February 11, 2011
With the abdication of Egypt’s Mubarak, and the popularity of THE KING’S SPEECH, the George Arliss film, THE KING’S VACATION (1933), seems suddenly topical. One of three films in the Warners Archive release of its 3-disc George Arliss Collection, this film manages to be a funny, sentimental, and poignant story and truly an “adult” film in the sense that younger folks won’t “get it.” The film was based on an original story written specifically for Arliss by Ernest Pascal. Here’s a summary:
Arliss is King Phillip, and a reluctant king at that. Dudley Digges plays the Lord Chamberlain. In real life, Digges had been Arliss’s stage manager in earlier days before he turned to acting.
An assassination attempt convinces Phillip to abdicate. That’s O.P. Heggie as his valet. Arliss and Heggie last performed together in a World War I Bond fundraising play called OUT THERE in 1917.
Phillip tells his Queen Wilhelmina (Florence Arliss) that their arranged “marriage of state” is over and he is returning to his first wife. The Queen hints that she too has a lover that she calls only Mr.X.
Phillip and and his first wife Helen (Marjorie Gateson) are reunited. He meets his grown daughter (Patricia Ellis – Dick Powell is her boyfriend) and hopes to pick up where they left off 20 years ago.
Helen yearns for the palaces she never had and wants a tiara for her birthday gift from Phillip.
We interrupt this story to bring you a production shot. Arliss confers with the wardrobe mistress while an assistant director (seated back to camera) awaits the outcome:
On a shopping trip to the city, Phillip runs into his ex-Queen Wilhelmina. She invites him to tea.
Phillip and Helen come to realize that life has changed them in different ways and they are not the same people they were 20 years ago.
Another production shot. Actress Maude Leslie as the maid stands at left for her cue:
So how is this impasse resolved? Even author Ernest Pascal couldn’t figure that out. Here’s the conclusion of his story outline:
A lot of help he was – but Arliss figured out the ending and it’s a good one.
Finally, a bit of newspaper publicity never hurt a movie: