A Royal Scandal

 

A Royal Scandal

Screenplay by Edwin Justus Mayer

Adapted by Bruno Frank

From a play by Lajos Bird & Melchior Lengyel

Photography by Arthur Miller

Art Direction by Mark-Lee Kirk & Lyle Wheeler

Set Decorations by Thomas Little

Costumes by Rene Hubert

Edited by Dorothy Spencer

Music by Alfred Newman

Produced by Ernst Lubitsch

Directed by Otto Preminger

Theatrical Release: 1945

 

Cast:

Tallulah Bankhead

Charles Coburn

William Eythe

Anne Baxter

Sig Ruman

Vincent Price

Vladimir Sokoloff

Mikhail Rasumny

 

Production Studio:

Theatrical: 20th Century Fox

Video: Fox Cinema Archive

 

Video

Aspect ratio: 1.31:1

Resolution: 480

Codec: MPEG-2

Disc Type: DVD (VOD)

Bit Rate: Moderate (ca. 4.5~5.5 Mbps)

Runtime: 94 minutes

Region: 1

 

Audio:

English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono

 

Subtitles: None

 

Bonus Features: None

 

Presentation:

DVD Clamshell Case: VOD

Street Date: April 16, 2013


 

Critical Press:

Time Out London

This should have been an Ernst Lubitsch film: it's a remake of his 1924 movie Forbidden Paradise, and he had just started it when he succumbed to his fifth heart attack. (He still gets nominal producer credit.) [Otto] Preminger stepped in, fresh from the triumph of Laura, and obviously had little success in getting Tallulah Bankhead to tone down the fruitiness of her performance as Catherine the Great, torn, as usual, between lust and sentimentality. There are hints of what might have been in the performances of Coburn and Price.


             

 

TV Guide

The ancient Biro/Lengyel play "Czarina," which had been used as the basis for other movies about the Russian queen, was adapted this time by Mayer and Frank, veteran screenwriters who knew what they were doing. To Bankhead's St. Petersburg castle comes Eythe, a young cavalry officer who has ridden for days to tell her of a coup planned by two generals. Eythe admits that he has plenty of energy left despite the travel, so Bankhead requests that he return later that night for a "private interview." Eythe is handsome, albeit a bit sappy, but he must have some ability in the lovemaking department, because his rise to the rank of general is rapid. . .With all of the sleeping around Bankhead does, it's a wonder any state business ever got done in the years when Catherine was Great. A few laughs, but Bankhead chews up the scenery and the pacing is off a beat. Lubitsch had filmed this as Forbidden Paradise in 1924.


             

 

The Movie: 6

It would have been interesting to see what Lubitsch would have done with this material had he been in good enough health to do ought but touch Preminger’s shoulder now and then. The famous “Lubitsch Touch” is evident, but only in whispers. The balance and the pacing, as TV Guide notes, is off. Eythe and Bankhead simply make no sense as a couple, even as farce. Between the two I enjoyed Bankhead’s idea of what this film was about. As for William Eythe, who strikes me as a cross between Tyrone Power and Lou Diamond Phillips minus the former’s charm and latter’s conviction, never made a go of Hollywood. He was in a few good films like The Ox-Bow Incident and The Song of Bernadette but died young at 38 and is little remembered today. A Royal Scandal makes the case for why. Vincent Price is underused. After his initial appearance he disappears until just before the end. Coburn is a delight, Baxter is pretty and earnest, but is better off without Eythe.


             

 

Image: 8

Fox Cinema Archives, like Warner Archive, are not DVDs in the usual sense but burned just as we would do at home. They have no menus to speak of, only chapter advance every ten minutes. Unless “Remastered” (a term that is hard to wrap one’s mind around since it is unlikely we would have on hand the previous video version), these video discs are simply transferred “from the best materials available” and are thus entirely dependent on the condition of those sources. After a few speckles early on, Fox’s transfer is a very decent effort, with little to criticize. Contrast and tonal range is very good for the most part, as is sharpness and image integrity.


             

 

Audio & Music: 7/8

Fox’s minimalist approach to the transfer offers clear dialogue and well balanced stage effects and music. Nothing that stands out either way, which is as it should be.

 

Extras:

None.


             

 

Recommendation: 7

Worth seeing for Bankhead as a farcical Catherine the Great and Coburn as her Chancellor with a knack for telling which way the political winds are blowing. The comedy is light, the romance is cool; Fox’s image and audio quality are more than satisfactory.



Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

May 2, 2013


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