When Knighthood Was in Flower (1923)

Romance | 4 February 1923

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HISTORY

Three title cards introduce the prologue: “Four hundred years ago a young girl and a brave man, separated by a thousand barriers of custom and of caste, looked one day into each other’s eyes and loved; Against them were arrayed the power of great kings and the mighty policies of empire….They were strong only in the strength of youth and in the right of youth to love; Into this unequal struggle Destiny brings the unsuspecting Princess Royal of England, sixteen years old this day, as she comes to grace the Birthday Tournament.”
       As in the film, the real Mary Tudor (1496--1533) was forced by her brother, King Henry VIII, to marry King Louis XII of France in order to promote an alliance between the two countries. She secretly married Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk, after Louis’s death a few months later. However, most other historical details were changed or fictionalized.
       Cosmopolitan Productions was owned by newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst, who was Marion Davies’s companion and benefactor. According to the 3 Jun 1922 Exhibitors Trade Review, the production required the use of three studios in the New York City area: Cosmopolitan’s studio at 126th Street and Second Avenue; the Jackson Studio in the Bronx; and the Famous Players Studio in Long Island City, where set decorator Joseph Urban built a Paris city street long enough to accommodate a parade. Director Robert G. Vignola filmed most “exteriors” in the studio to save time and avoid inclement weather, although the 15 Jul 1922 Exhibitors Herald reported that assistant director Philip Carle had just returned from location at Rifton Falls, NY, where “heavy rains made shooting ... More Less

