The Prisoner of Zenda (1922 film)

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The Prisoner of Zenda
The Prisoner of Zenda 1922 newspaper-ad.jpg
A newspaper advertisement.
Directed by Rex Ingram
Written by Mary O'Hara
Based on The Prisoner of Zenda
1894 novel
by Edward E. Rice
Anthony Hope
Produced byRex Ingram
Starring Lewis Stone
Alice Terry
Robert Edeson
Stuart Holmes
Ramón Novarro
Barbara La Marr
Cinematography John Seitz
Edited by Grant Whytock
Music by William Axt
Metro Pictures
Distributed by Metro Pictures
Release date
July 31, 1922 (1922-07-31) [1]
Running time
113-125 minutes
CountryUnited States
Language Silent (English intertitles)
Budget$1,118,453.16 [2]
A scene from the film, as depicted in a contemporaneous newspaper. The Prisoner of Zenda 1922 newspaper-scene.jpg
A scene from the film, as depicted in a contemporaneous newspaper.

The Prisoner of Zenda is a 1922 American silent adventure film directed by Rex Ingram, one of the many adaptations of Anthony Hope's popular 1894 novel The Prisoner of Zenda and the subsequent 1896 play by Hope and Edward Rose.



Englishman Rudolf Rassendyll (Lewis Stone) decides to pass the time by attending the coronation of his distant relation, King Rudolf V of Ruritania (also played by Stone) . He encounters an acquaintance on the train there, Antoinette de Mauban (Barbara La Marr), the mistress of the king's treacherous brother, Grand Duke 'Black' Michael (Stuart Holmes).

The day before the coronation, Rassendyll is seen by Colonel Sapt (Robert Edeson) and Captain Fritz von Tarlenheim (Malcolm McGregor). Astounded by the uncanny resemblance between Rassendyll and their liege, they take him to meet Rudolf at a hunting lodge. The king is delighted with his double and invites him to dinner. During the meal, a servant brings in a fine bottle of wine, a present from Michael delivered by his henchman, Rupert of Hentzau (Ramon Novarro). After Rudolf tastes it, he finds it so irresistible that he drinks the entire bottle by himself.

The next morning, Sapt is unable to rouse him; the wine was drugged. Sapt is afraid that if the coronation is postponed, Michael will seize the throne. The country is dangerously divided between the supporters of Rudolf and of Michael. The colonel declares that it is Fate that brought Rassendyll to Ruritania; he can take Rudolf's place with no one the wiser. The Englishman is less certain, but he tosses a coin, which lands in Rudolf's favor, and Rassendyll goes through with the ceremony. Afterwards, he is driven to the palace in the company of the universally adored Princess Flavia (Alice Terry).

Later, when Rassendyll returns to the lodge to switch places with the king once more, he and Sapt find only the corpse of Josef (Snitz Edwards), the servant left to guard the king. Rassendyll is forced to continue the masquerade.

With Rudolf guarded by a handful of trusted retainers at Zenda Castle, Michael tries unsuccessfully to bribe Rassendyll into leaving. In the days that follow, Rasssendyll becomes acquainted with Flavia, and the two fall in love. Meanwhile, Rupert tries to alienate Antoinette from Michael by telling her that Michael will marry Flavia once Rudolf is out of the way. However, it has an unintended effect; Antionette reveals Michael's plans and Rudolf's location to von Tarlenheim.

A dwarf assassin (John George) in Michael's pay tries to garrot Rassendyll, but Sapt interrupts him before he can finish the job. The would-be killer mistakenly signals to an anxiously waiting Michael that the deed is done, and the duke hastens to Zenda to quietly dispose of the real king. However, Rassendyll was only rendered unconscious. When von Tarlenheim arrives with his news, the three men chase after Michael.

Sapt and von Tarlenheim split up to find a way into the castle, but when Antoinette lowers the drawbridge, Rassendyll goes inside alone. Though outnumbered, he manages to kill Michael in a sword fight. Then Sapt and von Tarlenheim come to his aid. When Rupert is cornered by the three men, he chooses death over a waterfall rather than execution for treason.

