AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The Sword and the Rose
Director: Ken Annakin (Dir)
Release Date:   8 Aug 1953
Production Date:   late Jul--late Nov 1952 at Pinewood Studios, Iver Heath, England
Duration (in mins):   91 or 93
Duration (in reels):   8
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Cast:   Glynis Johns (Princess Mary Tudor)  
    Richard Todd (Charles Brandon)  
    James Robertson Justice (King Henry VIII)  
    Michael Gough (Duke of Buckingham)  
    Jane Barrett (Lady Margaret)  
    Peter Copley (Sir Edwin Caskoden)  
    Rosalie Crutchley (Queen Katherine)  
    D. A. Clarke-Smith (Cardinal Wolsey)  
    Ernest Jay (Lord Chamberlain)  
    John Vere (Lawyer clerk)  
    Philip Lennard (Chaplain)  
    Bryan Coleman (Earl of Surrey)  
    Phillip Glasier (Royal falconer)  
    Jean Mercure (King Louis XII)  
    Gerard Oury ([Francis,] Dauphin of France)  
    Fernand Fabre (Ambassador of France)  
    Robert Le Beal (Royal physician)  
    Gaston Richer (Grand Chancellor)  
    Helen Goss (Princess Claude)  
    Patrick Cargill (French diplomat)  
    Anthony Sharp (French diplomat)  
    Caven Watson (Captain Bradhurst)  
    Richard Molinas (Father Pierre)  
    Hal Osmond (Costermonger)  
    Norman Pierce (Innkeeper)  
    Douglas Bradley-Smith (Squire)  
    Ewen Solon (Guardsman)  
    Rupert Evans (Bargeman)  
    Paddy Ryan (Bargeman)  
    Thomas Heathcote (Wrestling second)  
    Arthur Brander (First mate)  
    Russell Waters (Sailor)  
    John Serret (French squire)  
    Bob Simmons (French champion)  
    Hamilton Keine (Henry's servant)  

Summary: At Windsor Castle, King Henry VIII pits his wrestlers against those of the French court. The British are losing pitifully, and when Henry calls for volunteers, the only one to step forward is the low-born Charles Brandon, who is stopping in London on his way to the New World. Henry’s sister, Princess Mary Tudor, persuades her brother instead to enter into competition her suitor, the Duke of Buckingham. Buckingham easily bests the French champion, after which Mary suggests that he wrestle Charles. Buckingham seems the clear victor until Charles rebounds with vigor, trouncing the duke and earning Mary’s admiration. She convinces Henry to name Charles a Captain of the Guards, but when Charles visits her to deliver a message, she receives him coolly. He responds with impertinent teasing, further intriguing Mary, who deflects Buckingham’s attentions in order to invite Charles to her chambers before her party that evening. There, Sir Edwin Caskoden, Master of the Revels, and Mary’s lady-in-waiting, Lady Margaret, watch as Charles teaches Mary the latest French dance, called La Volta. However, when he comes to the part of the dance that involves lifting Mary off the ground, she is scandalized and refuses to continue. At Edwin’s suggestion, Margaret takes her place, prompting Mary’s envy. At the party, Buckingham spots Charles and challenges him to leave, until Edwin informs him that Mary invited Charles personally. Buckingham is further incensed when Mary chooses Charles as her dancing partner. Mary soon dares to suggest that they dance La Volta, and although Henry’s wife, Queen Katherine, is horrified, Mary convinces Henry to enjoy the dance with her. Weeks later, Mary, disappointed that Charles spends all of his time hunting with Henry rather than wooing her, tricks Charles into accompanying her into a secluded forest glen. There, she commands him to recite poetry, and he responds with a sonnet that bemoans their disparity in rank. Ignoring his fears, Mary begs him to kiss her, and he is about to respond when Margaret calls them back to the castle. There, France’s ambassadors are informing Henry that King Louis XII has agreed to a peace pact in exchange for Mary’s hand in marriage. When they ask for 500,000 crowns as a dowry, the greedy Henry consents only after deciding to keep 100,000 for his personal coffers. When Mary refuses to join the men, Henry leads them to her room, where she frightens them off by greeting them without clothes. Mary orders Charles to meet her in the library, but learns from Edwin that Charles has left for the New World, via Bristol. Crushed, Mary disguises herself as a male page and races to Bristol to join Charles. He at first refuses to put her at risk by taking him with her, but soon acquiesces, swept away by his love for her. Despite his instructions on how to appear more masculine, when the boat captain insists that everyone throw their hat overboard for luck, her long hair is exposed. Mary and Charles are forcibly put ashore, where Henry’s men await to imprison Charles in the Tower of London. Mary begs Henry to spare Charles, and he agrees only if she will marry the elderly, ailing Louis immediately. Cardinal Wolsey, however, counters that she is still too reluctant, prompting Buckingham, conniving for his own future, to suggest that Mary will be more compliant if she is allowed free rein to choose her second husband. Before being sent to Paris, Mary asks Buckingham to inform Charles that his life has been spared. During Mary’s wedding celebration, she deflects the amorous attentions of Louis’ son, Francis, while encouraging Louis to drink wine. As she has planned, Louis collapses, thus relieving her of her wedding-night duties. Back in England, Buckingham arranges for Charles to escape from the Tower, but then sends two thugs after him. When Charles hops aboard a rowboat, they stab him and throw him overboard, then report to Buckingham that he is dead. Meanwhile, Mary continues to reject the Dauphin and fatigue Louis, whose health declines until he is on his deathbed. Upon discovering that Francis plans to force Mary to marry him after Louis’ death, Mary sends Margaret and Edwin back to England with a message to Buckingham, begging his protection. Buckingham travels to France to confront Francis, who, sure that Henry will return Mary to him in exchange for the 500,000 crowns, allows her to go back to England. After informing Mary that Charles has died, Buckingham stops their carriage at an inn, where he forces her attentions on her, declaring that her only chance to avoid marriage to Francis is to marry him right away. They are interrupted by Charles, who survived his attack and has been brought to France by Edwin. Charles locks Buckingham in a closet and races off with Mary and Edwin, but Buckingham and his soldiers follow, overtaking the trio later that night. Edwin fights the guards while Charles duels with Buckingham, finally stabbing the duke in the arm. He and Mary return to England, where Henry is admiring the chests full of gold sent by Francis. Henry would like to take the money, but Mary’s tears, combined with Charles’ suggestion that he keep the money as “a loan repaid,” persuades the king to allow Mary to remain in England. Mary then reveals that she has already married Charles, whom she now urges Henry to name Duke of Suffolk. Frustrated with her wiles, Henry rushes out before she can demand her share of the gold. 