Three title cards introduce the prologue: “Four hundred years ago a young girl and a brave man, separated by a thousand barriers of custom and of caste, looked one day into each other’s eyes and loved; Against them were arrayed the power of great kings and the mighty policies of empire….They were strong only in the strength of youth and in the right of youth to love; Into this unequal struggle Destiny brings the unsuspecting Princess Royal of England, sixteen years old this day, as she comes to grace the Birthday Tournament.”
       As in the film, the real Mary Tudor (1496--1533) was forced by her brother, King Henry VIII, to marry King Louis XII of France in order to promote an alliance between the two countries. She secretly married Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk, after Louis’s death a few months later. However, most other historical details were changed or fictionalized.
       Cosmopolitan Productions was owned by newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst, who was Marion Davies’s companion and benefactor. According to the 3 Jun 1922 Exhibitors Trade Review, the production required the use of three studios in the New York City area: Cosmopolitan’s studio at 126th Street and Second Avenue; the Jackson Studio in the Bronx; and the Famous Players Studio in Long Island City, where set decorator Joseph Urban built a Paris city street long enough to accommodate a parade. Director Robert G. Vignola filmed most “exteriors” in the studio to save time and avoid inclement weather, although the 15 Jul 1922 Exhibitors Herald reported that assistant director Philip Carle had just returned from location at Rifton Falls, NY, where “heavy rains made shooting difficult.” Over a month later, the final scenes were filmed at Laddins Rock Farm, near Stamford, CT, according to the 26 Aug 1922 Exhibitors Trade Review. The site was chosen for the jousting tournament at the beginning of the story, and 250 Stamford residents were hired to “impersonate the old English populace” who attended such events.
       Although the 17 Jun 1922 Exhibitors Trade Review announced that the film was nearly completed, filming continued for at least another two months. Early news entries, including the 10 Jun 1922 Exhibitors Trade Review, stated that the film would be ten reels long, but by its completion the length had been extended to twelve reels.
       The 2 Sep 1922 Exhibitors Herald reported that the chief auditor of Cosmopolitan Productions placed the cost of When Knighthood Was in Flower at $1.5 million. The Paris street scene, with thirty-two buildings, alone cost nearly $42,000 and employed over 3,000 extras wearing Tudor-era costumes. The 140-workday production used 294,000 feet of raw film. A bridge scene required thirty-three horses, nine of which were trained to jump twenty feet into the water below.
       Producer Hearst hired American composer Victor Herbert to write the score, the 26 Aug 1922 Exhibitors Herald reported. It included the “Marion Davies March” and a title waltz that provided the film’s “love motive” [sic]. William Frederick Peters was engaged to arrange the orchestral arrangement, based “largely upon genuine old ballads and dances which were popular in the Tudor period.”
       When Knighthood Was in Flower premiered at the Criterion Theatre on Broadway in New York City on 14 Sep 1922. Hearst leased the theater beginning four days earlier for “an indefinite run,” and Joseph Urban redecorated the film palace “in sympathy with the theme of the picture.” Urban installed new boxes, enlarged the orchestra pit, and hired a fifty-two-piece orchestra with a vocal choir, the 10 Aug 1922 FD and 23 Sep 1922 Motion Picture News noted, but his most dramatic overhaul was the theater’s marquee. “Brightest Sign Ever Built,” is how the 11 Nov 1922 Motion Picture News described it. “The sign is 60 feet long and 35 feet high, covering almost the entire front of the Criterion Theatre from the marquee to the roof.” Marion Davies’s name was spelled out in ten-foot letters, five feet higher than the letters of the title. The sign contained 2,209 fifty-watt light bulbs, “the equivalent of 110 kilowatts.” The film screened 245 times at the Criterion during a successful 108-day run, according to the 6 Jan 1923 Camera. Reviews were uniformly positive, thanks in part to the influence of William Randolph Hearst, and When Knighthood Was in Flower became the year’s biggest box office success.
       The 12 Aug 1922 Exhibitors Trade Review reprised an interview by London, England, art expert Sir Joseph Duveen that ran “in newspapers throughout the United States,” many of which were probably owned by Hearst. Duveen stated that the Cosmopolitan set was “the most stupendous reproduction of Henry the Eighth court life that has ever been achieved—a marvelous piece of artistry.” Duveen had been on the set, and had watched an advanced screening of the film. “What most amazed me was the sumptuousness of the setting,” he said. “Hampton Court is the background and the wonderfully great hall is depicted with extraordinary fidelity. Real Gothic tapestries were used for the hangings and there were also ancient suits of armor—remarkable art treasures—employed for stage effects.”
       The 23 Oct 1922 Camera mentioned that G. M. Anderson was producing a spoof of When Knighthood Was in Flower called When Knights Were Cold, starring Stan Laurel.
       The 1924 Mary Pickford production Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall (see entry), starring Pickford and directed by Marshall Neilan, was also partially based on the same Charles Major novel. Walt Disney Productions remade the story under the title The Sword and the Rose in 1953 (see entry).
       FD’s Film Year Book 1922-1923 called When Knighthood Was in Flower one of “The Ten Best” pictures of 1923. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Camera
23 Oct 1922
p. 12.
Camera
6 Jan 1923
p. 10.
Exhibitors Herald
15 Jul 1922
p. 40.
Exhibitors Herald
26 Aug 1922
p. 76.
Exhibitors Herald
2 Sep 1922
p. 50.
Exhibitors Herald
9 Sep 1922
p. 56.
Exhibitors Herald
30 Sep 1922.
p. 30.
Exhibitors Trade Review
3 Jun 1922
p. 18.
Exhibitors Trade Review
10 Jun 1922
p. 78.
Exhibitors Trade Review
17 Jun 1922
p. 147.
Exhibitors Trade Review
12 Aug 1922
p. 746.
Exhibitors Trade Review
19 Aug 1922
p. 802.
Exhibitors Trade Review
26 Aug 1922
p. 858.
Film Daily
10 Aug 1922
p. 1.
Film Daily
17 Sep 1927
p. 2.
Film Daily's Film Year Book
1922-1923
p. 349.
Motion Picture News
23 Sep 1922
p. 1476, 1480.
Motion Picture News
11 Nov 1922
p. 2458.
New York Times
15 Sep 1922
p. 17.
Photoplay
Nov 1922
p. 64.
Variety
22 Sep 1922
p. 41.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
The Cosmopolitan Corporation presents
A Cosmopolitan Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
PRODUCTION MISC
Armor adv
Fencing supv
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel When Knighthood Was in Flower by Charles Major (Indianapolis, 1898).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
4 February 1923
Premiere Information:
New York City premiere: 14 September 1922
Chicago opening: 11 October 1922
Los Angeles opening: 16 October 1922
Production Date:
ended late August 1922
Copyright Claimant:
Cosmopolitan Productions
Copyright Date:
20 September 1922
Copyright Number:
LP18748
Physical Properties:
Silent
Black and White
Length(in feet):
11,618
Length(in reels):
12
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1512 England, Princess Mary Tudor, the younger sister of King Henry VIII, is his guest at a special jousting tournament on her sixteenth birthday. When a commoner knight, Charles Brandon, knocks the Duke of Buckingham off his horse, he is presented to the king. He and Mary exchange glances, and are immediately attracted to each other. To be near Mary, Charles asks to be rewarded with a captain’s post in the king’s guard, and is granted the position. Later, King Henry entertains the French ambassador, who offers a marriage proposal to Mary from the much older King Louis XII. Mary rejects him outright, insisting that she wants “a man,” not a “shriveled” old king, but King Henry wants to seal an alliance between France and England. That night, at Mary’s command, Sir Edwin Caskoden secretly brings Charles Brandon to her chambers, where she is chaperoned by her lady-in-waiting, Jane Bolingbroke. However, the Duke of Buckingham, who spies on Mary, is aware of the visit and plots revenge on Charles. With Jane at her side, Mary goes to Grammont, an old soothsayer, and he writes her fortune: “You will be Queen of France until you are made happy by a death.” As the two young women leave the soothsayer’s dwelling, Buckingham sets several minions upon them, in order that he may intercede and display his valor by chasing them away. However, Charles and Edwin Caskoden arrive first, kill the ruffians in swordplay, and return to Mary’s quarters, where she bandages Charles’s flesh wound. They kiss, and pledge mutual love. Meanwhile, Buckingham shows King Henry the written fortune Mary dropped outside the soothsayer’s home. The next day, Edwin is dispatched ... +


