"Bonnie Prince Charlie"
Offered by: Gaumont
Directed by: Charles Calvert
Length: 6,540 feet
Release Date: British Film Weeks
Type of Production: Romantic drama based on the traditional love story of Charles Stuart and Flora Macdonald
Place and Period: Scotland, 1745
Special Features: The acting and personality of Gladys Cooper; the picturesque costumes and interior settings; the lovely Scottish mountain and coast exteriors.
'The Story: Having landed in Scotland with a view to substantiating his claim to the throne of England, Prince Charles meets Flora MacDonald, an enthusiastic supporter of his cause, and mutual love springs up between the two. Charles has a treacherous rival, however, in Robert Fraser who, while ostensibly aiding him, secretly betrays him to the enemy. Forced to take flight and hide himself after his defeat at Culloden, Charles is steadfastly befriended by Flora who, at great personal risk, helps to convey him to the coast, where he boards a ship for France, after bidding her an emotional farewell.
Review: 'In this film version of the traditional but quite unfounded love story of Charles Stuart and Flora MacDonald, historical personages and events are utilised merely as material for a romantic drama- a fact which is, indeed, wisely made clear in an introductory title by Alicia Ramsey, author of the scenario. The danger of paraphrasing so freely any well-known historical episode is that recollection of the facts is inclined to conflict with and depreciate the illusion of the fiction in the mind of the spectator. Apart from such prejudices, however, "Bonnie Prince Charlie" makes a fairly entertaining costume drama, built on conventional lines, but endowed with some individuality by the many delightful period settings and lovely Scottish exteriors.
'Following a rapid summary of the events leading up to the defeat of Prince Charlie at Culloden, the plot takes the form of a prolonged dramatic chase, in which Flora and Charlie repeatedly foil the treacherous activities of a determined villain. After having shared as many thrills as a pair of serial lovers, the two young people part, with yearnng hearts, on the sea shore - a concession to history which forms, however, rather an anti-climax so far as dramatic interest is concerned. Much of the action is rather jerkily developed, and one has the impression that Captain Calvert, who directed the picture, was inclined to handicap himself by adhering too closely to the scenario in scenes which could have been extemporised more effectively on location. On the whole, however, the play is a sound piece of work, which makes a fairly satisfactory compromise between the limitations of history and the demands of popular entertainment.
'Since the story is mainly one of physical action, no great opportunity is afforded for detailed characterisation. The outstanding figure of the drama is, undoubtedly, Gladys Cooper's Flora - a role to which this popular and beautiful artist imparts great romantic charm and distinction of personality. In his study of the Prince, Ivor Novello is handicapped by the fact that the action tends to make him appear a weakling and a nincompoop, who relies upon others - and especially upon the girl he loves - to save him. Although he is not a very strong or heroic character, Mr Novello renders him a strikingly picturesque figure in the earlier scenes at Edinburgh, where one gains at least a flavour of the loyal enthusiasm inspiring the Prince's followers. Hugh Miller is a duly unpleasant villain, and Kleve Benson draws a vigorous portrait of the rugged Scottish traitor, Macpherson, who, after repeatedly betraying his royal master, is suddenly reformed, in a not very plausible scene, by a church window picture of Judas. Lewis Gilbert's George II, A.B. Imeson's Duke of Cumberland, and Bromley Davenport's fatuous Cope, are other clever performances.
'The larger interior scenes - particularly the War Council of King George, and the Prince's ball at Edinburgh - are spendidly staged and particularly well directed. There is a lively glimpse of Culloden, and there are many entirely beautiful mountain and sea exteriors, to which full justice is done by the sympathetic camera work of A. St.Aubyn Brown and H.W. Bishop.
'The rhythm of the action and the dramatic appeal of the story could probably be improved to some extent by further editing.
'As an entertainment, "Bonnie Prince Charlie" possesses numerous points of appeal, of which the strongest is probably the personality of Gladys Cooper. In no respect a "high-brow" production, the story should please lovers of straightforward costume drama, embellished with many picturesque and spectacular incidents, which are never allowed, however, to overweight the action. The Scottish exteriors are another outstanding feature which should be mentioned in advertising. Especially for middle-class and popular houses, the film should prove a sound booking. Its success can be assisted considerably by suitable presentation methods, such as the prologue (by Charles Calvert and R.E. Dearing), and the musical setting of Scottish airs and ballads (arranged by J. Morton Hurcheson), which were performed at the Scala Trade Show.'