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The Prince and the Pauper (1937) is a classic adventure yarn, from the storybook opening sequence to scenes of 16th century palace life, royal intrigue and, of course, dashing swordplay between Errol Flynn and every miscreant who crosses his path. Based on Mark Twain's story of a youthful prince who exchanges identities with a pauper boy, The Prince and the Pauper stars Montagu Love (The Adventures of Robin Hood, 1938) as King Henry VIII, Claude Rains (Casablanca, 1942) as the treacherous Earl of Hertford, twins Bobby and Billy Mauch as Prince Edward and pauper lookalike Tom Canty, and Errol Flynn as Miles Hendon, a soldier of fortune who befriends the prince and restores him to his rightful throne.
Directed by Warner Brothers veteran William Keighley, The Prince and the Pauper was released in 1937, coinciding neatly with the fanfare surrounding the coronation of King George VI of England. Because Flynn's price was considered too high by the studio, the dashing swordplay and roguish charm of Miles Hendon was almost portrayed by Patric Knowles (The Charge of the Light Brigade, 1936) or George Brent (Dark Victory, 1939). Both were secretly tested for the role. Only Flynn had the verve the producers required, and the job was his. Flynn arrived on the set in January 1937 suffering from pneumonia and a sinus ailment. As a dashing hero in knee breeches and silver sword, Flynn's performance is none the worse for wear. Off-camera, he entertained the young Mauch twins by teaching them practical jokes.
Playing to Depression-era audiences, The Prince and the Pauper weaves populist themes with fantasy storytelling. The lavish coronation scene that concludes the film is studded with extras, the St. Luke's Choristers choir, and sumptuous costuming.
Director: William Keighley
Producer: Robert Lord, Hal B. Wallis (executive)
Screenplay: Laird Doyle, based on the novel by Mark Twain
Cinematography: Sol Polito
Editor: Ralph Dawson
Art Direction: Robert M. Haas
Music: Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Cast: Errol Flynn (Miles Hendon), Claude Rains (Earl of Hertford), Henry Stephenson (Duke of Norfolk), Barton MacLane (John Canty), Billy Mauch (Tom Canty).
BW-118m. Close captioning. Descriptive Video.
By Jessica Handler