade or two earlier! Anyway, the wrestling scene, the Mary Tudor ball and the dance introduced into it, the hunting scene, etc. looked totally authentic to me, whether they really were or not, and remember folks, this is all make-believe and made to be enjoyed rather than examined too closely. All in all, I think this has immediately become my favorite Disney live-action film (certainly of the "costume-variety" ones) thanks to the wonderful give-and-take of the dialogue. I think it achieves 100% of what was intended by its makers, and it's hard to find fault with that!
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Richard Todd and Glynis Johns Never Fail
jessical-3097730 March 2018
Richard Todd was a Disney star for a short while, but he certainly didn't disappoint. He and Glynis Johns were in more than one movie together and I have to say that this is their strongest collaboration. Richard Todd is dreamy, eloquent and enchanting. Glynis Johns is strong, ethereal and flawless. The story is fun and surprising. I had never even heard of this movie and am so happy to have gotten the opportunity to watch it. I HIGHLY recommend this film. It's a proper treat!
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Some Comments on the Characters
Hans C. Frederick9 February 2003
Disney was,of course,the best one for family entertainment.He really did create the market for films and television programs designed specifically for children.My only observation that can be seen as at all less than glowing is that,while violence per se is never eschewed,moral ambiguities are.Evil,for example,is portrayed in a relatively straightforward fashion,but bias,bigotry,and viciousness usually aren't.Consequently, the characterizations seen in his films are often less than 3 dimensional.His good characters,consequently,lack the flaws and failings that would round them out.

It's my understanding that Disney himself came from an emotionally and physically abusive background,characterized by alcoholism and a lack of love.I think,therefore,that his OWN search for nurturing figures,safety,and security show up in many of his films,reflected in the struggles and psychological journies of his protagonists.Not at all unusual,and indeed,perhaps inevitable.Nonetheless,as a result,his films need to be interpreted with this in mind.

This splendid,well-done,and highly enjoyable romance gives a delightful performance by Mr. Justice,which is historically less than accurate.Justice's portrayal of King Henry is that of a hearty,virile,good-natured and larger than life figure,who possess not only a sense of humor,but one of fun.He's both lovable and loving.This is the monarch that we wish Henry HAD been!And,sad to say,he wasn't.The really Henry VIII was a selfish,lustful,bloodthirsty,and boorish tyrant and monster,who crushed anyone who stood in his way.So,enjoy Justice's performance,based on the lusty,witty,drunken Falstaff.
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Medieval love tale!!
Hoping for a small dealer try out bring this amazing picture restored to Brazil,as a Disney production it can be quite possible,l have a silver disc bootleg with the classic dubbed version but the images is very bad,all those wonderful sets and shooting on location in England will be great restored,apart the couple Richard Todd and Glynnis Johns who stolen the movie is the great actor James Robertson Justice as smart king Henry VIII,nice and funny entertainment!!


First watch: 2018 / How many: 1 / Source: DVD / Rating: 7
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Perhaps the most underrated Disney film.
gilbertayres12 April 2018
Although this is hardly the best Disney film, this is almost certainly the most underrated. James Robertson Justice and Glynis Johns are both utterly hilarious and intensely dramatic as the plotting royal siblings. Richard Todd poses a dashing romantic figure as Charles Brandon, and Michael Gough is a sly villainous Duke of Buckingham who at first comes off a lot nicer than he turns out. Clifton Parker's score is subtle in its magnificent usage of leitmotif (the lavolta dance theme from the ball sequence in particular is modified in all sorts of ways to the point where it almost dies and is only half represented in places). There are blatant historical inaccuracies, in particular the character of Queen Catherine as well as Brandon's commoner status (which does add a class element missing in the historical reality), and the female costumes are about as Tudor-era as Henry VIII's being overweight in 1514 (when the events of the film roughly take place).

In context, this film was the third totally live-action production made by the Walt Disney Studios. It was also the third of four Disney live-action films made in Britain, and the second of three to star Richard Todd. Leonard Maltin gives it ***1/2 out of **** and considers it to be as historically significant as 1940's Pinocchio. Although obviously a costume drama, critics have noted that, for a film from 1953, it has a strong liberated bent to it. Glynis John's Mary Tudor is a woman to be reckoned with and in most instances her own agent. The aforementioned ball sequence can be interpreted as a reference to contemporary 1950s youth dances as well as a triumph of love for the two lovers. One can also tell that no expense was spared on this production, Disney had hoped it would at least be nominated for Best Picture, but although not a box office failure, it wasn't a success either. As a film, however, it is certainly Oscar worthy. Thankfully a gem that has grown more well known with time and I think Glynis agrees.
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1514: Mary Tudor loves a commoner. The king wants her wed to Louis XII of France.
JohnHowardReid1 March 2018
Warning: Spoilers
NOTES: A very close remake of Paramount's 1922 12-reel feature When Knighthood Was In Flower which starred Marion Davies as Mary Tudor, Lyn Harding as Henry VIII, and Forrest Stanley as Charles Brandon. The screenplay was penned by Luther Reed, the director was Robert G. Vignola.

