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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Where Real Castles Supply The Backdrop ...


Prince Of Foxes (1949) Is Costume Noir

20th Fox missed on profits from Castile From Castile for spending massively on the negative ($4.5 million), thus resolve to trim sails on a next Tyrone Power costumer and film in black-and-white as opposed to Castile's Technicolor. For noirish content here, we can be glad color went absent, as it would spoil dark mood of a distinct postwar take on Euro scheme for conquest as personified by Orson Welles' ruthless Borgia. Did he represent fascist force recently ousted in Europe? Seems so based on hunger for conquest that's frustrated by heroic Power, taking long to grow a conscience, but like lone wolves on our side, eventually does. Henry King directs at Italian location, indoors and out. There are castles, churches, baronial halls, all beautifully captured. King had worked nearby as far back as the silent Ramola, was often where exotic subject took cameras. Prince Of Foxes tells a sword story that looked toward brute reality of modern life, as had Captain From Castile, both lingering on torture and general unpleasantness. Would even blackest villainy have contemplated gouge of Ty Power's eyes before a World War fought and won? Plot and countermoves replace simpler derring-do TP engaged as Zorro, Welles a thinking nemesis to humble even Basil Rathbone misdeeds. Late 40's patronage took to increased sophistication across genre boards, Prince Of Foxes eking a profit (a bare $30K) for a negative cost held lower ($2.6 million). It's my favorite of period pieces Tyrone Power did after the war.

2 Comments:

Blogger John McElwee said...

Dan Mercer agrees on the many merits of "Prince Of Foxes":


"Prince of Foxes" is, to my mind, not only the best of Tyrone Power's films after the war, but a neglected classic in its own right. As you say, the intrigues of the story gain immeasurably for being filmed against the backdrop of palaces and cathedrals, baronial halls and garrets where they would have occurred. Henry King's deft touch is always evident in invariably finding the right angle and perspective to place these fancies within the tangible reminders of history. Alfred Newman's rich score is superb and the acting is insightful and sincere. Orson Welles is a most intriguing villain, concerned not at all with anything other than his ambition or such pleasures as may be available in the moment. His amusement, too, is quite sincere, for it is almost always in appreciation of his own cleverness. Such a picture, however, must rise or fall on how well the protagonist is played, and Power is magnificent as Andrea Orsini. At the beginning of the story, he is seemingly a minor nobleman determined to rise within a hierarchy whose doings were well described by Niccolo Machiavelli in "The Prince." The pursuit of power by those of a similar mind was tempered only by a consideration of the relative risks attending any course of action, and not by a sense of morality. Yet Orsini, though peasant-born, is a true aristocrat whose true nature can be called forth by those who are truly good and, certainly, by one whose beauty comes from within. Power suggests the self-reflection of a man who would play upon the surface, as circumstances require, but heeds an inner voice, even when it bids him to give all on behalf of chivalry. It is one of those rare performances in a rare film which finds a sense of the transcendent in what may have been intended as no more than an afternoon's entertainment.

5:18 PM  
Blogger Dave G said...

Great film, one of my favourites of Power's. I seem to recall reading somewhere that "Foxes" was shot in B&W at least in part because the centuries-old locations were rather run down and wouldn't have passed muster in colour.

A few years ago the original Samuel Shellabarger novels behind this and "Captain from Castile" were (briefly) brought back into print in lovely editions. I bought both and can highly recommend them. Fabulously written adventures, both.

Robert Wagner states in his autobiography that he was cast opposite Errol Flynn, Clifton Webb and Joan Collins in a proposed adaptation of another Shellabarger historical novel, "Lord Vanity", sometime in the (mid/late?) 1950s, but obviously it never came to pass.

9:02 AM  

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