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Friday, 22 June 2012

The Student Prince (1954)

Spotlight on... Royalty on Film

"You are King first, last and always... and never forget it..."

The Student Prince is a 1954 MGM musical starring Edmund PurdomAnn Blyth and only the singing voice of Mario Lanza. The film was directed by Richard Thorpe, who replaced the original director Curtis Bernhardt.  The film co-stars Louis Calhern, S.Z. "Cuddles" SakallEdmund GwennJohn Ericson, Betta St. John, Evelyn VardenJohn Williams and John Hoyt. The film is edited by Gene Ruggiero.

The film is based on the classic operetta by Sigmund Romberg and Dorothy Donnelly, and tells the story of Karl (played by Purdom), a young Prince who is being arranged to marry a Princess, who falls in love with bar maid Kathie (played by Blyth) while he is studying.

A supporting actor I'd like to acknowledge is Hungarian character actor S.Z. Sakall, who aside from being one of my favourite film sidekicks, manages to steal almost every film he appears in.

Musical highlights include "The Drinking Song" 
(I'm surprised a beer company has yet to feature this in a TV commericial), the immortal "Serenade", and new song written for the film "Beloved".

Mario Lanza - the original male diva

After recording the soundtrack to the film, Lanza battled artistic differences with director original director Curtis Bernhardt and MGM production head Dore Schary. This led to MGM firing Lanza, which acted as a catalyst to his eating, drinking and drug problem that was to cause his early death. As sad as the story was, it's the price you pay when you act like a diva.
As a devout Mario Lanza fan, I must say it is heartbreaking hearing Mario's voice, bounding out of Edmund Purdom's mouth.  

At times, Lanza's vocal performance is not always consistent with the Purdom's acting style - a somewhat different acting performance to what Lanza would have delivered.

Closing remarks

Overall the film has a good story, and is beautifully filmed.  This had potential to become Mario Lanza's greatest film, had he remained cast in the role of Karl.

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