Thursday, January 21, 2016

Tyrone Power in period action flick #15872745689207583548267

It's said that Tyrone Power grew tired of making all those swashbuckling movies. Heaven knows he made enough of them. One of those costume pieces I haven't blogged about before is coming on on FXM Retro tomorrow morning at 11:00 AM, and again early Saturday morning: Prince of Foxes.

Power plays Andrea Orsini, a man in the court of Cesare Borgia (Orson Welles). Borgia is trying to gain more territory for himself, and has some very clever ideas about how to do it. One of the little dukedoms in what is now Italy -- remember that the place was a lot of city-states and small kingdoms back in the early 1500s -- is the Città del Monte. Borgia sends Orsini there ostensibly to be the ambassador to the tiny dukedom, but in fact it's to gain intelligence on the place's defenses: much of the place is a fortified city-state atop a mountain, run by Count Verano (Felix Aylmer). Along the way, Orsini stops in Venice, where he meets the Countess Verano (Wanda Hendrix), not knowing who she really is. Also he gets waylaid by a would-be assassin Mario (Everett Sloane), and stops off at a nice farm, where he sees his mother, at which point we learn that Orsini is a made up identity and that Andrea is in fact of low birth.

Anyhow, Orsini eventually makes it to the Città del Monte and as he works there, he begins to discover that the Count is in fact a decent man, unlike Orsini's boss. It's enough to make Orsini think about changing loyalties, but there's also the problem that Orsini was smitten by the Countess from the first time he met her, and the feeling might be mutual. Eventually, Orsini decides to join up with the Count even though their situation vis-à-vis the Borgias is wholly untenable: the Borgias' forces could destroy the Città del Monte any time they'd like.

Sure enough, Borgia comes along and attacks; the Count dies during the battle, and then the Borgias lay siege to the city it's going to lead to the city's eventual surrender. But since Tyrone Power is playing the good guy, you know that he's goign to come back and save them from those horrid Borgias....

Prince of Foxes is a solidly good movie, although if you've seen enough of Tyrone Power's historical movies this one will blend in with some of the others quite a bit. Power is just fine in his role as are most of the male actors; Wanda Hendrix is an almost nonentity as the Countess which is down to her bland acting and not the script. Worse, however, is that the movie is in black and white. There are several theories as to why Fox wouldn't make this in Technicolor when the movie just screams for brilliant color -- especially because it was filmed on location. I thought I read someplace that they weren't able to film in color because the Technicolor cameras required so much light that the Italian authorities were afraid it would damage the interiors of the historic sites where they were going to do shooting, although that may be another movie, as IMDb doesn't mention that theory. There's also the possibility that Fox was using blocked funds that they couldn't get out of Italy to make the movie, and they didn't have enough to bring over Technicolor cameras from America. Whatever the reason, the movie is in black and white, which is a huge shame.

Prince of Foxes is available on DVD, although the TCM Shop page for it claims the movie is in Technicolor.

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