Knight Without Armour
|Knight Without Armour|
U.S. film poster as reproduced on bookcover
|Directed by||Jacques Feyder|
|Produced by||Alexander Korda|
|Written by||Lajos Bíró
James Hilton (novel)
Arthur Wimperis (additional dialogue)
|Music by||Miklós Rózsa
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
|Cinematography||Harry Stradling Sr.|
|Edited by||Francis D. Lyon|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
Knight Without Armour (styled as Knight Without Armor in some releases) is a 1937 British historical drama film made by London Films and distributed by United Artists. It was directed by Jacques Feyder and produced by Alexander Korda from a screenplay by Lajos Bíró adapted by Frances Marion from the 1933 novel of the same name by James Hilton. The music score was by Miklós Rózsa, his first for a motion picture, utilising additional music by Tchaikovsky.
The film stars Marlene Dietrich as Alexandra Adraxine and Robert Donat as A.J. Fothergill. Filmed on a budget of near $1 million, Knight Without Armour became an expensive box office failure, making roughly $750,000 worldwide.
Englishman A. J. Fothergill (Robert Donat) is recruited by Colonel Forrester (Laurence Hanray) to spy on Russia for the British government because he can speak the language fluently. As "Peter Ouranoff", he infiltrates a revolutionary group led by Axelstein (Basil Gill). The radicals try to blow up General Gregor Vladinoff (Herbert Lomas), the father of Alexandra (Marlene Dietrich). When the attempt fails, the would-be assassin is shot, but manages to reach Peter's apartment, where he dies. For his inadvertent involvement, Peter is sent to Siberia.
World War I makes Alexandra a widow and brings the Bolsheviks to power, freeing Peter and Axelstein. When the Russian Civil War breaks out, Alexandra is arrested for being an aristocrat, and Peter is assigned by now-Commissar Axelstein to take her to Petrograd to stand trial. However, Peter instead takes her to the safety of the White Army. Their relief is short-lived; the Red Army defeats the White the next day, and Alexandra is taken captive once more. Peter steals a commission as a commissar of prisons from a drunk and uses the document to free her. The two, now deeply in love, flee into the forest. Later, they catch a train.
At a railway station, the countess is identified by one Communist official, but Commissar Poushkoff (John Clements), an overly sensitive young man, is entranced by Alexandra's beauty. Insisting that her identity be verified, he arranges to take her and Fothergill to Samara. Along the way, they become good friends, but Poushkoff grows overwrought after drinking too much brandy with dinner aboard the train. He then allows the couple to escape at a stop, committing suicide to provide a diversion.
The lovers board a barge travelling down the Volga River. Alexandra becomes seriously ill. When Peter goes for a doctor, he is arrested by the Whites for not having papers. Meanwhile, a Red Cross doctor finds Alexandra and takes her for treatment. About to be executed, Peter makes a break for it and catches the Red Cross train transporting Alexandra out of Russia.
- Marlene Dietrich as Alexandra Adraxine, née Vladinoff
- Robert Donat as A.J. Fothergill/"Peter Ouranoff"
- Irene Vanbrugh as Duchess
- Herbert Lomas as General Gregor Vladinoff
- Austin Trevor as Colonel Adraxine, Alexandra's husband
- Basil Gill as Axelstein
- David Tree as Maronin
- John Clements as Poushkoff
- Frederick Culley as Stanfield
- Laurence Hanray as Colonel Forester
- Dorice Fordred as the Maid
- Franklin Kelsey as Tomsky
- Laurence Baskcomb as Commissar
- Hay Petrie as Station Master
- Miles Malleson as Drunken Red Commissar
According to Robert Osborne of Turner Classic Movies, Donat suffered a severe, week-long bout of his chronic asthma during production, causing Alexander Korda to consider replacing him. Dietrich persuaded him to wait until Donat had recovered.
- Street, Sarah (2005). "Sets of the imagination: Lazare Meerson, set design and performance in Knight Without Armour (1937)". Journal of British Cinema and Television. Edinburgh University Press. 2 (1): 18–35. doi:10.3366/jbctv.2005.2.1.18.