The Student Prince (film)

The Student Prince is a 1954 American musical film directed by Richard Thorpe and starring Ann Blyth and Edmund Purdom, with John Ericson, Louis Calhern, Edmund Gwenn, S. Z. Sakall, and Betta St. John. The film is an adaptation of the 1924 operetta of the same name composed by Sigmund Romberg with lyrics by Dorothy Donnelly, with the screenplay by Sonya Levien and William Ludwig.

The Student Prince
VHS cover
Directed byRichard Thorpe
Produced byJoe Pasternak
Written bySonya Levien
William Ludwig
Based onOld Heidelberg
by Wilhelm Meyer-Förster
The Student Prince
by Dorothy Donnelly
StarringAnn Blyth
Edmund Purdom
John Ericson
Louis Calhern
Edmund Gwenn
S.Z. Sakall
Betta St. John
Music bySigmund Romberg
Georgie Stoll (adaptation)
CinematographyPaul Vogel
Edited byGene Ruggiero
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
June 15, 1954 (1954-06-15)
Running time
107 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$2,438,000[1]
Box office$5,341,000[1]

Based on the stage play Old Heidelberg by Wilhelm Meyer-Förster (itself an adaptation of his obscure 1898 novel Karl Heinrich), the film is about a brash young prince of a small German kingdom, who must choose between his romance with a barmaid and his impending royal duties. It was filmed and released in CinemaScope and Ansco Color.

The film gained some infamy during production when original star Mario Lanza left the project before principal photography, necessitating his last-minute replacement by the lesser-known Purdom. Due to the contractual agreement between studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Lanza, songs that the actor had already recorded were used in the film, dubbing over Purdom's actual voice.

Plot

Young Prince Karl, of a small kingdom within the German Empire, is sent off near the turn of the 20th century to get a university education in Heidelberg, Baden-Wuerttemberg. His grandfather was one of a handful of petty kings within German-speaking central Europe. Fictional Karlsburg is small, but fiercely proud of its history and traditions.

Karl has been raised most of his life for the military, but when it comes time for him to marry, the princess picked for him cannot stand his stiff formality. This would not be such a problem but for the fact that Karlsburg has no great wealth, only good breeding. His tutor recommends that he be sent to a university to develop an easier, more sociable manner.

He (eventually) slips into the social mix, becomes accepted as a "good chap" by his student peers, and falls deeply in love with Kathie, a pretty, popular, and musically inclined barmaid, who holds "court" in the local biergarten. Love notwithstanding, when his old grandfather dies unexpectedly, the young prince must marry the princess and take his place in the small kingdom that he is destined to rule. He returns for one last time to Heidelberg to bid Kathie a poignant farewell.

Cast

Production

The film featured, as the credits read, "the singing voice of Mario Lanza". Lanza had originally been cast as Prince Karl, but the singer was fired from the picture[2] (some sources state that Lanza voluntarily walked off the film).[3] Under the terms of the eventual settlement between MGM and Lanza, the studio retained the rights to use the songs for the film's soundtrack that Lanza had already recorded. The songs (including "Beloved" – written specially for the movie – and the well-remembered "Serenade", from the original show) would become some of those most identified with Lanza, even though they were mouthed in the film by Edmund Purdom, who took over the role of Prince Karl. Ann Blyth co-starred as Kathie. Blyth had played opposite Lanza in the 1951 blockbuster The Great Caruso. The film also featured Louis Calhern, John Ericson, Edmund Gwenn, S.Z. Sakall, Betta St. John, John Williams, Evelyn Varden and John Hoyt.

The picture was directed by Richard Thorpe (who replaced the original director, Curtis Bernhardt) and produced by Joe Pasternak. The screenplay was by Sonya Levien and William Ludwig and was based on the operetta The Student Prince by Sigmund Romberg and Dorothy Donnelly which was in turn based on the 1901 play Old Heidelberg by Wilhelm Meyer-Förster. New scenes and rewritten dialogue not found in the stage production were also added, although the basic plot remained the same. Additional songs were specially written by Nicholas Brodszky and Paul Francis Webster. Many of Ms. Donnelly's original stage lyrics were completely changed for the film. Owing to the story's popularity it has been turned into films on numerous occasions, including the American silent film Old Heidelberg (1915), the German silent film Old Heidelberg (1923), Ernst Lubitsch's The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg (1927), and Ernst Marischka's Old Heidelberg (1959).

Reception

The film was a big hit - according to MGM records it made $2,528,000 in the US and Canada and $2,813,000 in other countries, resulting in a profit of $451,000.[1]

Soundtrack

RCA Victor issued two different recordings with Lanza of the songs from the film. The first, in 1954, was a genuine film soundtrack recording in monophonic sound. Rather than reissuing the original soundtrack in stereophonic sound (which would have been possible since the movie was filmed using 4-track stereo, and stereo records were released starting in 1958), RCA Victor recorded and released an all-new album in 1959. The original Dorothy Donnelly lyrics were restored to this album. Both the 1954 and 1959 albums, however, also included the three additional songs written specially for the film version ("Summertime in Heidelberg", "I'll Walk With God", and "Beloved"), and both albums omit the solo for Kathie, "Come Boys".

References

  1. The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  2. Ronald Bergan (January 24, 2009). "Edmund Purdom (obituary)". The Guardian. Retrieved February 11, 2019.
  3. Green, Stanley (1990). Hollywood Musicals Year by Year. Hal Leonard Corp. p. 186. ISBN 978-0881886108. Retrieved February 11, 2019.
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