Disraeli (Disraeli: The Noble Ladies of Scandal) - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Disraeli (Disraeli: The Noble Ladies of Scandal) Reviews

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February 19, 2017
Disraeli is not the first biopic to earn a Best Picture nomination, that distinction goes to The Patriot, nominated at the 2nd Academy Awards, but since that film is tragically lost, Disraeli is the first biopic I've seen for this project. It will be the first of many. Disraeli, also one of a great many Best Picture nominees adapted from a stage play, stars George Arliss as the title character. Arliss won Best Actor for his performance, becoming the first actor to win an Oscar for a role created on the stage (and in a previous silent film adaptation) by the same actor.

Disraeli focuses primarily on the flamboyant 19th century British Prime Minister's attempt to seize control of the Suez Canal for his queen and country. George Arliss does a very fine job at bringing to life the lively, flamboyant, and clever Victorian historical figure. With his peculiar hairstyle, ringed fingers, and vibrant speeches, Arliss's Disraeli is one Victorian era politician I know would not be dull company. The film begins with scenes of people in different parts of London talking up Disraeli's political rival, William Gladstone. They fear and despise Disraeli, and also build an interest in him. In addition to rivals within the British government, he also has to contend with Russian spies that want control of the Suez for their own empire. The Prime Minister proves to be more cunning than his opponents believed of him, working on negotiations to purchase shares of the canal in secret while Parliament is out of session.

Disraeli reveals his political and practical wisdom through monologues that, while lengthy, are not preachy and are excellently delivered by Arliss. His monologue to convince his protégé, Charles of the necessity of British control of the canal is similar to one of Plato's dialogues. Through a lengthy back and forth Disraeli allows his listener to reach the conclusion he wants through what the other person thinks is their own conclusion. This is most effective in the heated speech Disraeli delivers to secure final financing for the purchase of the canal shares. In addition to those particular scenes, Arliss has several good speeches delivered with solid, thunderous authority. I'm sure some scenes playout as they did on stage, but they still work on the screen because of the performances from the fine cast.

Any casual student of film has at some point read or heard about the low ceilings in Citizen Kane. It was the first film to significantly show ceilings and if you wonder why that is a big deal I would show you the unusually tall walls of several rooms in Disraeli. Since these rooms are sets built on sound stages, the high walls hide the rest of the soundstage comfortably. It is slightly distracting since you know the building they are in has a second floor.

The sound quality of the film is so good that you don't notice it, aside from a couple of times when it cuts out for less than a second, but that is likely just an issue with the VHS tape I was watching-to date, Disraeli has yet to be released on DVD and is somewhat difficult to track down. The sound quality of the outdoor scenes is vastly improved from the first outdoor talkie, In Old Arizona-made only a year prior.

Disraeli is not all politics and foreign relations, however. There are many light and humorous moments throughout, thanks mostly to the personality of the Prime Minister. A perhaps unintentional humorous moment comes when a female Russian sympathizer eavesdrops on Disraeli's conversation with Charles about the canal by hiding behind a bush, but her very ornate and very visible hat pokes out from behind the bush.

