STUDENT PRINCE IN OLD HEIDELBERG, THE (director: Ernst Lubitsch; screenwriters: Marian Ainslee/Ruth Cummings, Hanns Kraly/from the play by Wilhelm Meyer-Forster; cinematographer: John Mescall; editor: Andrew Marton; music: Carl Davis; cast: Ramon Novarro (Crown Prince Karl Heinrich), Norma Shearer (Kathi), Jean Hersholt (Dr. Friedrich Juttner), Gustav von Seyffertitz (King Karl VII), Philippe De Lacy (Young Karl), Edgar Norton (Lutz), Edward Connelly (Prime Minister Von Haugk); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Ernst Lubitsch/Irving Thalberg; MGM; 1927-Silent)
“Its cutesy love story is too schmaltzy.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Ernst Lubitsch (“Design for Living”/”Trouble in Paradise”/”Ninotchka”) stylishly directs this classic silent from Sigmund Romberg’s operetta that’s adapted from Wilhelm Meyer-Forster’s 1902 play, offering only in small scoops the famed “Lubitsch touch.” It was previously filmed in 1919 and was remade with music by Richard Thorpe in 1954 that starred Mario Lanza and Ann Blyth.
It was an MGM prestige production. They budgeted it for $1.2 million and were not able to get a return on its investment, bringing in approximately $900,000 in gross revenue.
Crown Prince Karl Heinrich (Philippe De Lacy) is a timid youngster who is raised by his stern militaristic father, King Karl VII (Gustav von Seyffertitz), and the lonely child is tutored by the gentle and protective Dr. Jüttner (Jean Hersholt).
When old enough, Karl Heinrich (Ramon Novarro) is sent to the university in Heidelberg and Dr. Jüttner is sent along as a companion. The two, out of the eye of the king, indulge in the common-man pleasures of smoking and hanging out in beer gardens. While staying at the inn, the charming prince falls in love with Kathi (Norma Shearer), the pretty bar maid niece of the inn owner, despite knowing that protocol forbids a romance between royalty and a commoner.
Karl’s happiness is shattered when the king dies and he’s summoned back to the palace to assume the duties of the throne. Things change now that he’s king: he could no longer live a carefree life and is treated stiffly by those he knew more informally as a child. Also his beloved tutor has died. Realizing he can’t marry his love Kathi, Karl dutifully marries Princess Ilse.
The film suffers greatly in the silent without the musical score, and its cutesy love story is too schmaltzy. Also the lovers, Shearer (producer Thalberg’s girl) and the dorky Novarro, are not convincing lovers. Though Shearer gives a lively performance and seems well-suited for her role, she seems to be in a different pic than the others.
REVIEWED ON 6/28/2009 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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