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
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.
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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.