Princess Beatrix (Jessie Royce Landis) is barely holding on to her royal title. She and her family have been exiled, but are desperate to win back favor through the current ruling family, headed up by Queen Maria Dominika (Agnes Moorehead).
Queen Maria Dominika’s son, Prince Albert (Alec Guinness), is planning to visit Beatrix’s family, and in that visit Beatrix sees a solution to her problem. Surely, albert will fall in love with Beatrix’s beautiful daughter, Alexandra (Grace Kelly). What better way to win over the Queen than by uniting their families in marriage?
There’s just one small problem: Alexandra. She finds her mother’s scheming stressful, and on top of that, just might be in love with her tutor, Nicholas (Louis Jourdan).
The Swan was directed by Charles Vidor. It is based on a play by Ferenc Molnar, which also served as source material for 1925’s The Swan and 1930’s One Romantic Night.
Long-time readers of TMP may remember that I’ve reviewed the second big-screen adaptation of Molnar’s play, One Romantic Night. At the time, I rated it 2/5 and wasn’t much of a fan. Expecting a romantic dramedy, I didn’t get many laughs, gasps, or swoons out of it, but I liked the performances of Lillian Gish and Marie Dressler.
Though, like its predecessor, I didn’t find The Swan particularly gripping or memorable, I did like it more than the ’30 version. It’s a pleasant watch with a lovely cast, and slightly higher on drama than One Romantic Night. Great tension is built in the second half, with Nicholas butting heads with Prince Albert and high society, as their romantic rivalry gains intensity.
There’s a lot to enjoy throughout the film, before and after the tension kicks in. The Cinemascope photography is lovely, as are Grace Kelly’s costumes, designed by the very talented Helen Rose.
And then there’s the cast. The future Princess Grace playing a princess is a perfect bit of casting, of course. She’s as beautiful and elegant as ever. Then there’s Agnes Moorehead as the queen! And Jessie Royce Landis as Princess Beatrix! The film is just flooded with talented ladies, and all do very well in their roles. (Fun fact: Landis also played Kelly’s mother in one of my favorite films, To Catch a Thief.)
The exceedingly handsome Louis Jourdan is very good in his role of tutor Nicholas. He and Kelly not only have nice chemistry, but get to fence with each other! They have got to be one of the all-time most attractive screen couples.
Had the film been a bit quicker to start, it would be a great watch. Still, as it exists, The Swan is quite an enjoyable watch. It’s got a lot going for it other than that tension, as discussed above. And that ending! (I’ll avoid spoilers here, but if you feel any sort of connection to Kelly’s character, it’s surprisingly bleak for a film most often billed as a rom-com.)
It has humor, romance, and even a few scenes of intensity. The Swan is worth tuning in for, especially for that Kelly/Jourdan pairing and the whole talented ensemble cast.