The Prisoner of Zenda (1937)

The Prisoner of Zenda (1937)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

The Prisoner of Zenda Photos

Movie Info

Ronald Colman stars in David O. Selznick's classic production of Anthony Hope's swashbuckling adventure. The film takes place in a mythical Central European kingdom with Colman in a dual role as King Rudolf V and Rudolph Rassendyl, a visitor from England who's a distant cousin to the prince. Arriving in the city of Strelsau, the inhabitants are startled by Rudolph's resemblance to the prince. Spotted by two of the prince's aides, Captain Fritz von Tarlenheim (David Niven) and Colonel Zapt (C. Aubrey Smith), the Englishman is taken to meet the prince at his hunting lodge. The two lookalikes have dinner together as the prince tells Rudolph of the preparations for his upcoming coronation as king. The next morning, Zapt wakes Rudolph and informs him the prince had been drugged the night before and is now in a coma. Because of their similar appearance, Zapt prevails upon Rudolph to impersonate the prince at the coronation, otherwise the prince's evil brother Black Michael (Raymond Massey) will be crowned in his place. With the assistant of Zapt and von Tarlenheim, Rudolph bluffs his way through the coronation, successfully fooling Michael, who is shocked to see his brother alive. Crowned king, Rudolph then meets Princess Flavia (Madeleine Carroll), the prince's fiancee. As they proceed to the reception, Princess Flavia is amazed how kindly the prince is now treating her. Rudolph is falling in love with her, but Michael suspects something foul and dispatches Rupert of Hentzau (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) to investigate the matter further, preparing to gain control of the throne at any cost.
Action & Adventure , Classics , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
United Artists


Ronald Colman
as Rudolph/King Rudolf V
Madeleine Carroll
as Princess Flavia
Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
as Rupert of Hentzau
Mary Astor
as Antoinette de Mauban
C. Aubrey Smith
as Col. Zapt
Raymond Massey
as Black Michael
Montagu Love
as Detchard
David Niven
as Fritz
Byron Foulger
as Johann
Ralph Faulkner
as Bersonin
Alex D'Arcy
as De Gauiet
Torben Meyer
as Michael's Butler
Ian Maclaren
as Cardinal
Lawrence Grant
as Marshal Strakencz
Howard Lang
as Josef
Ben Webster
as British Ambassador
Evelyn Beresford
as British Ambassador's Wife
Boyd Irwin
as Master of Ceremonies
Emmett C. King
as Von Haugwitz, Lord High Chamberlain
Al Shean
as Orchestra Leader
Charles Halton
as Passport Officer
Russ Powell
as Traveler
D'Arcy Corrigan
as Traveler
Otto H. Fries
as Luggage Officer
Henry Roquemore
as Station Master
Lillian Harmer
as Station Attendant
Pat Somerset
as Guards at Lodge
Leslie Sketchley
as Guards at Lodge
Show More Cast

Critic Reviews for The Prisoner of Zenda

All Critics (8)

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | March 25, 2009
Top Critic

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | June 23, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

No excerpt available.

August 8, 2005

No excerpt available.

June 15, 2005

This adaptation holds up really well, and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. is terrific as the bad guy.

September 19, 2004
Nitrate Online

Audience Reviews for The Prisoner of Zenda

What is seemingly a ridiculous plotline is actually served quite well. Ronald Colman plays both roles as a king of some European nation as well as an English gentleman. While trying to vacation the Englishman meets the king, and they happen to be twin distant cousins. That's right. But on the eve of the king taking his new throne, the king's alf-brother drugs him to sleep through the ceremony. The king's men gather together and decide that the lookalike must go through the ceremony. The conspirators find this out, kidnap the real king and leave the imposter to reel about through his new duties, including wooing the appointed princess. Colman does a fine job playing mostly the imposter while the real king is locked up. He romances the queen, deals as a spy in the dark with the conspirators and symptathizers, and the a swashbuckling hero who fights to bring order back to the kingdom. Ronald Colman can make anythin enjoyable, but even just as good here is the baddest of bad guys, played by Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. He's witty and exciting and a good antedote to Colman's consummate gentleman.

Nik Browning
Nik Browning

In the 1930's and 40's when you see Selznick's name on a film it was always top notch in every way. The acting, cinematography, costumes and set design are all A+. If you have seen Moon Over Parador then you know the plot of this film. The best thing about this film is the performance of Fairbanks Jr. There are multiple bad guys in this but he outshines them all , alot like Jeffery Wright in Shaft. A great swashbuckling film that is left open for a sequel that was too depressing of a book for Selznick to make.

cody franklin
cody franklin

Super Reviewer

"prisoner of zenda" is an original british swashbuckler with aristocraticly dashing ronald colman as the brave knight who defends the secred throne of a nation; madeleine carroll, the british rose, as the divine love interest; dandy douglas fairbanks jr. and raymond massey form a league of doublecrossing vallainy. the infatuation over this swashbucking tale has been remade four times in cinematic history. colman impersonates dual roles in this piece, the king to be throned and his identifical double who is merely an english man visiting outlandish nation. the king-to-be has been narcotized before the day he's about to be throned in consecration. so the loyal defenders of the king scheme to have the englishman as temporal substitute during his recovery. but the king's grudgy half brother covets the throne while his mischievous accomplice(fairbanks) drools over his mistress (mary astor). to add up the hardship, the englishman falls head over heels in love with the queen-to-be (carroll)...with all the conditions above, the price of honor and chivalric nobility appears precious. wouldn't that be the whole swashbuckler thing about? ronald colman has the elegant screen presence as well as his composed charisma in the aristocratic costumes, while madelein carroll luminates the scenes with her striking beauty in the utmost degree, particularly in the cross-staring in the annoitment scene. douglas fairbanks jr. has limited screen time but remain impressive with his naughty mannerism and rascal-alike grinning. "the prisoner of zenda" has every quintessential element of swashbuckler gendre except the consummation of romance since the queen-to-be selects her destined course of serving her royal house at the cost of her great one true love. the scene madelein bursts into an abrupt change of mind is sheer excellence of good acting. this is an aloof swashbuckler without the reward of his fair woman. perhaps tragic love emphasizes its gallantry for the ultimate swashbuckler without glorious compensation.

Veronique Kwak
Veronique Kwak

Super Reviewer

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