Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
USA, 1938. Paramount Pictures. Screenplay by Preston Sturges, based on the play by Justin Huntly McCarthy. Cinematography by Theodor Sparkuhl. Produced by Frank Lloyd. Music by Richard Hageman. Production Design by Hans Dreier, John B. Goodman. Costume Design by Edith Head. Film Editing by Hugh Bennett. Academy Awards 1938.
Ronald Colman plays a ruffian poet living in Louis XI’s France who keeps getting into trouble with the law. Criminal behaviour is a particular problem in Paris at this point as the city is surrounded by invading Burgundians who are cutting off the city’s supplies for food. After being arrested for raiding the imperial stores, Colman engages in a battle of wits that sees the dotty monarch (Basil Rathbone) propose a challenge: let the devilish rogue prove that he can clean up the city and solve the problem of the enemies at the gate within one week or else forfeit his life. Colman and his moustache were tailor-made for these vehicles, while Rathbone gained critical acclaim for his sniggering, highly mannered and annoying performance. Lavish sets, but The Prisoner Of Zenda is a lot more fun. The wonderful dialogue is by Preston Sturges.