The Vagabond King (1956 film)

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The Vagabond King
Film Poster
Directed by Michael Curtiz
Produced by Pat Duggan
Written by Ken Englund
Brian Hooker (book of stage musical)
Noel Langley
Starring Kathryn Grayson
Oreste Kirkop
Rita Moreno
Sir Cedric Hardwicke
Walter Hampden
Leslie Nielsen
Music by Rudolf Friml (Operetta)
Johnny Burke
Brian Hooker
Cinematography Robert Burks
Edited by Arthur P. Schmidt
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date
  • August 29, 1956 (1956-08-29)
Running time
86 Min.
Country United States
Language English
Box office $1.4 million (US)[1]

The Vagabond King is a 1956 Paramount Pictures musical film adaptation of the 1925 operetta The Vagabond King by Rudolf Friml. It starred Kathryn Grayson and Oreste Kirkop, with early roles for Rita Moreno and Leslie Nielsen. Sir Cedric Hardwicke played a notable supporting role. It was Kathryn Grayson's and Walter Hampden's last movie. Hampden, who played King Louis XI, died more than a year before its release. Mary Grant designed the film's costumes.


In fifteenth century France, King Louis XI (Walter Hampden) is besieged in Paris by Charles, Duke of Burgundy, and his allies. Even within the city, Louis' reign is disputed. The irreverent, persuasive beggar poet François Villon (tenor Oreste Kirkop) commands the loyalty of the commoners.

Louis goes in disguise to a tavern to see what sort of a man this poet is. Villon reveals he has no love for the king. Afterward, Louis sees Thibault, his provost marshal, meeting in that very place with Rene, an agent of the Duke of Burgundy. Thibault shows Rene a list of those in Paris who are prepared to overthrow Louis. However, Villon, who has a grudge against Thibault, engages his enemy in a sword fight, during which the incriminating document falls on the floor and is picked up by Louis. The duel is stopped by the city guard. Louis reveals himself and has Villon and his companions thrown into the dungeon. Thibault, however, gets away.

Later, Villon is brought to the king in his unusual garden; the trees bear the bodies of hanged traitors. Louis proposes to let him live, as the new provost marshal, until the Duke of Burgundy is driven away. When Villon turns him down, the king sweetens his offer by including time with Catherine de Vaucelles (Kathryn Grayson), a beautiful noblewoman Villon has fallen in love with and the lives of his friends. Villon accepts, and is introduced to Catherine as "Count François de Montcorbier" from Savoy. Rumor reaches her through her maid, Margaret, that she is to marry the count. She is puzzled at first, then becomes furious when she realizes who her betrothed really is. When she berates Villon for playing a horrible joke on her. He cannot convince her that his love is sincere, while she cannot persuade him that the king is a great man.

Later, Louis' military commander, Antoine de Chabannes, conducts Villon to the dungeon, where he claims the leader of the secret traitors is being held. The turncoat turns out to be de Chabannes himself. Villon is captured, but then rescued when Louis is warned in time by Huguette, who loves Villon. Huguette also warns them that Jehan, a Burgundian agent, is rousing the rabble against Louis in Villon's name. Villon uses the Duke of Burgundy's own scheme against him. When traitors open the city gates to the enemy army, they march in, only to have the gates shut behind them, trapping them inside to be overwhelmed by the commoners under the leadership of Villon. In the fighting, Huguette is killed when she jumps in front of Villon to save him from an archer's arrow. Villon kills both the Duke of Burgundy and Thibault.

Afterward, Villon willingly goes to the gallows to be hanged to fulfill the bargain he made. When the mob becomes outraged, Louis offers to spare Villon if someone will take his place. At the last moment, Catherine offers herself. Then Louis cites a law that spares any man who weds a noblewoman and sets Villon free, confiscating Catherine's wealth to pay for the costs of the war.



Music composed by Rudolf Friml, lyrics by Johnny Burke unless otherwise indicated.

danced by ballet dancers at the King's Court

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1956', Variety Weekly, January 2, 1957

External links[edit]