In the aftermath, Rudolf resumes his rightful position, while Rassendyll hides out at the lodge. By chance, Flavia stops there to speak with Colonel Sapt. Despite Sapt's attempt to shield the princess from heartbreak, a servant girl blurts out that the "king" is staying at the lodge. Rassendyll is forced to tell his beloved the bitter truth. When he tries to persuade her to leave with him, her sense of honour and duty to her country compel her to stay, and Rassendyll departs alone.



Director Rex Ingram and star Alice Terry had known each other since they worked together on the film Shore Acres in 1920. The pair slipped off together during filming one Saturday and were married. They spent Sunday watching movies together, and were back at work on Monday. It was not revealed that they had married until after the film had been completed and the couple were on their honeymoon. [3]


The film was received positively by critics. The New York Times called it "well worth seeing" though "needlessly talky", and wrote that "much of the acting is excellent", if occasionally "overdone". [4] "It couldn't miss", wrote Variety of the film's content. "It probably would have been proof against bad direction, but done with perfect stage management and exquisite literary taste it is faultless." [5] The New York World called it "dignified elegance from start to finish." [6] "One of the best productions given to the public by Mr. Ingram", reported the New York Telegram . "It has all the thrills and chills of the melodrama, without leaving an unpleasant memory." [6] "Perhaps after mature deliberation I may want to retract the statement, but in this moment of enthusiasm I want to say that I think The Prisoner of Zenda is the best picture I have ever seen", raved the Chicago Tribune critic. [7]

Related Research Articles

<i>The Prisoner of Zenda</i> 1894 adventure novel by Anthony Hope

The Prisoner of Zenda is an 1894 adventure novel by Anthony Hope, in which the King of Ruritania is drugged on the eve of his coronation and thus is unable to attend the ceremony. Political forces within the realm are such that, in order for the king to retain the crown, his coronation must proceed. Fortuitously, an English gentleman on holiday in Ruritania who resembles the monarch is persuaded to act as his political decoy in an effort to save the unstable political situation of the interregnum.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Anthony Hope</span> English novelist (1863-1956)

Sir Anthony Hope Hawkins, better known as Anthony Hope, was a British novelist and playwright. He was a prolific writer, especially of adventure novels but he is remembered predominantly for only two books: The Prisoner of Zenda (1894) and its sequel Rupert of Hentzau (1898). These works, "minor classics" of English literature, are set in the contemporaneous fictional country of Ruritania and spawned the genre known as Ruritanian romance, books set in fictional European locales similar to the novels. Zenda has inspired many adaptations, most notably the 1937 Hollywood movie of the same name and the 1952 version.

<i>Rupert of Hentzau</i> 1898 novel by Anthony Hope

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<i>The Heart of Princess Osra</i>

The Heart of Princess Osra is part of Anthony Hope's trilogy of books which spawned the genre of Ruritanian romance. This collection of linked short stories is a prequel: it was written immediately after the success of The Prisoner of Zenda (1894) and was published in 1896, but is set in the 1730s, well over a century before the events of the first novel and its sequel, Rupert of Hentzau (1898). The stories are set in the fictional country of Ruritania, a Germanic kingdom, and deal with the love life of Princess Osra of the House of Elphberg. Osra is the younger sister of Rudolf III, the shared ancestor of Rudolf Rassendyll, the English gentleman who acts as political decoy in The Prisoner of Zenda, and Rudolph V, the absolute monarch of Ruritania.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Alice Terry</span> American actress (1899–1987)

Alice Frances Taaffe, known professionally as Alice Terry, was an American film actress and director. She began her career during the silent film era, appearing in thirty-nine films between 1916 and 1933. While Terry's trademark look was her blonde hair, she was actually a brunette, and put on her first blonde wig in Hearts Are Trumps (1920) to look different from Francelia Billington, the other actress in the film. Terry played several different characters in the 1916 anti-war film Civilization, co-directed by Thomas H. Ince and Reginald Barker. Alice wore the blonde wig again in her most acclaimed role as "Marguerite" in film The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921), and kept the wig for any future roles. In 1925 her husband Rex Ingram co-directed Ben-Hur, filming parts of it in Italy. The two decided to move to the French Riviera, where they set up a small studio in Nice and made several films on location in North Africa, Spain, and Italy for MGM and others. In 1933, Terry made her last film appearance in Baroud, which she also co-directed with her husband.

