Friday, December 11, 2009

MM Movie Review: The Swan

“The Swan” was the last feature film to star Grace Kelly who became HSH Princess Grace of Monaco the same year the picture was released. It also has the distinction of being the only movie in which Grace played the part of a princess before taking on that role in real life. Filmed in North Carolina and directed by Charles Vidor “The Swan” stars Grace Kelly as Princess Alexandra, Alec Guinness as Crown Prince Albert and Louis Jourdan as Dr. Nicholas Agi. Also on hand are Jessie Royce Landis as Princess Beatrix (the mother of Grace’s character which must have been an easy fit as Landis also played mother to Grace Kelly in “To Catch a Thief”), Agnes Moorehead (yes, TV’s Endora from “Bewitched”) as Queen Maria Dominika and Brian Aherne as Father Carl Hyacinth. Monarchist movie fans will remember the brilliant performance of Brian Aherne as Emperor Maximilian of Mexico opposite Bette Davis in “Juarez” for which he was nominated for an Academy Award.

“The Swan” and “High Society” were the last films to feature Grace Kelly before her marriage to HSH Prince Rainier III of Monaco and both show just how talented she really was and how great a career she sacrificed for the sake of marriage, family and the duties of being a princess-consort. In fact, when Prince Rainier III came to the U.S. for the last time before his marriage, taking his fiancé out in New York the soon-to-be Princess Grace wore one of her costumes from “The Swan” showing off all of her natural, regal elegance. “The Swan” is one of my favorites and a great movie but, alas, film buffs will be at the mercy of TCM to see it since, as far as I know, it has never been released on DVD (shame MGM!) and even an old VHS would be hard to come by.

Princess Beatrix is a very status-conscious royal without a throne who is desperate that her daughter Princess Alexandra be married to the dashing Crown Prince Albert, son of the imperious Queen Maria Dominika. However, Albert seems oblivious (though he does love Alexandra) just as Alexandra is seemingly oblivious to the fact that the family tutor, Dr. Agi, is desperately in love with her. As a solution the scheming Beatrix convinces Alexandra to string along the low-born egalitarian doctor in an effort to arouse the jealousy of Prince Albert to motivate him to claim the princess for himself. Special mention is also deserved for the part of Brian Aherne as the uncle who left the royal life of intrigue by becoming a priest. His character is saintly, soft-spoken, a peace maker but also, as we soon find out, more wise to the world around him than most realize.

The film is made for the romantics but I would say almost anyone could enjoy it, especially the comedic moments sprinkled throughout, particularly the character of aunt Symphorosa played by Estelle Winwood who has a rather naïve honesty and always seems to say the wrong thing at the wrong time (I will agree with her line, “I don‘t like the 20th Century“). It is a rather old-fashioned sort of movie, relatively simple but with brilliant performances, a beautiful look and an ending that will likely surprise. Alec Guinness gives a typically excellent performance, showing that there is more to his character than meets the eye and Princess Grace is at her most radiant. I would recommend it for any classic film fan and of course any fan of the late great Princess Grace of Monaco.

1 comment:

  1. i am trying to find out what the original water color story boards for this film would be worth. please contact me at


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