Cast & Crew
International banker Richard M. Gresham brings Princess "Zizzi" Catterina of the small kingdom of Taronia to New York, hoping that publicity will inspire the U.S. to back a bond issue of $50,000,000 to help bring Taronia into the modern age. Gresham's fervent opponent is handsome newspaper publisher Porter Madison, III. When the princess comes down with the mumps and is quarantined for a month, Gresham hires look-alike Nancy Lane, a starving third-rate actress to play the part of the princess for thirty days for $10,000, and an extra $5,000 if she changes Porter's opinion. As the princess, Nancy bestows all her attention on Porter, and Porter becomes infatuated with her and shows her the city. One night, Donald Spottswood, one of Nancy's fellow actors recognizes her and, when she fails to respond to him, starts to harass her. After Porter hits the actor, he and Nancy leave, both in love with each other. The next day in court, Donald demands that the man who hit him be found, and detectives sent to Nancy's apartment discover that she is missing. The news makes the headlines, and fearing a connection between herself and the princess will be made, Nancy goes to Porter's office as herself, but more rough around the edges. Porter is convinced her story is genuine, but his reporter is not. The princess' publicly obnoxious fiancé, Count Nicholaus, then arrives as Nancy, still posing as the princess, is about to leave on a cross-country goodwill tour. His presence ruins Porter's hopes of marrying the princess, as he believed he was the only man in her life, and Porter angrily leaves her. Nancy refuses to allow the count to tour with her, and the bewildered count tells Porter's reporter that she is not the princess. Nancy's return to New York marks the end of the princess's stay in the United States, and Nancy and the princess meet for the first time and become friends. A final reception is held. The King of Taronia arrives, having been summoned by the suspicious reporter, but the princess handing out medals to Gresham and Porter is the real princess, and any hint of scandal is squelched. The king, angry that Count Nicholaus fueled the suspicions of the reporter, breaks the engagement, which delights the princess. The princess advises Porter that although he may have been duped, Nancy is truly in love with him, and if she had been the real princess, she could never have married him. Porter returns to Nancy, who tears up the check Gresham gave her and readily accepts Porter's embrace.
Robert E. Homans
J. Merrill Holmes
Edwin Justus Mayer
B. P. Schulberg
Thirty Day Princess -
Thirty Day Princess was based off of Clarence Budington Kelland's story serialized in the Ladies Home Journal. Kelland, a former lawyer turned writer who once billed himself as "the best second-rate writer in America," was a familiar name in the magazine world and eventually his stories caught Hollywood's attention. His Scattergood Baines stories were adapted into six films starring Guy Kibbee and his best-known piece, Opera Hat, was adapted into the film Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936). Thirty Day Princess was just the type of story Hollywood studios gravitated towards. The Prince and the Pauper theme coupled with a case of mistaken identity had all the makings of a successful romantic comedy.
Recently ousted from Paramout, Schulberg purchased the rights to Kelland's story for his independent company B.P. Schulberg Productions. Schulberg maintained his relationship with Paramount, producing and financing projects the studio would then distribute. Assigned to adapt Kelland's story to the big screen were Paramount contract writers Preston Sturges, Frank Partos, Sam Hellman and Edwin Justus Mayer. Schulberg's working relationship with Sturges was fraught with tension. The two constantly battled over control of the project. Schulberg felt that Sturges should be a team player and Sturges questioned Schulberg's role as producer. According to Preston Sturges biographer Diane Jacob, "Sturges... yearned for credit, but had no desire to change places with Schulberg, who neither wrote nor directed, but merely exhorted others. If Sturges had his way, he'd do everything himself." In the end, Sturges' contributions to the script were minimal as many changes were made. He grew frustrated with his role as a screenwriter and in 1940 he took back control with his directorial debut The Great McGinty.
The year 1934 proved fruitful for Sylvia Sidney. She was at the top of her game at Paramount and was recently named Max Factor's Star of the Year. Sidney was famously quoted as saying "those were the days when they used to pay me by the teardrop." While comedies usually weren't part of her repertoire, she preferred them to the dramatic potboilers. In Thirty Day Princess, Sidney plays the dual role of Princess Catterina "Zizzi" from the mythical country of Taronia, and her doppelgänger, struggling actress Nancy Lane. This was the last of the six films directed by Marion Gering that Sidney had appeared. Sidney also had a close professional and personal relationship with Schulberg, who was instrumental to her success at the studio. While Sidney looked back fondly on the film, her days at Paramount were nearing the end. She made four more films before leaving the studio in 1936.
Cary Grant, on the other hand, was none too happy with his role in Thirty Day Princess. Grant arrived in Hollywood in 1932 and Paramount's Adolph Zukor was eager to groom the charismatic Grant as the studio's next big leading man. Paramount put Grant on a 5-year contract with a starting salary of $450 a week. He made 13 films in two years, and by 1933 Grant was utterly exhausted. He took a brief hiatus to travel to his hometown in England, returning with his newly minted bride Virginia Cherrill. Upon arrival back in L.A., Paramount put him to work immediately on another "tuxedo picture." In Thirty Day Princess, Grant plays Porter Madison III, a newspaper publisher who is courted by Sidney's lookalike princess as a way to distract him from uncovering and reporting on the financial fraud happening behind the scenes. According to Grant biographer Marc Eliot, "Grant hated everything about the film, including the haste with which it was made and the fact that once again he was cast in a role that Gary Cooper had rejected."
