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LGM Film Club, Part 311: The Prisoner of Zenda


If you are looking for a silly old movie to wile away an evening without thinking too much, you could do worse than the 1937 John Cromwell film The Prisoner of Zenda. This is a story that takes place in one of these made up but sufficiently quasi-exotic central European countries at the heart of a lot of movies and books in this period. A king dies. His oldest son is ready to take over but he is a total lout. The bastard son wants to become king but he has to get his legitimate brother out of the way. This seems to work….but oh wait!…who shows up but a look alike distant cousin of the new king all the way from Britain on a fishing trip! Hijinks ensue! This was the peak era of fencing matches with witty repartee and this movie leans into that big time.

Ronald Colman plays the new king and his imposter. A very young David Niven is an officer in it. Mary Astor is in it too. Raymond Massey and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. play the bad and even badder guys and Madeline Carroll the young woman betrothed to the king who she hated but now loves because he’s become so nice all of a sudden! There will be ADVENTURE! And witty repartee! It’s certainly no great movie, but it’s not terrible and sometimes you don’t need much more than that.

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