Pageantry's Last Stand --- The King's Thief (1955)
Plumed hat pix were a pox by '55 and period
pageantry past peak of Scaramouche and Ivanhoe (should I go on like this?). The
King's Thief nose-dived to $467K loss in spite of negative cost ($1.5 million)
unusually low for costumers, but how to overcome a measly $501Kin domestic
rentals? Thief's fate was similar to others setupon horse and carriage, also
released that year:The Scarlet Coatearning $467K domestic, and Moonfleetat
$586K. Maybe it was time to buh-bye Ye Olden Days. Exhibitors had in fact wired
MGM to please do so, one entreating Send No More Where They Write With Feathers.
All this was prelude to my enjoying The King's Thief on first view of Warner
Archive's recent DVD, it being scope-wide and stereo specific to voices
left/right and offscreen dogs barking (was it actually Perspecta sound?). Helpful
too are matters settled in 79 minutes, surely a brevity record for ruffled
sleeve "A's" out of Metro.
Heroics are supplied by Edmund Purdom, villainy
the province of David Niven, who's said to have hated
this part, being mostly a riff on Mel Ferrer's cruelScaramouche nobleman.
Metro sash stories had come by now to a sword-point of copying each other, being
fewer years apart in doing so. The Purdom role had been inked for Stewart
Granger. Maybe The King's Thief would be appreciated better had the latter done
it. Direction was by called-from-retirement Robert Z. Leonard, who'd served
Loew's since same was formed, but he gets scant credit today for work
auteurists call listless, or when it's good, credit to others. Hangers-on like
The King's Thief did so mostly for costumes and furnishing long on hand to
recreate gone eras, no studio more resourceful than Metro at capturing a
past. Nice then, to have this on DVD as both example of that and taste of
Cinemascope when it was still a relative novelty.