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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Swan (1956)

Set in 1910 in a country described as in "middle Europe", a princess (Jessie Royce Landis) who is ambitious for her daughter (Grace Kelly) to marry a distant cousin (Alec Guinness) who is the heir to the throne attempts to parlay his visit into a marriage proposal. When Guinness appears indifferent, Landis suggests to her daughter to use a tutor (Louis Jourdan) to arouse some jealousy from him. But no one is prepared for what happens. Directed by Charles Vidor (GILDA) and based on the 1914 play by Ferenc Molnar (previously filmed in 1930 with Lillian Gish in Kelly's role), THE SWAN only really comes alive in its second half, not coincidentally it's when its protagonists come alive, too. Visually, the film is a sumptuous treat. Both elegant eye candy and handsomely composed for the CinemaScope screen. Kelly seems born to the part of the icy princess but there's wonderful work from the supporting cast particularly Landis as the anxious snobby mother, Agnes Moorehead as the no nonsense dowager Queen and Estelle Winwood as a ditzy aunt. With Brian Aherne, Leo G. Carroll, Robert Coote and Van Dyke Parks (yes, that Van Dyke Parks) as Kelly's younger brother. The lovely score is by Bronislau Kaper. Since Kelly was shortly to become a real life princess, MGM held up the release to coincide with Kelly's marriage to Prince Rainier of Monaco.

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