If I Were King (1938)

100 mins | Comedy-drama | 11 November 1938

Director:

Frank Lloyd

Writer:

Preston Sturges

Producer:

Frank Lloyd

Cinematographer:

Theodor Sparkuhl

Editor:

Hugh Bennett

Production Designers:

Hans Dreier, John Goodman

Production Company:

Paramount Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

François Villon was a fifteenth-century French poet who, after being arrested for various violations, was eventually banished from Paris. Although the correct spelling of his first name is "François," the film's credits spell it "Francois." Copyright records add the following information about the production: Waldo Twitchell and his staff researched in France for nine months. A replica of the throne of the Louvre Palace was made in cooperation with the French government. Bit player Ralph Faulkner coached the actors on swordplay. A writer named Jackson is credited on early drafts of the script as a co-screenwriter with Sturges, but the writer's identity or contribution has not beem determined. A HR news item noted that approximately nine hundred extras performed in the battle scenes. The film was nominated for the following Academy Awards: Basil Rathbone for supporting actor; Hans Dreier and John Goodman for interior decoration; L. L. Ryder for sound; and Richard Hageman for original score. Modern sources claim that Preston Sturges finished a draft of the script by Feb 1938, and that the film originally opened with a battle scene that was later cut by Lloyd. In 1920, Fox Film Corp. made the first version of Justin Huntly McCarthy's play and book, also called If I Were King starring William Farnum and Betty Ross Clarke (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20 ; F1.2125). Many other versions of McCarthy's story have been made, including United Artists' 1927 version, The Beloved Rogue , directed by Alan Crosland and starring John Barrymore; and a 1930 Paramount musical, The Vagabond King , directed by Ludwig Berger and starring Jeanette MacDonald ... More Less

François Villon was a fifteenth-century French poet who, after being arrested for various violations, was eventually banished from Paris. Although the correct spelling of his first name is "François," the film's credits spell it "Francois." Copyright records add the following information about the production: Waldo Twitchell and his staff researched in France for nine months. A replica of the throne of the Louvre Palace was made in cooperation with the French government. Bit player Ralph Faulkner coached the actors on swordplay. A writer named Jackson is credited on early drafts of the script as a co-screenwriter with Sturges, but the writer's identity or contribution has not beem determined. A HR news item noted that approximately nine hundred extras performed in the battle scenes. The film was nominated for the following Academy Awards: Basil Rathbone for supporting actor; Hans Dreier and John Goodman for interior decoration; L. L. Ryder for sound; and Richard Hageman for original score. Modern sources claim that Preston Sturges finished a draft of the script by Feb 1938, and that the film originally opened with a battle scene that was later cut by Lloyd. In 1920, Fox Film Corp. made the first version of Justin Huntly McCarthy's play and book, also called If I Were King starring William Farnum and Betty Ross Clarke (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20 ; F1.2125). Many other versions of McCarthy's story have been made, including United Artists' 1927 version, The Beloved Rogue , directed by Alan Crosland and starring John Barrymore; and a 1930 Paramount musical, The Vagabond King , directed by Ludwig Berger and starring Jeanette MacDonald and Dennis King (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ; F2.0346 and F2.6005). Paramount remade the musical in 1956, with direction by Michael Curtiz. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
13-Sep-38
---
Film Daily
19 Sep 38
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Apr 38
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
13 May 38
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jun 38
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Jul 38
pp. 10-11.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Sep 38
p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily
15 Sep 38
p. 6.
Motion Picture Herald
6 Aug 38
p. 53.
Motion Picture Herald
17 Sep 38
p. 37, 40
New York Times
29 Sep 38
p. 31.
Variety
14-Sep-38
---
Variety
21 Sep 38
p. 12.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Edwin John Brady
James Aubrey
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dial dir
Asst dir
Asst to William Tummel
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Revisions
PHOTOGRAPHY
2d cam
Asst cam
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATOR
Int dec
COSTUMES
Cost
MUSIC
Mus dir
Mus score
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
PRODUCTION MISC
Dir of research
Bus mgr
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play If I Were King by Justin Huntly McCarthy (New York, 14 Oct 1901) and his novel of the same name (London, 1901).
DETAILS
Release Date:
11 November 1938
Production Date:
12 May--mid July 1938
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
11 November 1938
Copyright Number:
LP8421
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
100
Length(in reels):
11
Country:
United States
PCA No:
4432
SYNOPSIS

