DISRAELI (director: Alfred E. Green; screenwriter: Julien Josephson; cinematographer: Lee Garmes; editor: Owen Marks; music: Louis Silvers; cast: George Arliss (Disraeli), Joan Bennett (Lady Clarissa Pevensey), Florence Arliss (Lady Mary Beaconfield), Anthony Bushell (Lord Charles Deeford), David Torrence (Lord Probert), Doris Lloyd (Mrs. Travers), Ivan Simpson (Hugh Meyers), Michael Visaroff (Count Borsinov), Norman Cannon (Foljambe); Runtime: 87; MPAA Rating: NR; Warner Brothers; 1929)
“It’s a delightful film that brings back nostalgia for the good old days of 1874.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
George Arliss played the role of Benjamin Disraeli on stage (from the play by Louis Parker) and in a silent version from 1921. Here in this early talkie the aging silent screen star (was 61) is a virtual one-man-show, as he endows the fictionalized biopic with oodles of charm. For his gallant and hammy efforts, which might seem a bit old-fashioned to moderns, Arliss received the Best Actor Oscar and made his talkie film debut. The film was a box office smash. It’s a delightful film that brings back nostalgia for the good old days of 1874.
Julien Josephson hands in the workable script that leaves a lot of accurate history off the table, while Alfred E. Green (“Old English”/”The Green Goddess”) handles the direction in an admirably adept way.
In Victorian England, Disraeli, answering to loved ones to the nickname of Dizzy, became the first Jewish prime minister of England defeating the Liberal candidate Gladstone. The film’s main thrust is in how the imperialist-minded Prime Minister uses his cunning to prevent Russia from gaining access to British India. This can only be achieved by purchasing the Suez Canal before Russia can, as the Prime Minister in secret thwarts spies, mainly a pesty and wily spy hanging around his household named Mrs.Travers, and gets a Jewish private international banker named Hugh Meyers (in reality it was the Rothschild family) to make the purchase for England and when he goes bankrupt convinces the bigoted dullard Bank of England manager, Lord Probert, into honoring the Meyers’ bad check through a bold bluff. For his political shrewdness in making Queen Victoria the “Empress of India” she honors him at a reception at 10 Downing Street. While carrying out his scheme to buy the Suez Canal from Egypt, Dizzy employs as his secretary the green-horn Lord Charles Deeford to help with the scheme and thus acts as matchmaker to heal the rift in the romance between the stuffy but good-hearted Charles and the beautiful Lady Clarissa (Joan Bennett).
Florence Arliss, Mr. Arliss’s wife, does a good turn playing Disraeli’s loyal and sympathetic wife Lady Beaconsfield. The film’s wit is highlighted by lines such as Disraeli saying that “the less work a Prime Minister does, the fewer mistakes he makes.”
REVIEWED ON 8/16/2007 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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