COMMENT: Despite the great care that went into its preparation and execution, this film was neither a critical nor a particularly popular success. Most audiences had sated their appetites with Disney's previous live action swashbuckler with Richard Todd and James Robertson Justice, The Story of Robin Hood (1952) which was also produced by Pearce, directed by Annakin from a screenplay by Watkin, with sets by Dillon, photography by Unsworth and music by Parker. As for the critics, what they objected to was Major's free way with history. But why they didn't raise these objections when the novel was first published back in 1898 but saved them up to level at Disney fifty-five years later is just another arrow in the movie-maker's quiver of gripes against the third estate in general, critics in particular. The freedom with which Major treated history was bound to rile some 1953 purists, however, but please don't count me among them. That didn't worry me. What did concern me is that the script is so lightweight it never really engages our interest on any but the most superficial level. The characters are little more than the stock heroes, heroines, villains and fools of juvenile historical fiction. The players can do little to breathe life into such pasteboard figures, though there are some engaging performances, particularly James Robertson Justice's hearty Henry VIII. The direction too is not without vigor. Real locations are used with skill, sets and costumes are most attractive. A moderate budget is cleverly made to look more expansive through skilled matte work. Although the plotting is as predictable as the characters one-dimensional, The Sword and the Rose still adds up to passable entertainment, inoffensive and innocuous, for anyone with 93 minutes to while away.
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Adequate Costume Drama
screenman28 August 2010
Warning: Spoilers
For its age, this one isn't doing too badly. As a Disney production it was never going to be serious stuff like 'The Lion In Winter', neither was it going to be a sword 'n' sandals epic. Still; there's a lot worse.

James Robertson-Justice plays Henry 8th with bags of regal - if rather tongue-in-cheek - gusto. He's out to marry-off his obstinate sister Mary to the King of France. She, of course, has her own ideas. Glynis Johns convincingly plays the sister with her usual sultry charm. Enter a new champion in the guise of rather wooden-looking Richard Todd. Unfortunately, he's a commoner. But this is Disney, so love must triumph. Though it must also contend with plenty of shenanigans and betrayals first. There's a variety of courtly courtiers with recognisable faces, and more important - recognisable accents. Not a single Yank did I hear. It's filmed in colour which is quite sumptuous. Set pieces are decent, costumes look 'fit-for purpose' as they say, and the script is a lot cleverer than some.

It's hokey, as you'd expect from a Disney interpretation of English history, but if you catch it as a matinée, it's good for a laugh. I think our late Lord-Liege got pretty good press in this one compared with the evidence of history. At times, I couldn't help thinking of 'Carry On Henry'.

This movie just seemed to miss its mark. There were moments when it offered to develop into a much more subtle and intelligent work. But each time things were stymied by a joke or some shallow dramatic turn. Still, I guess it was made with kids in mind.
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Nice production value but it's pretty unadventurous for a romantic adventure.
Spikeopath12 May 2011
Out of Walt Disney productions, The Sword and the Rose (AKA: When Knighthood Was in Flower) is directed by Ken Annakin and adapted to screenplay by Lawrence Edward Watkin from the novel "When Knighthood Was In Flower" written by Charles Major. Story is based around Mary Tudor (Glynis Johns), a younger sister of Henry VIII (James Robertson Justice), who falls in love with a new arrival at court, Charles Brandon (Richard Todd). This severely upsets The Duke Of Buckingham (Michael Gough) and it sets in motion the wheels of jealousy and political shenanigans.

The source material had already inspired two films to be made in 1908 and 1922, suggesting that as a story it has much to offer. But although it's undeniably colourful, with great costuming, and good acting performances, it's a dull affair all told. It doesn't even have historical accuracy to fall back on as an excuse for how lacklustre it is. The romance is lukewarm and there's never any exciting pay off as regards the battle for Mary's love between Buckingham and Brandon. There's fun value in Justice's take on Henry VIII, while the sets are exemplary, but even allowing for it being a Disney family effort, it's a film that can bore both adults and children alike. 4/10
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Great Visuals Overwhelm the Actors
boblipton30 March 2018
Having recently looked at the the silent Marion Davies extravaganza based on its source material, WHEN KNIGHTHOOD WAS IN FLOWER, I was interested in how the film makers would balance the grandeur of the production with the wish we have to look at human beings dealing with situations and making a story out of their lives.

Well, they made a story out of it, but alas, the magnificence of the settings and sumptuousness of the costumes overwhelms the actors. Glynis Johns, one of my favorite performers, looks mousy in her arrays, and while John Robertson Justice's voice still booms out, to make him look regal, they have to cut to tight close-ups of his face.

Does this mean that I think this a poor movie?> By no means! visually it's magnificent. Geoffrey Unsworth's Technicolor camerawork is as good as any of his work, and the glass shots by Peter Ellenshaw and Albert Whitlock are beautiful and flawless -- a lot easier on the eyes and harder to spot than modern CGI work.

I'm not sure if a story like this can be transferred to the intimacy of the screen; the grandeur of the settings would likely overwhelm just about any modern actor. However, it's a gorgeous attempt.
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