In the late 15th century, Parisian poet François Villon is a rebel and rabble-rouser, and attracts King Louis XI's attention after he raids his personal food storehouse and distributes it to the starving populace. When Louis suspects that one of his aides is allied with the Burgundians, who have surrounded the city and are demanding surrender, he tortures a prisoner who received a note that came in over the castle walls, and who confesses to the destination of the note. Louis follows up with a disguised visit to the Fir Cone Tavern in the Court of Miracles to deliver the note. That night, François brings the stolen food to the tavern, and insults his "weak" king and, when challenged, also proclaims what he would do if he were king. Louis hears his remarks with amusement, but later his suspicions are confirmed when he sees the Grand Constable D'Aussigny receive the Burgundian missive. A brawl erupts when guards try to arrest François, during which he kills D'Aussigny. After they are arrested, François is released for an interview with Louis, who is faced with a dilemma, since François is a robber and a murderer, but at the same time killed a traitor. Louis dubs François as Count de Montcorbier, his new Grand Constable, but fails to tell him that his punishment will come in a week, when he is to be executed. François is delighted with his newfound power, and his first act is to release all his fellow prisoners. When a herald from Burgundy insists that Louis surrender, François makes an eloquent rebuttal and, refusing to surrender, promises to attack them in one week. ... +


In the late 15th century, Parisian poet François Villon is a rebel and rabble-rouser, and attracts King Louis XI's attention after he raids his personal food storehouse and distributes it to the starving populace. When Louis suspects that one of his aides is allied with the Burgundians, who have surrounded the city and are demanding surrender, he tortures a prisoner who received a note that came in over the castle walls, and who confesses to the destination of the note. Louis follows up with a disguised visit to the Fir Cone Tavern in the Court of Miracles to deliver the note. That night, François brings the stolen food to the tavern, and insults his "weak" king and, when challenged, also proclaims what he would do if he were king. Louis hears his remarks with amusement, but later his suspicions are confirmed when he sees the Grand Constable D'Aussigny receive the Burgundian missive. A brawl erupts when guards try to arrest François, during which he kills D'Aussigny. After they are arrested, François is released for an interview with Louis, who is faced with a dilemma, since François is a robber and a murderer, but at the same time killed a traitor. Louis dubs François as Count de Montcorbier, his new Grand Constable, but fails to tell him that his punishment will come in a week, when he is to be executed. François is delighted with his newfound power, and his first act is to release all his fellow prisoners. When a herald from Burgundy insists that Louis surrender, François makes an eloquent rebuttal and, refusing to surrender, promises to attack them in one week. Later, François acquaints himself with Katherine DeVaucelles, a lady-in-waiting with whom he had fallen in love when he was still known as François. She does not recognize him, but returns his affection. When the king's generals refuse to fight for fear of defeat, François realizes wielding power is not as easy as it seems, and Louis informs him of his execution date. François attempts to escape, but instead encounters Katherine, with whom he had arranged a rendezvous. She gives him the idea that if the generals did not have six months worth of food, they would surely fight. With this thought, François opens all the palace storehouses to the people and, upon returning to court, reveals his true identity to Katherine. Although at first mortified, she finally accepts him, but he escapes to arouse the people to fight against the Burgundians, who have broken through the city gates. François leads them into battle, and despite the loss of Huguette, his former lover, and many others, they defeat the enemy. François is arrested, but when the generals take sole credit for the victory, Katherine attests to François' heroism, and Louis is once again forced to weigh his misdeeds with his good deeds. Louis sentences François to life imprisonment--in all of France--but exiles him from Paris. François takes to the road with his loyal Katherine following behind, ready to pick him up in her carriage when he tires. +

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

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