The Prisoner of Zenda (1937)

In The Prisoner of Zenda Colman stars as both King Rudolph V of a Balkan nation, and as Englishman Rudolph Rassendyll. (The remarkable resemblance between the two is attributed to a couple of ancestors having had an...indiscreet liaison.)Rassendyll is vacationing and arrives just in time to take the King's place when the latter is drugged and kidnapped on the eve of his coronation.

The abduction is the plot of the King's own brother, Michael (Raymond Massey) who intends to dispose of the King and be crowned monarch in his place. But Colonel Zaft (C.Aubrey Smith) and his Captain Fritz (David Niven) are able to convince Rassendyll to participate in a deception until the King can be found.

 


Finding King Rudolph does not prove to be easy, however, and Rassendyll soon finds himself as much more than a stand-in at a coronation ceremony. The King's estranged fiancée, the Princess Flavia (Madeleine Carroll), falls in love with Rassendyll and he with her. The rascally Rupert of Hentzau (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. - who comes close to stealing several scenes) continually taunts Rassendyll and causes no end of trouble. The thwarted Michael fumes, and also involved in the intrigue is Michael's long-suffering lover Antoinette (Mary Astor).

The film is pure swashbuckling fantasy. Lavish sets and music, rousing action and a bittersweet chemistry between Colman and Carroll all gel perfectly and make for enormous entertainment. One of Colman's very best.



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