When Knighthood Was in Flower (1922 film)

When Knighthood Was in Flower is a 1922 silent historical film directed by Robert G. Vignola, based on the eponymous novel by Charles Major and play by Paul Kester. The film was produced by William Randolph Hearst (or his Cosmopolitan Productions) for Marion Davies and distributed by Paramount Pictures. This was William Powell's second film. The story was re-filmed by Walt Disney in 1953 as The Sword and the Rose, directed by Ken Annakin.[1][2]

When Knighthood Was in Flower
Theatrical poster
Directed byRobert G. Vignola
Produced byWilliam Randolph Hearst
Based onWhen Knighthood Was in Flower (novel)
by Charles Major
James B. Fagan (play)
StarringMarion Davies
Music byWilliam Frederick Peters
Victor Herbert (additional music)
CinematographyIra H. Morgan
Harold Wenstrom
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • September 14, 1922 (1922-09-14)
Running time
12 reels; 11,618 feet (120 minutes)
CountryUnited States
Budget$1.5 million
Box office$1,000,000 (US/CA)


Mary Tudor is forced by her brother Henry VIII to marry Louis XII as part of a peace agreement but she falls in love with Charles Brandon. Mary flees with him, but the two lovers are captured. Brandon is framed for murder and Mary agrees to marry Louis XII if his life is spared. Brandon is exiled and Louis XII, old and sick, dies shortly after the wedding. After an attempt on the part of Louis XII's nephew Francis I to wed Mary, she finally marries Brandon.



Exteriors were shot at Windsor Castle, England. With an estimated cost of $1,500,000, it was considered by Life "the most expensive film that has ever been produced" in 1922.[3] According to Variety, William Randolph Hearst launched "the most expensive and extensive campaign that has ever been organized for anything theatrical", with over 650 billboards in New York, 300 subway advertising placards, special booths in department stores that sold souvenir books, and a dazzling string of electric signs that pervaded Times Square, upon which Will Rogers quipped that Davies's next film would be titled When Electric Light Was in Power.[4]

Marion Davies makes her entrance coming down the river on a royal barge. The barge was a full-sized replica built in Bridgeport, CT. The scene was filmed on the Ladder Rock estate outside Bridgeport. Hearst commissioned two songs from Victor Herbert: "The When Knighthood Was in Flower Waltz" and "The Marion Davies March," which were played at the New York premiere.[5] Ben Model used portions of these songs in his score for the 2017 restoration of the film.


The film was very popular and was the sixth biggest hit of the year in the US. When it was released, the theatres were filled with flowers for theatrical effect.[6]

Robert E. Sherwood defined it "gorgeously beautiful [...] flashily romantic and stirringly impressive",[7] ranking it as one of the best pictures of the year[8] and appreciated Vignola's "genius for lighting and composition".[9] In 1922, Motion Picture News stated the film was "not only Cosmopolitan's greatest achievement [but] one of the greatest achievements of the silversheet", wrote a positive review of the cast and praised Vignola "for his masterly direction".[10]

Delight Evans cited the film among "the most entertaining photoplays ever made" on Photoplay in 1923.[11] It was ranked #10 on Screenland's reader poll of "The Ten Best Screenplays Ever Made" in 1924.[12] The Motion Picture Guide praised the film for its "tremendous production values, excellent direction, a good script, and an outstanding cast", giving it three out of four stars.[13]

It was a triumph for Marion Davies, and she was named "Queen of the Screen" and the #1 female box office star of 1922 at the annual theater owners ball (Rudolph Valentino was named #1 male star).[14] However, the movie was negatively received in London and, according to Davies, the English did not accept an American woman playing an English character. Despite the controversy, it was appreciated by Edward, Prince of Wales, who defined it "a wonderful picture".[15] British art dealer Joseph Duveen stated the film setting was "the most stupendous reproduction of Henry the Eighth court life that has ever been achieved — a marvelous piece of artistry".[16]


The film was spoofed in Broncho Billy Anderson's When Knights Were Cold (1923), starring Stan Laurel and Mae Dahlberg.[17]


  1. When Knighthood Was in Flower at the silentera.com database
  2. When Knighthood Was in Flower as produced by Charles Frohman on the Broadway stage at the Criterion Theatre January 14, 1901 to June 1901, 176 performances; IBDb.com database
  3. Life, Volume 80, p.208
  4. Samantha Barbas,The First Lady of Hollywood: A Biography of Louella Parsons, University of California Press, 2006, p.82
  5. Lorusso, Edward (2017) The Silent Films of Marion Davies, CreateSpace, p. 76.
  6. Variety list of box office champions for 1922
  7. Robert E. Sherwood (1923). The Best Moving Pictures of 1922-1923. Small, Maynard & Company. p. 51.
  8. John T. Soister, American Silent Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy Feature Films, 1913-1929, McFarland, 2012, p.41
  9. Robert G. Vignola praised for work. Moving Picture World. November 11, 1922. p. 157.
  10. Pictures and people. Motion Picture News. September 30, 1922. p. 1601.
  11. Delight Evans (January 1923). The Man Who Spent a Million. Photoplay. p. 74.
  12. The Ten Best Screen Dramas. Screenland. 1924. p. 75.
  13. Jay Robert Nash, Robert Connelly, Stanley Ralph Ross, Motion Picture Guide Silent Film 1910-1936, Cinebooks, 1988, p. 303
  14. Lorusso, Edward (2017) The Silent Films of Marion Davies, CreateSpace, p. 96.
  15. Marion Davies (1975). Times We Had. Ballantine Books. pp. 36–37.
  16. Art expert much impressed by Miss Davies' next film. Moving Picture World. August 12, 1922. p. 500.
  17. Wes D. Gehring, Laurel & Hardy: A Bio-bibliography, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1990, p.24
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