Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Swan

Year 9, Day 52 - 2/21/17 - Movie #2,552

BEFORE: Grace Kelly carries over from "High Society" - she can also be seen in "Rear Window", airing on TCM tonight at 12:45 am.  Here's a look at tomorrow's "31 Days of Oscar" line-up on TCM:
6:45 AM Rhapsody in Blue (1945)
9:15 AM Rich, Young and Pretty (1951)
11:00 AM The Richest Girl in the World (1934)
12:30 AM The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond (1960)
2:15 AM Road to Morocco (1942)
3:45 AM Roberta (1935)
5:45 PM Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964)
8:00 PM Roman Holiday (1953)
10:15 PM A Room With a View (1986)
12:15 AM The Ruling Class (1972)
3:00 AM Running on Empty (1988)
5:00 AM Sadie Thompson (1928)

It feels like we're sort of on the same page again, TCM and me.  I'm about to watch a film about European royalty, and they're airing a bunch of films about rich people, a Moroccan princess, Audrey Hepburn as a runaway Princess, chic Paris fashion, a nobleman inheriting a fortune, and a love triangle among nobles.  If you count "Roberta" (a film coming up in my Fred Astaire chain next week) then I get to claim another 4 of these 12 - including "Robin and the 7 Hoods", "Roman Holiday" and "A Room With a View", bringing me up to 91 seen out of 244.

THE PLOT: Princess Alexandra must make a good impression on a distant cousin when he pays a surprise visit to their palace.  Prince Albert has searched all over Europe for a bride and he's bored by the courtship routine.  Princess Beatrice tells Alexandra to invite her brothers' tutor to the ball that night and dance with him to catch the attention of Prince Albert.
AFTER: OK, we're back to the traditional love triangle, with a bit of a twist, since it's a manufactured one, and it's set among royalty.  The goal is for Alexandra to catch the eye of her cousin (umm, ewww...) by dancing with the palace tutor, who's a commoner.  After all, it worked for her mother, who flirted with the stable boy in order to land her husband.  WTF is up with kings and other male members of royalty, why do they all have to be tricked into proposing to women?  Plus, what happened to arranged marriages, weren't all the pairings among royals worked out to coincide with international treaties and such, in order to make both countries stronger?

I'm sorry, but I have to call NITPICK POINT on this plotline - how come they can arrange for Prince Albert's visit, set up the opportunity for him to meet Princess Alexandra, but nobody told the Prince himself (or his mother, the Queen) the reason for the visit?  Was there some other reason, not mentioned, for him to come to the estate?  All this confusion and awkwardness could have been easily avoided if someone had just told the Prince the reason for his visit, no?

This is where I think there's something going on that the storyline didn't (or couldn't mention).  Something quite obvious to a modern onlooker, but wouldn't have been discussed in 1910 (when the film is set) or even 1956 (when the film was made).  The prince shows up late for things, he just wants to play sports with young boys, and he's very catty with his insults.  Alexandra, honey, I think he's playing for the other team, and you're wasting your efforts.

And he's played by Alec Guinness.  Look, I figured out a long time ago that this actor I admired for being in "Star Wars" was (probably) gay.  He's British (I know, by itself that's not proof, but look up "buggering" when you have the time - it's ingrained into the British school system...) and although he was married and had a son, a BBC news article after his death claimed, right or wrong, that he was bisexual.  I'm cool with it, obviously he's from a different era that was still recovering from Victorian morality, and it's hard to tell those that were and didn't talk about it from those that weren't.

Honestly, the first third of this film was extremely boring, because it was just "rich people doing stuff", at least when the Prince came on to the scene, things got more exciting.  The efforts to get the Prince interested in Alexandra all fall flat, and I think you can see an incredible sexual subtext in Albert asking her about her "rose garden".  "Do you tend it yourself?" he asks (or words to that effect...) Come on, we all know what he's really asking her...  And he says that she needs to watch out for thorns?  Oooh, so telling - he thinks that the female "flower" has thorns, and he doesn't want to touch it - his advice to her is to make sure she wears very thick gloves when she touches her "flower".

Then there's this attempt to make Albert jealous by making him think she's interested in her brothers' tutor.  This sort of reminds me of the trick employed by Mr. Dexter-Haven in "High Society", to destroy Tracy Lord's wedding by making her fiancĂ© think that she fooled around with the magazine reporter.  Here Alexandra's mother thinks that Albert will be more interested in her if he sees her dancing with the tutor - it doesn't really work, plus it backfires when Alexandra starts to fall in love with the tutor for real, and the tutor reveals that he's been attracted to her for a long time, too!

When the Queen arrives, Albert tries to explain everything by using more metaphors - Alexandra was made of ice, and he himself was a "fish" - would that be a cold (gay) fish?  And this of course leads to more metaphors about bait and hooks and so forth - but it seems that the fish just wouldn't take the bait.  (Probably because it was the wrong gender for him...)

If this film had been made more recently, the ending would, no doubt, have been different.  Since I understand that every film is a product of its time, I understand why the story had to end the way it did, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

"The Swan" and "High Society" were the last two films that Grace Kelly made before becoming a princess in real life - Princess Grace of Monaco.  And she then had a son, who was a prince named Albert.  Bearing an heir to Prince Rainier meant that his kingdom would not revert to becoming part of France, which seems like the situation encountered by the royals seen in this film.  Very curious.

Also starring Alec Guinness (last seen in "Doctor Zhivago") Louis Jourdan (last seen in "Made in Paris"), Jessie Royce Landis (last seen in "North by Northwest"), Brian Aherne (last seen in "I Confess"), Agnes Moorehead (last seen in "The Magnificent Ambersons"), Leo G. Carroll (last seen in "The Snows of Kilimanjaro"), Estelle Winwood (last seen in "The Misfits"), Van Dyke Parks, Christopher Cook, Robert Coote, Doris Lloyd.

RATING: 4 out of 10 butlers and maids

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