Thursday, March 8, 2007


Tom Canty is a dirt poor beggar boy who lives with his abusive father. He was born on the same day and has an uncanny resemblance to Prince Edward, son of King Henry VIII and next in line of succession to the throne.

After escaping a downpour, Tom finds shelter on the palace grounds where Prince Edward saves him from the palace guard and befriends him. While playing, the prince and the pauper exchange clothes and marvel at their similarities. Edward is mistaken for Tom by the palace guard and sent from the palace.

Neither boy can convince anyone that they are not who they appear to be, but Prince Edward is befriended and protected by Miles Hendon who is initially skeptical about Edward's royal claims, but humors him anyway. Once convinced, he tries to help Edward return to the palace before Tom is mistakenly crowned King.


King George VI's coronation was May 12, 1937. This movie's release date was scheduled to coincide with this (after its May 5 premier, it opened widely May 8).

Errol Flynn's popularity after his breakout performance in Captain Blood two years earlier led to him being top billed despite not being in the lead role. He makes his first appearance in the film halfway through.

Although Twain's novel was a social satire about class inequities, it's doubtful that this swashbuckling film version had such a political agenda. But the fact that these social issues could fit so unobtrusively in a family movie is an indication of how pervasive these ideas were. The Depression had caused an increased involvement in organized labor and a general national shift toward socialism as demonstrated by President Roosevelt's social programs of the New Deal. These social issues were more overtly promoted in such movies as Winterset in 1936.


As a classic work of literature, the story is timeless and has lent itself to several remakes, including versions starring Mickey Mouse, Barbie, and the up-coming Sprouse Brothers modern version.

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