The Prince and the Pauper (1977 film)

The Prince and the Pauper (US title: Crossed Swords) is a 1977 action adventure film directed by Richard Fleischer, based on The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain. It stars Oliver Reed, Ernest Borgnine, Raquel Welch, George C. Scott, Charlton Heston, Sir Rex Harrison, and Mark Lester, playing the dual role of Edward VI of England and Tom Canty.

The Prince and the Pauper
US theatrical poster
Directed byRichard Fleischer
Produced byPierre Spengler
Written byBerta Dominguez D. &
Pierre Spengler (original screenplay)
George MacDonald Fraser (final screenplay)
Based onThe Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain
StarringMark Lester
Ernest Borgnine
Oliver Reed
Raquel Welch
Rex Harrison
Music byMaurice Jarre
CinematographyJack Cardiff
Edited byErnest Walter
Distributed byWarner Bros. (USA)
Release date
  • 3 June 1977 (1977-06-03) (London)
  • 17 March 1978 (1978-03-17) (U.S.)
Running time
113 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget$7 million[1] or $8 million[2]


In 16th Century London, a pauper called Tom Canty reads to a group a children but is attacked by his cruel father John Canty and threatened that he will be beaten if he does not steal five shillings by suppertime. Tom goes into the city square and steals a purse from a rich man, but drops it after bumping into another man. Thinking that Tom still has the purse, the rich man and other men chase Tom through the streets of London. Tom escapes by climbing up a wall and through a window, where he falls into a palace garden in front of King Henry VIII, who sets the guards on him. However, Tom outruns them by going to the roof of the castle and hiding in a chimney. In the grounds, Henry VIII orders for The Duke of Norfolk to be arrested during the masked ball that evening.

In his royal chamber, Prince Edward of Wales insists on not wearing a costume to the masked ball and his dressers leave him. Tom falls down the chimney into the chamber and Edward demands to know who he is. Tom introduces himself and explains his situation. Interested that Tom looks like him, Edward decides they swap appearances and clothes to attend the masked ball, but adds that the Prince's Seal stays with the true Prince. However, Edward is mistaken for Tom by The Duke of Norfolk, who orders for him to be escorted out of the palace. Outside, Edward is rescued by skilled swordsman Sir Miles Hendon. At the masked ball, The Duke of Norfolk is arrested and Henry VIII and the guests laugh at Tom's dancing, despite Tom repeatedly claiming that he's not the Prince of Wales.

Meanwhile, despite Edward repeatedly claiming that he is the Prince of Wales, Miles says he believes him, but actually doesn't and takes him to John Canty where Edward discovers what Tom's life is like. But when John attempts to beat Edward, Miles intervenes and a fight breaks out, resulting in John pushing Miles off a roof into a stream. John is declared a murderer and he flees London with Edward. At the castle, Henry VIII has fallen ill since the morning after the masked ball and he orders for no one to declare that Tom is not the Prince, not even Tom himself. During a banquet, Henry VIII dies in his royal chamber and Tom commands that The Duke of Norfolk shall not die.

In some woods, John and Edward are escorted by some unfriendly men to a cavern where Ruffler's gang hide out. However, they are unfriendly and reveal that word has reached them of Henry VIII's death. After winning a fight with one of the gang members, Edward leaves and John goes after him to beat him again, but is killed by another member of Ruffler's gang. Outside, Edward meets Miles, having survived his fall. Miles takes Edward to Hendon Hall, where Miles is outraged to discover his brother Hugh Hendon has married Miles' love interest Lady Edith and taken Hendon Hall for himself. Hugh has Miles and Edward captured, but Edith helps them escape and Edward convinces Miles that he (Edward) really is the rightful King and offers to restore him to his honour as a Knight.

The day of the crowning arrives and Edward and Miles race to London by hijacking a horse and cart which Hugh and Edith are in. Miles swaps clothes with Hugh and ties him up in the cart, but he breaks out in London and attempts to have Miles arrested, but Miles and Edward fight off the guards and Edward gets inside the building before the doors are closed. Edward halts the ceremony and he and Tom swap back to their original positions, admitting to each other that they were not good at each other's position. Archbishop Cranmer and other witnesses are stunned until Edward presents the Prince's Seal and takes his position as the rightful King. After the ceremony, Edward makes Tom Head Governor and his mother sets up shelters for the homeless. Miles is restored to his honour as a Knight and marries Edith.



The film was in limbo during the development. Berta Dominguez (the wife of Alexander Salkind) and Pierre Spengler wrote a script based on the novel for the Salkinds in 1968. A key change in the adaptation was changing the ages of the prince and the pauper from nine in the novel to sixteen. George Cukor was to direct but he wanted to go back to the original novel and cast an actor to play nine year old boys - Mark Lester. The Salkinds wanted to cast someone older, which is Leonard Whiting. The Salkinds lost enthusiasm for the project and instead went on to make The Light at the End of the World.[1][3]

The Salkinds had a big success with The Three Musketeers (1973) which re-activated their interest in Prince and the Pauper. They originally intended to follow up Musketeers with The Prince Malange starring Oliver Reed and Peter O'Toole. Then O'Toole became unavailable and filming was threatened with sets already half-built. In addition, the Salkinds needed money while developing Superman. The Salkinds decided it to use the old script for Prince and the Pauper and use existing sets and commitments.[1]

Richard Fleischer was approached to direct. He agreed provided he could have a new script and a bigger budget - $7 million. The Salkinds agreed. George MacDonald Fraser was hired to rewrite the script. [1]

Shooting took place in England and Hungary.[4] Filming started on 17 May 1976 at Penshurst Palace, England. Filming took place there for two weeks before moving to Pinewood Studios. Most filming in Hungary took place in Sopron and Budapest.

See also


  1. What the paupers play Mills, Bart. The Guardian 24 Aug 1976: 8.
  2. Producer Finds His Superman Lee, Grant. Los Angeles Times 28 Feb 1977: f7.
  3. Petrou and Dominguez p5-8
  4. MacDonald Fraser, George (2002). The Light's On at Signpost. HarperCollins. p. 26–43.


  • Petrou, David; Dominguez, Bertha (1978). The Making of Crossed Swords. Ace Books.
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