Disraeli's purchase of the Suez Canal might be a footnote today, but it is a footnote that changed the course of world history. I doubt that the details of the true story of Disraeli securing the Suez Canal line up with the scenes in this film, but movies have never been good sources of history, even during the classic era. No matter how accurate or inaccurate to real events, Disraeli is a well-made, entertaining dramatization of one of Britain's most famous Prime Ministers and his major accomplishment.
½ June 12, 2016
good early talkie historical pic
jjnxn
Super Reviewer
½ February 18, 2014
Considering it was made the first year sound was prevalent the film isn't too stodgy but it is slow moving. Arliss is an actor of the grand manner which takes a little getting use to but he gives a good performance overall. Joan Bennett is sweetly appealing in her early blonde phase. She didn't really make a great impression for several years beyond this when she switched to being a brunette and a noir staple.
February 15, 2014
Hollywood's first biopic? Very well done. Excellent performance from Arliss.
Super Reviewer
July 30, 2013
Slightly entertaining dated film about former British Prime Minister Disraeli as he deals with bounced cheques and international intrigue..all about the Suez and simple matters like that.
February 10, 2013
Insignificant effort to recall the life of the famed British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli (George Arliss), who died nearly 50 years prior to the release of this movie. It shows of him trying to implement all his policies around his supporters, who have varying opinions on what is appropriate and what is not. Although Arliss' performance yields some part marks and everyone is speaking with an English accent, "Disraeli" is generally forgettable. It is better than some other films that have been acknowledged by the Academy Awards during the period, but otherwise, it isn't a great movie by any means. Best Actor should have gone to Lew Ayers for "All Quiet on the Western Front" in 1930.
February 1, 2013
I have just finished watching this movie on the TCM channel and as a historical buff, I am very impressed with the purchase of the suez canal, I remember reading about the canal, but never learning about the behind the scenes manueverings, as a history less for the younger generation, this is very valuable.
March 21, 2012
I tend to agree that the advent of sound was not a smooth transition for good filmmaking. The only memorable thing about this film was Geroge Arliss' Oscar winning performance as Prime Minister Disraeli, which is enjoyable. But I would only recommend to someone who was really wanting to fill in their early film backgorund
November 24, 2011
This is the story of Benjamin Disraeli's purchase of shares in the Suez Canal for Britain n a tale that seems unbelievable now. Another great history lesson!
July 26, 2011
People say it's to stagy, but if critics loved it, it's well worth a shot.
February 7, 2011
A film about British PM Benjamin Disraeli who plays matchmaker, loving husband and stalwart statesman who is engaged in purchasing the Suez Canal despite heavy opposition and Russian spies trying the thwart his plan. Definitely stagy, but Arliss has great charisma in his Oscar-winning role.
February 3, 2011
ok historical drama & early talkie
April 23, 2010
Granted this is a very early talkie, it was very boring and seemed like it was staged like a play. I really could not take the Prime Minister's ridiculous hair. On a positive note I did learn a bit about the Suez Canal.
½ February 27, 2010
High drama of the UK Prime Minister. Quotable quote:

"a man who never jokes is a standing joke to the world"
October 19, 2009
I tend to agree that the advent of sound was not a smooth transition for good filmmaking. The only memorable thing about this film was Geroge Arliss' Oscar winning performance as Prime Minister Disraeli, which is enjoyable. But I would only recommend to someone who was really wanting to fill in their early film backgorund
August 17, 2009
Not very entertaining.
½ August 12, 2009
This classic is showing it's age, but the story is still powerful, and remains a very interesting biography. George Arliss won an Oscar for his acclaimed performance, and he is quite an actor.
Super Reviewer
December 22, 2008
Very stagy, theatrical. Bored me. This is an early talky, so the movie industry was still struggling with adding sound and dialog to the picture. They let go of some of their good techniques from the silent era and tripped all over themselves rediscovering how to make movies.
September 21, 2008
A film perhaps more suited to the classroom than the theater, even though I'm sure there are many inaccuracies. I did enjoy Arliss' Oscar-winning performance as the title role. He commands the screen every moment he speaks. In his time, he called himself the greatest living actor. Next to some of the people in this movie, I can where he got that idea. This film is filled with that hammy, still-working-out-talkie-dialogue style of acting. This film is very much a political drama, where the action takes in Paliment buildings and stuffy offices instead where the real danger is. It's very much like the first 3/4's of The Phantom Menace, to give you an idea of how dull it can get. Without some snappy dialigue and Ariliss' performance, this film may amounted to almost nothing, but i still wouldn't race out to see it.
March 7, 2008
I really enjoyed this. George Arliss (one of the first Best Actor winners) plays the British prime minster trying to purchase the Suez Canal. The story is pretty simple but it's got some clever moments in it, and for a 1930 Hollywood film, it's actually pretty entertaining. Arliss is perfect as Disraeli, at times he's pretty theatrical (though he did play this role on stage for a while), but he's just so likeable, especially that awesome hair and monocle. I'm glad I finally got to check this one out.
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