Production Company: Walt Disney Productions  
Production Text: A Walt Disney Production
Distribution Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
Director: Ken Annakin (Dir)
  Peter Bolton (Asst dir)
  Alex Bryce (2d unit dir)
Producer: Walt Disney (Pres)
  Perce Pearce (Prod)
Writer: Lawrence Edward Watkin (Scr)
Photography: Geoffrey Unsworth (Dir of photog)
  David Harcourt (Cam op)
  Cyril J. Knowles ([2d unit] photog)
Art Direction: Carmen Dillon (Art dir)
Film Editor: Gerald Thomas (Ed)
Costumes: Valles (Cost des)
Music: Clifton Parker (Mus)
  The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (Played by)
  Muir Mathieson (Cond)
Sound: Dudley Messenger (Sd)
Special Effects: Peter Ellenshaw (Matte eff)
Dance: David Paltenghi (Dances by)
Production Misc: Douglas Peirce (Prod mgr)
  Dr. Charles Beard (Tech adv)
Color Personnel: Joan Bridge (Technicolor col consultant)
Country: Great Britain and United States
Language: English

Source Text: Based on the novel When Knighthood Was in Flower by Charles Major (Indianapolis, 1898).
Authors: Charles Major

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Walt Disney Productions 15/6/1953 dd/mm/yyyy LP3769

PCA NO: 16289
Physical Properties: Sd: Western Electric Recording
  col: Technicolor

Genre: Romance
Sub-Genre: Historical
Subjects (Major): Brothers and sisters
  Class distinction
  Great Britain--History--15th century
  Henry VIII, King of England, 1491-1547
  Romantic rivalry
  Mary Tudor
Subjects (Minor): Attempted murder
  Francis I, King of France, 1494-1547
  Louis XII, King of France, 1462-1515
  Male impersonation
  Prison escapes
  Sea captains
  Sword fights
  Tower of London (London, England)
  Wounds and injuries
  Wrestlers and wrestling

Note: The film begins with the following written statement: “Windsor Castle, early reign of Henry VIII. The king is matching his English wrestlers against the champions of France.” Although Richard Todd is listed first in the opening credits, he is listed second, after Glynis Johns, in the closing credits. Throughout the movie, various traditional Scottish songs are heard in the background.
       As depicted in the film, Mary Tudor (1495--1533) was forced by her brother, King Henry VIII, to marry King Louis XII of France in order to promote an alliance between the two countries, and secretly married Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, after Louis' death. Most other historical details, however, were changed or fictionalized by the film, and many reviews pointed out the historical inaccuracies.
       According to press materials, the film was three years in production, beginning with a full year of scriptwriting by producer Perce Pearce and screenwriter Lawrence Edward Watkin. Press materials also noted that technical advisor Dr. Charles Beard was an expert in chivalric manners and English history. Like the two previous live-action Disney films, Treasure Island (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 ) and The Story of Robin Hood (see above), both of which used many of the same crew members, The Sword and the Rose was shot entirely in England. A 17 Jul 1952 HR news item stated that interiors would be shot at Pinewood Studios and location shooting done at Wilton Park, Beaconsfield.
       A 4 May 1953 HR article reported that King Features would distribute a cartoon serialization of the film in order to promote the picture's release. According to the Var review, the film was "available with title cards suitable for widescreen projection."
       Charles Major's novel When Knighthood Was in Flower , which was the basis for The Sword and the Rose , was adapted into a Broadway play that opened 14 Jan 1901. The book had previously been filmed in 1923 under the title When Knighthood Was in Flower . That version was directed by Robert G. Vignola, starred Marion Davies and was released by Paramount (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1920-31 ).  

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   4 Jul 1953.   
Daily Variety   1 Jul 53   p. 3.
Film Daily   2 Jul 53   p. 8.
Holiday   Aug 1953   p. 14, 16.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Jul 1952   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Jul 1952   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Nov 1952   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   4 May 1953.   
Hollywood Reporter   1 Jul 53   p. 3.
Look   28 Jul 1953.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   4 Jul 53   p. 1901.
New York Times   20 Aug 53   p. 18.
New York Times   23 Aug 53   sec. II, p. 1.
Variety   1 Jul 53   p. 6.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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