This ornate operetta, a pageant of bright fabrics, big sets and milling mobs, is founded upon If I Were King, a story [by Justin Huntly McCarthy] which has been done three or four times earlier in pictures. Protagonist this time of Francois Villon is Englishman Dennis King.
Musically, only the one number, ‘Song of the Vagabonds’, stands out. Vagabond King, as an operetta, retards itself as a melodrama. Touches of grim realism are sapped of their power by girls in tights as pages in the royal court and dwarfs turning cartwheels.
At least one case of miscasting is also a handicap. Lillian Roth has neither the necessary age nor emotional maturity to play the passionate Huguette.
Despite its weaknesses, Vagabond King is always interesting. It’s a treat for the optics with some of the color effects of arresting beauty. Jeanette MacDonald’s performance supplies the requisite aroma of glamor.
1929/30: Nomination: Best Art Direction