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Queen Kelly (1929)

Cast: Gloria Swanson, Gloria Swanson, Seena Owen, more...
Director: Erich Von Stroheim, Erich Von Stroheim
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Rating: Not Rated
Studio: Kino
Genre: Classics, Drama, Classic Drama, Silent, Silent Dramas, Classic Drama, Silent Drama
Running Time: 101 min.
Subtitles: English
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Though filmmaker Erich Von Stroheim's notorious profligacy had made him virtually unhirable in the US by 1929, screen-star Gloria Swanson still had faith in him. She poured a great deal of her own money in Von Stroheim's last silent film, Queen Kelly, and agreed to play the leading role to insure box-office success. When production began, Stroheim had not quite completed his script: all he had was the premise of a young Irish convent girl named Kitty Kelly (Gloria Swanson) being seduced by a German nobleman (Walter Byron) who was slated to marry the mad Queen (Seena Owen) of a tiny European principality. Brandishing a whip, the loony Queen drives the hapless Kitty from the palace. It was after shooting had started that Von Stroheim filled Swanson in on the rest of the plot: Kitty was to inherit all the worldly possessions of her aunt in German East Africa. Arriving to take charge of the estate, Kitty would learn that she was proud possessor of a string of brothels. Realizing that such a plot device would never get past the American censors, Swanson reacted in horror; she frantically called her money men in America and screamed "There's a madman in charge!" In the final release version of Queen Kelly, hastily completed by Swanson to recoup her losses and ultimately released in Europe, Kitty Kelly was forced into a marriage with brothel manager Tully Marshall, a tobacco-juiced stained degenerate. She ultimately returns to the nobleman who'd seduced her, is driven from the palace by Queen Owen, and commits suicide. This version contained dialogue sequences, and one musical interlude, sung by star Swanson. Despite its tawdry plot, Queen Kelly was beautifully photographed; its most famous shot, of Swanson praying in church, her face framed by flickering candles, was excerpted in the actress' much-later talkie Sunset Boulevard. The currently available restored version of Queen Kelly uses still pictures and explanatory titles to fill in the footage that has decomposed over the years. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

Weirdo, even for Stroheim by adamjoelf October 16, 2003 - 1:12 AM PDT
3 out of 3 members found this review helpful
Definitely a Von oddity. Interesting for fans, yet even w/ the restoration, too much of the "meat" is missing. (Even EvS saw what remains of the film--severely cut, yet another truncated production--as a PROLOGUE to the larger drama. And--believe it if you will--even Stroheim thought the European section was far too long!) The Fascinating Stuff starts happening in the African scenes--of which we only have a reel or so, the rest fleshed out with stills and titles.

Swanson sucks deep. Almost ruins several hundred feet of it. Although an unrealistic melodrama (a departure for Stroheim), it could've "flown" if not for hammy Gloria--not that other efforts by her are so lacking: just not Stroheim material. He hated the star system and here's why. Plus she tanked the whole deal as producer. Cool trivia: she brought on DP GREGG TOLAND to shoot extra scenes in an effort to quilt together SOME kind of release for the picture; one can see even here how far and away optically he already was. Amazing.

People always setting EvS in the canon of Realists need to have a look at this one--and elsewhere: such as that subtly horrific sequence in Merry-Go-Round (a production which made history as the first time a film director was removed from his post) where Boniface the orangatan(!) takes revenge w/ a falling flowerpot.. a Geranium, no less?

Naturalism definitely the goal in many cases for this director: real caviar in the party scenes, real embroidered underwear for the soldiers, real prostitutes at the orgies--Real living (not "life")--in extraordinary circumstances. A kind of depraved and cynical "what-if." The extremes to which man goes; and his always serve well as this kind of indictment, usually w/out the corny preachertalk and happy endings we come to expect out of "old" movies. I give this one a "7" because the disc itself is so damn good. Lots and lots of extras, very scholastic indeed, for home entertainment. But: think there's a better print out there of Queen Kelly--or maybe it was the transfer--bit contrasty. Very dark in places. Check out the clip in Sunset Boulevard..

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 7.70)
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