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<i>The Prisoner of Zenda</i> (1979 film) 1979 film by Richard Quine

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<i>The Prisoner of Zenda</i> (1952 film) 1952 film by Richard Thorpe

The Prisoner of Zenda is a 1952 Technicolor film version of the 1894 novel of the same name by Anthony Hope and a remake of the 1937 film version and the 1922 silent version as well. This version was made by Loew's and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, directed by Richard Thorpe and produced by Pandro S. Berman. It stars Stewart Granger, Deborah Kerr, and James Mason. The screenplay, attributed to Noel Langley, was nearly word-for-word identical to the one used in the 1937 Ronald Colman version, which was by John L. Balderston, adapted by Wells Root, from the Hope novel and the stage play by Edward Rose, with additional dialogue by Donald Ogden Stewart.

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<i>Prisoner of Zenda</i> (1988 film) 1988 Australian film

Prisoner of Zenda is a 1988 Australian animated adventure film from Burbank Films Australia. It was originally released in 1988. The film is based on Anthony Hope's classic 1894 English novel, The Prisoner of Zenda, and was adapted by Leonard Lee. It was produced by Roz Phillips and featured original music by John Stuart. The copyright in this film is now owned by Pulse Distribution and Entertainment and administered by digital rights management firm NuTech Digital. In the UK, the distributor was by Waterfall Home Entertainment.

<i>Princess Flavia</i> Musical

Princess Flavia is a 1925 operetta in three acts based on Anthony Hope's novel The Prisoner of Zenda, with book and lyrics by Harry B. Smith and music by Sigmund Romberg.

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<i>Rupert of Hentzau</i> (1915 film) 1915 British film

Rupert of Hentzau is a 1915 British adventure film of the silent era. It was directed by George Loane Tucker and starred Henry Ainley, Jane Gail and Gerald Ames. It was based on the 1898 novel Rupert of Hentzau by Anthony Hope, the sequel to The Prisoner of Zenda (1894). It tells the story of the journey of an Englishmen to Ruritania in Eastern Europe where he is forced to impersonate a King to thwart the plans of a villainous aristocrat Rupert of Hentzau.

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The Prisoner of Zenda is a 1913 silent film adaptation of a play by Edward E. Rice, which was in turn based on the 1894 Anthony Hope novel of the same name. It was directed by Edwin S. Porter and Hugh Ford, and starred stage actor James K. Hackett, Beatrice Beckley and David Torrence.

The Prisoner of Zenda is a 1915 British silent adventure film directed by George Loane Tucker and starring Henry Ainley, Jane Gail and Gerald Ames. Shot at Twickenham Studios, it is an adaptation of 1894 novel The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope. A film based on the 1898 sequel Rupert of Hentzau was released shortly afterwards with the same director and cast.

<i>Rupert of Hentzau</i> (1923 film) 1923 film

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  1. Holston, Kim R. (2013). Movie Roadshows: A History and Filmography of Reserved-Seat Limited Showings, 1911–1973. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 27. ISBN   978-0-7864-6062-5.
  2. "One Million Cost of The Prisoner of Zenda". Exhibitors Herald. New York City: Exhibitors Herald Company. 14 (18): 69. April 29, 1922.
  3. Soister, John T. (2012). American Silent Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy Feature Films, 1913–1929. McFarland. p. 364. ISBN   978-0786487905 . Retrieved February 8, 2015.
  4. "The Screen". The New York Times . August 1, 1922. Retrieved June 14, 2015.
  5. "Prisoner of Zenda". Variety . New York: Variety, Inc. August 4, 1922. p. 34.
  6. 1 2 "Newspaper Opinions". Film Daily . New York: Wid's Films & Film Folk, Inc.: 2 August 2, 1922.
  7. "Rex Ingram "Comes Across Big" Again". Chicago Daily Tribune : 18. September 27, 1922.