If I Were King
|If I Were King|
1938 US Theatrical Poster
|Directed by||Frank Lloyd|
|Produced by||Frank Lloyd|
|Written by||Justin Huntly McCarthy
(novel & play)
|Music by||Richard Hageman
|Editing by||Hugh Bennett|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Release date(s)||11 November 1938|
|Running time||101 minutes|
If I Were King is a 1938 American biographical historical drama film starring Ronald Colman as medieval poet François Villon, and featuring Basil Rathbone and Frances Dee. It is based on the 1901 play and novel, both of the same name, by Justin Huntly McCarthy, and was directed by Frank Lloyd, with a screenplay adaptation by Preston Sturges.
King Louis XI of France (Basil Rathbone) is in desperate straits. He is besieged in Paris by the Burgundians and suspects that there is a traitor in his court. He goes in disguise to a tavern to see who accepts a message from the enemy. While there, he is amused by the antics of poet François Villon (Ronald Colman), who has stolen food from the royal storehouse. The rascal criticizes the king and brags about how much better he would do if he were in Louis' place.
The traitor is revealed to be Grand Constable D'Aussigny (John Miljan), but before he can be arrested, the turncoat is killed in a brawl by Villon. As a jest, Louis rewards Villon by making him the new Constable, though the king secretly intends to have him executed after a week.
His low-born origin kept a secret, Villon falls in love with lady-in-waiting Katherine DeVaucelles (Frances Dee) and she with him. Then Louis informs Villon about his grim fate. Villon escapes, but when the Burgundians break down the city gates, he rallies the common people in routing them and lifting the siege. Having had to put up with Villon's impudence and wanting less aggravation in his life, Louis decides to permanently exile him from Paris. Villon leaves on foot, with Katherine following at a discreet distance in her carriage.
- Ronald Colman as François Villon
- Basil Rathbone as King Louis XI
- Frances Dee as Katherine DeVaucelles
- Ellen Drew as Huguette, Villon's girlfriend
- C.V. France as Father Villon
- Henry Wilcoxon as Captain of the Watch
- Heather Thatcher as the Queen
- Stanley Ridges as Rene de Montigny
- Bruce Lester as Noel de Jolys
- Alma Lloyd as Colette
- Walter Kingsford as Tristan l'Hermite
- Sidney Toler as Robin Turgis
- Colin Tapley as Jehan Le Loup
- Ralph Forbes as Oliver le Dain
- John Miljan as Grand Constable Thibaut D'Aussigny
- William Farnum, who plays "General Barbezier", starred as Villon in the first, silent, film version of If I Were King made in 1920.
- Darryl Hickman made his film debut in this film in the uncredited role of a child.
- David Clyde as First Officer
Whether Preston Sturges, who at the time was Paramount's top writer, had a collaborator in writing the script is unclear: some early drafts have the name "Jackson" on them as well as Sturges', but the identity of "Jackson" has not been determined. In any event, Sturges finished a draft by February 1938. The final screenplay included Sturges' own original translations of some of Villon's poems.
The film was in production from 12 May to mid-July 1938. Ralph Faulkner, who played a watchman, acted as stunt coordinator and coached the actors on swordplay, and about 900 extras were used for the battle scenes, one of which was cut by the director after the film had opened. The film was marketed with the tagline: "His Love-Making was as Dangerous as His Sword-Play".
- Supporting Actor - Basil Rathbone
- Art Direction - Hans Dreier and John B. Goodman
- Music, Original Score - Richard Hageman
- Sound, Recording - Loren L. Ryder
Hans Drier was also nominated for an Academy Award for his work on the 1930 film The Vagabond King, which was a musical version of the same story.
In 1925, composer Rudolf Friml and librettists Brian Hooker and W.H. Post turned it into a successful Broadway operetta, The Vagabond King, which featured the songs "Only a Rose", "Some Day", and "Song of the Vagabonds". The operetta was filmed twice - in 1930, starring Jeanette MacDonald and Dennis King and in 1956, directed by Michael Curtiz. Both film versions used only a little of Friml's original score.
- If I Were King (1920) at the Internet Movie Database
- TCM Notes
- Miller, Frank "If I Were King" (TCM article)
- Eder, Bruce Plot synopsis (Allmovie)
- TCM Overview
- IMDB Taglines
- "The 11th Academy Awards (1939) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
- "NY Times: If I Were King". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-10.
- The Vagabond King (1930) at the Internet Movie Database
- If I Were King at the Internet Broadway Database
- The Vagabond King at the Internet Broadway Database
- The Vagabond King (1956) at the Internet Movie Database
- Beloved Rogue at the Internet Movie Database
- If I Were King at the Internet Movie Database
- If I Were King at the TCM Movie Database
- If I Were King at AllRovi
- If I Were King on Lux Radio Theater: October 16, 1939
- If I Were King on Academy Award Theater: May 11, 1946