Monday, June 21, 2010

“The Swan” (1925)

“The Swan” (1925) is a silent romantic comedy starring Frances Howard, Adolphe Menjou and Ricardo Cortez. Directed by Dimitri Buchowetzki, this film is about a love that cannot be. Set in a fictitious European kingdom, Princess Alexandra of Beldonia, played by Frances Howard, is secretly in love with her fencing tutor, Dr. Walter, played by Ricardo Cortez, who is also secretly in love with her. Unfortunately, Princess Beatrice, played by Ida Waterman, has arranged the marriage of her daughter to playboy Prince Albert of Hohenberg, played by Adolphe Menjou, who has a wandering eye and is only interested in having fun. Discouraged by Prince Albert’s indifference to Princess Alexandra upon meeting her at a formal dance at the palace, Princess Beatrice tells her daughter to do anything to make the prince jealous. She suggests Princess Alexandra to invite Dr. Walter, her tutor, to the picnic she has arranged for the following day. Princess Beatrice points out that she can flirt with Dr. Walter without danger because he is merely a tutor and not a man. The next day at the picnic Prince Albert pays no attention to Princess Alexandra and spends most of the time flirting with Countess Wanda, played by Helen Lee Worthing, a beautiful lady-in-waiting. The picnic is abruptly interrupted by a thunderstorm with torrential rain. Princess Alexandra takes shelter with Dr. Walter in a cabin. While they are alone in the cabin, Dr. Walter confesses his love for her. However, Princess Alexandra explains to him that their love cannot be because due to her upbringing she sees herself as a swan who has to remain in her pond with other swans, not fly away and mingle with other birds. At a drinking bout in the castle later that evening, Prince Albert insults Dr. Walter, and the two men begin to duel. Dr. Walter disarms the drunken Prince Albert but is wounded by Prince Albert’s aide, Colonel Wunderlich, played by Michael Vavitch. At this point, Princess Alexandra rushes to Dr. Walter and confesses her love for him before the entire court.

The first of three film versions of Ferenc Molnar's play, "The Swan" (1925) is an early Paramount production that is the only one of director Dimitri Buchowetzki's works in circulation. Even though it comes across as a fairy tale type of story, it is not a costume drama. "The Swan" takes place in the present time with beautiful clothes and exquisite palace interiors. The story is well presented and so enjoyable to watch with plenty of romance and wit. Adolphe Menjou gives a marvelous performance as the caddish prince. Handsome Ricardo Cortez and lovely Frances Howard are excellent as the lovelorn tutor and princess. The love scenes between Cortez and Howard are very romantic and touching. Their expressive eyes convey their mutual love. My favorite scene is when Cortez confesses his love to Howard in the cabin and then gives her a passionate kiss that leaves them both breathless for a couple of minutes. The scene in which Howard confesses her love for Cortez before the entire court is very powerful.

Ricardo Cortez, who looked like Latin Lover Rudolph Valentino, was invented, named and groomed to become a direct rival. Ironically, he wasn’t Latin at all, having been born Jacob Krantz to a Jewish family in Vienna, Austria. At the age of three, Krantz immigrated with his family to America. He became starstruck growing up in Manhattan, began playing bit parts in New York-based films, and after moving to Hollywood, his appearance in a dance contest won him a Paramount contract. Jesse Lasky of Paramount was in the audience and noticed how much Krantz resembled Valentino. Lasky immediately offered Krantz a contract and began preparing him to take Valentino’s place. Lasky’s secretary picked the name Ricardo Cortez when it was decided the young actor needed a Latin name. Krantz stuck with his new name and went on to make ninety pictures from 1924 to 1958, all under the name of Ricardo Cortez. He also achieved a considerable degree of prominence during the silent era with films such as “Argentine Love” (1924), “The Spaniard” (1925), “Torrent” (1926), and “The Sorrows of Satan” (1926). Cortez moved easily into talkies and starred in such films as “The Maltese Falcon” (1931), “Symphony of Six Million” (1932), “Midnight Mary” (1933), and “Torch Singer” (1933). When his acting career waned, he moved into the directing role and continued to be involved in films as Ricardo Cortez until 1958. Nearly forgotten today, “The Swan” (1925) was an early starring role for handsome Ricardo Cortez.

*It is interesting to note that Frances Howard was the second wife of Samuel Goldwyn. She made only four films in Hollywood.


  1. Silent, I keep having to add more and more silent films to my queue of movies I want to see because of your wonderful articles. I love Ricardo Cortez, and wish more of his movies would be shown. I didn't know about this version of "The Swan", just the one with Grace Kelly and Louis Jourdan. I would love to see this one. As I think I mentioned to you once before, I really wish TCM would devote more time to silent films!

    This was an interesting fact-filled article too. I didn't know Cortez was not hispanic, or that he had been deliberately groomed to be like Valentino. Good stuff, Silent!

  2. Great post! I feel the same as Classic Becky on all her points as well.

  3. Silent, The Swan, sounds like a very charming silent movie. Awesome review and pictures!! Very interesting info. about Frances Howard. Thank you, for this weeks silent movie fix.

  4. Thank you, Becky, Tom, and Dawn, The Swan is a charming film with much romance and wit. The sets are exquisite. I enjoyed this film so much I want to buy the dvd.


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