Review: ‘The Prisoner of Zenda’

Zenda is hokum of the 24-carat variety [from Anthony Hope's novel, dramatized by Edward Rose; script adaptation by Wells Root]; a sheer piece of romantic nonsense about a mythical European kingdom, a struggle for possession of a throne between a dissolute true heir and an ambitious step-brother with larcenous inclinations; a lovely blonde princess; a swashbuckling duke, who bends with the political wind, and a young Englishman, on his annual outing, who is persuaded to impersonate the king.

Zenda is hokum of the 24-carat variety [from Anthony Hope’s novel, dramatized by Edward Rose; script adaptation by Wells Root]; a sheer piece of romantic nonsense about a mythical European kingdom, a struggle for possession of a throne between a dissolute true heir and an ambitious step-brother with larcenous inclinations; a lovely blonde princess; a swashbuckling duke, who bends with the political wind, and a young Englishman, on his annual outing, who is persuaded to impersonate the king.

Cromwell’s direction is excellent. His opening scenes in the Balkan capital are as casual as a travelog, and his players assume lifelike characterizations through a series of intimate, human situations.

Colman (who plays the dual role of Englishman and King) has the ability to make a full dress court uniform appear as comfortable as a suit of pajamas. He never trips over his sword, or loosens his collar for air. Madeleine Carroll in all her blonde loveliness is quite receptive to impassioned protestations, so the romance has a touch of verity.

It’s a close race between Colman and Fairbanks Jr, who plays Rupert of Hentzau for top acting honours. Best femme part is the scheming Antoinette, which Mary Astor is inclined to underplay.

1937: Nomination: Best Art Direction, Score

The Prisoner of Zenda

Production

Selznick/United Artists. Director John Cromwell; Producer David O. Selznick; Screenplay John L. Balderston, Donald Ogden Stewart; Camera James Wong Howe; Editor Hal C. Kern, James E. Newcom; Music Alfred Newman; Art Director Lyle Wheeler

Crew

(B&W) Available on VHS. Extract of a review from 1937. Running time: 100 MIN.

With

Ronald Colman Madeleine Carroll Douglas Fairbanks Jr Mary Astor David Niven Raymond Massey
Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 0

Leave a Reply

No Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

More Film News from Variety

Loading