The production of Thirty Day Princess moved forward at lightning speed. After a brief delay when William Collier Sr. had to be replaced by Robert McWade due to illness, production began on March 1st, 1934, and the film had a nationwide release on May 18th. The film garnered mostly positive reviews. Variety magazine noted "Miss Sidney is thoroughly convincing in the dual" and Mordaunt Hall of The New York Times noted "Mr. Grant gives an excellent performance." The Chicago Daily Tribune wrote "Thirty Day Princess is G-O-O-D! It's fun. It's clever. It's suspenseful and it presents a running fire of bright dialogue that keeps the corners of your mouth turned up."
Thirty Day Princess was one of many Paramount films that were acquired by MCA/Universal in 1958. It has since been released on DVD and a 35mm nitrate composite print was restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive.
By Raquel Stecher
Thirty Day Princess -
Cary Grant & Sylvia Sidney in Thirty Day Princess on DVD
When a movie opens with Edward Arnold soaking in a spa mudbath with cigar in hand, you know you're in for a slightly wacky time. Turns out that Arnold is in the fictional country of Taronia, and sitting in the next mudbath is the Taronian King (Henry Stephenson). To help modernize his struggling country, the King arranges a bank loan from Arnold; to win public opinion for the loan, Arnold takes the King's beautiful daughter, Princess Catterina (Sylvia Sidney), back to New York.
Once there, however, Catterina comes down with the mumps and will be bedridden for thirty days. Arnold hires a fleet of private dicks to find a look-alike, figuring that somewhere in New York there must be one. Enter Sylvia Sidney once again, as the afore-mentioned starving actress Nancy Lane. Cary Grant is on hand as a newspaper publisher suspicious of Arnold and the whole deal. Sidney, as the princess, lavishes attention on Grant to try and win his support. (Naturally that's not all she wins!)
The somewhat madcap plotting bears the partial stamp of Preston Sturges, who is one of several credited screenwriters. Permeating the movie are flashes of the clever dialogue that would become his trademark. While the script isn't nearly as seamless as Sturges' later, solo efforts, this is definitely worth a look for Sturges fans.
Sylvia Sidney is top-billed over Grant and never looked lovelier. She also acquits herself very well in her dual role, especially after other characters start to figure out the ruse. She appears as both characters in some split-screen effects, and one charming highlight has her eating lunch as uncouthly as possible - in order to convince Grant at that moment that she is Nancy Lane and not the Princess.
Though she had already made a splash in Street Scene (1931) and An American Tragedy (1931), Sidney had yet to enter the real prime of her film career, with Fury (1936), You Only Live Once (1937) and Dead End (1937) still to come. After those pictures, her film work became more sporadic as she concentrated on the stage, and starting in the 1950s she worked in television. Toward the end of her life she appeared in two Tim Burton movies, Beetlejuice (1988) and Mars Attacks! (1996). She died in 1999, aged 88.
Though he'd only been acting on screen for two years, Thirty Day Princess was Cary Grant's fifteenth movie. He comes off as self-assured, immaculately dressed, and a definite charmer, though perhaps not quite as smoothly so as he would yet become. He and Sidney had worked together twice before, on Merrily We Go To Hell (1932) and Madame Butterfly (1932), the latter of which, like Thirty Day Princess, was directed by Marion Gering. The Russian-born Gering helmed 15 pictures at Paramount in the early 1930s after a successful Broadway career, but his movie career fizzled out despite some supposed gems - "supposed" because most of them are difficult to find today. He directed Sylvia Sidney six times in all, in films like Jennie Gerhardt (1933) and Devil and the Deep (1932), with Thirty Day Princess as the final collaboration.
Universal Home Entertainment has packaged Thirty Day Princess with four other early, seldom-revived and mostly-forgotten Cary Grant vehicles: Kiss and Make Up (1934), Wings in the Dark (1935), Big Brown Eyes (1936) and Wedding Present (1936). None of these can reasonably be called an outright classic, but they are decently satisfying little movies, typical assembly-line concoctions from Paramount Pictures in the mid-1930s. A no-frills affair, the DVD collection has been placed on three discs with zero extras of any sort, but the transfers are fine, the price is reasonable, and the movies are all interesting as a way of looking at Grant's evolving style and screen presence.
To order Thirty Day Princess, click here. Explore more Cary Grant titles here.
by Jeremy Arnold
Cary Grant & Sylvia Sidney in Thirty Day Princess on DVD
A news item in Daily Variety indicates that although production was slated to begin on February 28, 1934, it was delayed due to the illness of William Collier Sr., who was to play the "Managing editor." Collier was replaced by Robert McWade. In his autobiography, Preston Sturges remarks that he and producer B. P. Schulberg disagreed on the writing credits for this film. According to Sturges, Schulberg "as a producer, was accustomed to accepting praise for pictures as generals accept praise for the valor of their soldiers, and it thus seemed logical to him that the writers should feel the same general sense of shared accomplishment." Sturges adds that although he shared credit with three other writers, "not much" of his work was used.