Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The Prince and the Pauper (1937)

Alas, this movie was a disappointment to me. But when Errol Flynn is top billed and he doesn't appear until an hour into the movie, and then has maybe twenty minutes of screen time?? Hmph. The lack of Flynn does not make me happy, even though I knew going into the film he would most likely be playing a light, flippant character. Sure enough, he did. Not a bone of seriousness in anything he does. But at least I expect that from him going into the film. I just didn't expect so little for him to do in the film. I hoped his role would be a bit meatier.

The movie was very surfacy, no emotional depth, nothing for me to hold onto or go away with when the film ended. It's a diverting, but ultimately forgettable, two hours of entertainment. My favorite parts were the exact opposite of what I had enjoyed in Crossed Swords! In Crossed Swords I liked all the Edward/Miles Hendon stuff. In this one, I liked all the Tom Canty/court stuff. That is mostly due to three things in this version: 1) Miles Hendon and Edward do nothing of interest in their section, 2) Tom Canty is not a bumbling idiot and gets one of the best scenes in the film (when he objects to taxing windows -- totally awesome moment), and 3) Claude Rains. All the seriousness I wanted from the movie, I got in Rains' character. He was fabulous as the Earl of Hertford, angling for a way to control the throne. Not really outright evil, just power hungry and ambitious, and when presented with an opportunity to seize control, he doesn't hesitate to grab it. Whenever Rains got screen time, the movie perked up considerably. They could have doubled the size of his role and I would have loved this film a lot more!

This movie has the advantage of twins playing the Tom/Edward roles, so there's no split screen or other movie magic to show them together. This is very cool, and I much appreciate it, but I can't say I really engaged with the kids either. They were just there, and they had far too much screen time. The end coronation in particular dragged on way too long, but here I'm spoiled by Crossed Swords, which intercut the coronation with the problems Edward had of getting there on time. That kept the tension going the whole time, where this film only showed the pomp and circumstance.

My personal bias in films is always the serious over the lighthearted, and action/adventure over plain drama, so while I'm glad I saw this one, it didn't satisfy my movie needs like Crossed Swords did. I'd very much like to see the Walt Disney Guy Williams' version of Prince and the Pauper, but, alas, I don't believe that one's on DVD. I have a feeling I'd really like that one.

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