In 1512 England, Princess Mary Tudor, the younger sister of King Henry VIII, is his guest at a special jousting tournament on her sixteenth birthday. When a commoner knight, Charles Brandon, knocks the Duke of Buckingham off his horse, he is presented to the king. He and Mary exchange glances, and are immediately attracted to each other. To be near Mary, Charles asks to be rewarded with a captain’s post in the king’s guard, and is granted the position. Later, King Henry entertains the French ambassador, who offers a marriage proposal to Mary from the much older King Louis XII. Mary rejects him outright, insisting that she wants “a man,” not a “shriveled” old king, but King Henry wants to seal an alliance between France and England. That night, at Mary’s command, Sir Edwin Caskoden secretly brings Charles Brandon to her chambers, where she is chaperoned by her lady-in-waiting, Jane Bolingbroke. However, the Duke of Buckingham, who spies on Mary, is aware of the visit and plots revenge on Charles. With Jane at her side, Mary goes to Grammont, an old soothsayer, and he writes her fortune: “You will be Queen of France until you are made happy by a death.” As the two young women leave the soothsayer’s dwelling, Buckingham sets several minions upon them, in order that he may intercede and display his valor by chasing them away. However, Charles and Edwin Caskoden arrive first, kill the ruffians in swordplay, and return to Mary’s quarters, where she bandages Charles’s flesh wound. They kiss, and pledge mutual love. Meanwhile, Buckingham shows King Henry the written fortune Mary dropped outside the soothsayer’s home. The next day, Edwin is dispatched to France with King Henry’s consent for Mary’s betrothal to King Louis. Later, Mary commands Charles’s presence at the Court Ball. During the festivities, guards arrive to arrest Charles for murder, and he explains he killed the ruffians in self-defense. Despite the Duke of Buckingham’s attempt to implicate Mary, Charles denies her involvement. The king orders Charles’s arrest, but the next day Mary convinces her brother to release him. However, the king demands that Charles leave for New Spain on the next ship. He also orders Mary to wed the king of France. Charles and Mary elope, and she dresses as his younger brother in order to escape detection. As they hide at an inn to await a ship to New Spain, King Henry, the Duke of Buckingham, and a company of guards arrive and apprehend them. The king orders Charles to be imprisoned at the Tower of London, and returns Mary to the court. She assents to the marriage to King Louis in exchange for Charles’s life, but gets her brother’s promise, in the presence of Cardinal Wolsey, that he will allow her to choose her second husband if the first one dies. Mary arrives in Paris and becomes the queen of France through marriage, but evades her doddering husband’s attentions. However, Louis’s young heir, Francis, Duc d’ Angoulȇme, warns that he will not put up with her evasions when he ascends to the throne. Soon afterward, King Louis dies while trying to demonstrate his vitality, and Francis orders Mary locked in her room. Entering through a special door, Francis tries to overpower her, but Charles climbs through the window and subdues him. He and Mary flee with pursuers hot on their trail. Later, in London, the French ambassador arrives at King Henry’s court with the message that King Francis wants to marry his sister. Suddenly, Mary bursts into the room. She reminds her brother, with Cardinal Wolsey standing at his side, that he promised she could choose her second husband. As Mary introduces Charles, the Duke of Buckingham reminds the king that a commoner cannot marry her, but at Mary’s suggestion, King Henry solves the problem by dubbing Charles the 1st Duke of Suffolk. He exclaims: “I might as well have given the minx her way in the first place.” +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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