As a William & Kate tie-in, Turner Classic Movies is showing several royal weddings, romances, escapades, and heartbreaks this evening.
Stanley Donen’s Royal Wedding (1951), starring Jane Powell, Fred Astaire, and Peter Lawford, is just about over. The best thing about the film is Fred Astaire dancing on walls and ceilings, a scene that, as far as I’m concerned, looks much more impressive than the bit showing Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Page walking on the “walls” of a folding Paris in Christopher Nolan’s monumentally silly Inception.
Roman Holiday (1953) is next, the William Wyler comedy-drama from a story by blacklistee Dalton Trumbo that earned Audrey Hepburn a Best Actress Oscar for being charming and pretty. That same year, also in the running were Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity, Ava Gardner in Mogambo, and Leslie Caron in Lili.
In my view, the best performance in Roman Holiday is Gregory Peck’s as the American journalist who steals the runaway princess’ heart.
I’ve yet to watch The Glass Slipper (1955), with Leslie Caron and Michael Wilding, but Charles Vidor’s The Swan (1956) is a majestic-looking film adaptation of Ferenc Molnár’s play. Grace Kelly, who had her own royal wedding that same year, stars as the princess in love with Louis Jourdan but bound to marry Alec Guinness.
Now, by far the best movie of the bunch is Ernst Lubitsch’s The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg (1927), starring Mexican Ramon Novarro and Canadian Norma Shearer as Central Europeans living an intense but doomed romance: he’s a prince, she’s a barmaid.
Novarro, though plastered with ungainly white powder, delivers a nuanced, deeply affecting performance. Those used to Shearer’s more mannered style in talking pictures will be surprised to find her here looking utterly fresh and natural.
The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg is one of the best silent movies I’ve ever seen. Highly recommended.
Now, TCM should also show Novarro’s Forbidden Hours (1928), which is a poor man’s Student Prince rip-off, but with a happy ending. Renée Adorée co-stars.
I included Murder on a Bridle Path in the list below because I’d initially read “Murder on a Bride’s Path.” Thought it was another royal romance flick, but one with a twist.
Schedule (ET) and synopses from the TCM website:
8:00 PM Royal Wedding (1951) A brother-and-sister musical team find romance when they tour to London for Elizabeth II’s wedding. Cast: Fred Astaire, Jane Powell, Peter Lawford. Director: Stanley Donen. Color. 93 mins
10:00 PM Roman Holiday (1953) A runaway princess in Rome finds love with a reporter who knows her true identity. Cast: Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn, Eddie Albert. Director: William Wyler. Black and white. 118 mins
12:15 AM The Glass Slipper (1955) Musical adaptation of the story of Cinderella and her magical trip to the prince’s ball. Cast: Leslie Caron, Michael Wilding, Keenan Wynn. Director: Charles Walters. Color. 94 mins
2:00 AM The Swan (1956) On the eve of her marriage to a prince, a noblewoman falls for her brother’s tutor. Cast: Grace Kelly, Alec Guinness, Louis Jourdan. Director: Charles Vidor. Color. 108 mins
4:00 AM The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg (1927) In this silent film, a young prince attending college falls for a barmaid below his station. Cast: Ramon Novarro, Norma Shearer, Jean Hersholt. Director: Ernst Lubitsch. Black and white. 106 mins
6:00 AM Murder on a Bridle Path (1936) Schoolteacher Hildegarde Withers matches wits with the police to solve the murder of a society bride in Central Park. Cast: Helen Broderick, James Gleason, Louise Latimer. Director: William Hamilton, Edward Killy. Black and white. 67 mins