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In 1461, French nobles fearing King Louis XI may seize their lands, join forces with the rebellious Duke of Burgundy to overthrow the king. One of the Duke's captains suggests enlisting the aid of Francois Villon who is known to oppose the king and is leader of the Vagabonds, a group that robs the rich to aid the poor. In league with Burgundy, Villon and two of his cohorts enter Paris, but are captured by the king's men. The king, recognizing Villon's power over the people, proposes that Villon defend Paris against Burgundy and help uncover traitors in the court.Written by
Ray Hamel <email@example.com>
The Vagabond King is an old operetta from 1925, adapted first into a film in 1930 with Jeanette MacDonald, and again in 1956 with Kathryn Grayson. I haven't seen the 1930 version, but I did see the 1938 film If I Were King, the story of which-written first in 1901-was the inspiration for the musical.
As much as I like Kathryn Grayson, there's just no comparison to the nonmusical version from 1938. The stories and characters are the same, but the added songs are terrible, the lead actor Oreste Kirkop is ridiculous, and the sets and costumes seemed to have been borrowed from The Court Jester. I didn't last the first five minutes without bursting into laughter, seeing all the ways in which The Court Jester had spoofed the movie. As it was, that comedy was released in 1955, so it wasn't intended to be a spoof of The Vagabond King. Still, it seems to be an incredibly funny coincidence.
In case you don't know the story, Oreste plays a Robin Hood type who scorns King Louis XI and is the hero of the poor citizens of France. King Louis, played by Cedric Hardwicke, overhears a conversation of how Oreste would be a better ruler, so to humor him, he lets Oreste be "king for a day". Of course, Oreste falls for Kathryn, a noble lady, even though he has the common Rita Moreno back home.
Rita Moreno sings the ridiculous song "Vive La You" and the chorus haphazardly dances behind her. Oreste's voice is much too boisterous, and his ego is even funnier than it is annoying. Kathryn is beautiful and has a lovely voice, but she isn't enough to save this terrible musical. If I Were King is a very good movie, so if you like Robin Hood stories, I highly recommend you rent that one. Leave The Vagabond King on the shelf; stick to The Court Jester instead.
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