Tower of London (1939 film)
|Tower of London|
1939 US Theatrical Poster
|Directed by||Rowland V. Lee|
|Produced by||Rowland V. Lee|
|Written by||Robert N. Lee|
|Music by||Ralph Freed
Hans J. Salter
|Edited by||Edward Curtiss|
Tower of London is a 1939 black-and-white historical film and quasi-horror film released by Universal Pictures and directed by Rowland V. Lee. It stars Basil Rathbone as the future Richard III of England, and Boris Karloff as his fictitious club-footed executioner Mord. Vincent Price, in only his third film, appears as George, Duke of Clarence. Actor John Rodion, who appears in a small role, is actually Rodion Rathbone, Basil's son.
The film is based on the traditional depiction of Richard rising to become King of England in 1483 by eliminating everyone ahead of him. Each time Richard accomplishes a murder, he removes one figurine from a dollhouse resembling a throneroom. Once he has completed his task, he now needs to defeat the exiled Henry Tudor to retain the throne.
The exterior castle sets constructed for this film became a staple of the Universal backlot and could be seen time and time again in subsequent films (most prominently in the 1952's The Black Castle).
A 1962 film, with Vincent Price now in the lead role, borrowed the title. The newer film—not a remake—was made on an extremely low budget, with a small cast (and used stock footage from the 1939 version for the battle sequences), and placed far more of an emphasis on horror. Price later told Rathbone's biographer Michael Druxman that he felt Rathbone's performance as Richard was probably more historically genuine than either Laurence Olivier's or his own.
The plot was not derived from Shakespeare's Richard III, but rather was written by Robert N. Lee (director Rowland V. Lee's brother) after reading a great deal of British history. George, Duke of Clarence (one of Richard's brothers) is depicted as something less than the tragically noble figure found in Shakespeare. Ian Hunter portrays Edward IV, who is not depicted here as the feeble, dying King found in Laurence Olivier's 1955 film version of Shakespeare's play.
- Basil Rathbone - Richard, Duke of Gloucester
- Boris Karloff - Mord
- Barbara O'Neil - Queen Elyzabeth
- Ian Hunter - King Edward IV
- Vincent Price - Duke of Clarence
- Nan Grey - Lady Alice Barton
- Ernest Cossart - Tom Clink
- John Sutton - John Wyatt
- Leo G. Carroll - Lord Hastings
- Miles Mander - King Henry VI
- Lionel Belmore - Beacon
- Rose Hobart - Anne Neville
- Ronald Sinclair - Boy King Edward
- John Herbert-Bond - Young Prince Richard
- Ralph Forbes - Henry Tudor
- Frances Robinson - Duchess Isobel
- G.P. Huntley - Wales
- Rodion Rathbone - Lord DeVere
- Walter Tetley - Chimney Sweep
- Donnie Dunagan - Baby Prince
The film was budgeted at $500,000 but went $80,000 over budget.
Vincent Price admitted that when his character got drunk with wine in the film, it was actually Coca-Cola. Basil Rathbone was forced, due to scheduling conflicts, to simultaneously work on the film Rio during the first week of production. Rathbone's assignment on this film also effectively prevented him from being cast on the far more prestigious The Hunchback of Notre Dame at RKO.
Home Video Release
- Michael Brunas, John Brunas & Tom Weaver, Universal Horrors: The Studios Classic Films, 1931-46, McFarland, 1990 p197
- Stephen Jacobs, Boris Karloff: More Than a Monster, Tomohawk Press 2011 p 248-254
- Internet Movie Database Trivia
- Tower of London (1939 film) at the Internet Movie Database
- Tower of London at AllMovie
- Turner Classic Movies review with production notes