The Prisoner of Zenda (1922 film)

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The Prisoner of Zenda  (1922) 
by Rex Ingram
A 1922 American silent drama film directed by Rex Ingram; an adaptation of Anthony Hope's novel The Prisoner of Zenda
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At Burlesdon Hall, Yorkshire—the historic home of the Barons Rassendyll.

Rudolf Rassendyll, traveller and sportsman, now and then found time for a quiet visit with his brother and sister-in-law.



The approaching coronation of Rudolf V. of Ruritania will take place in the famous cathedral of Strelsau. The city, until recently in deep mourning for the late King, has put on gala attire.

There was good reason for Rudolf Rassendyll's interest in Ruritania.

Since then it had been an open secret that the blood of the royal Elphberg line ran in the veins of the English Rassendylls.

"So you are leaving us to-day, Rudolf?"

"Going hunting again, I'll wager! Where to this time?"

"Why—er—probably the Black Forest. But I haven't decided yet."

"If Rudolf had only gone to Oxford instead of Heidelberg he might have settled down and become a perfectly good member of Parliament or something."

Strelsau, the capital or Ruritania.

Grand Duke Michael was the son of the late king by a morganatic marriage and had received from him his title and large estates, including a palace in Strelsau.

Here he lived with the officers of his regiment.

De Gautet.



—and Rupert of Hentzau.

The Four were Michael's inseparable companions in peace, war, intrigue and love.

"Here's Michael."

"The King has played into our hands. He has gone to my hunting lodge at Zenda to stay until coronation day."

"It shall be our business to see that he stays at Zenda until after coronation day."

"No violence! That would shock my Cousin Flavia; but if the King were unable to come to Strelsau—perhaps some one else might be crowned, eh?"

"—and, Hentzau, when you know beyond any doubt that the King is out of the running, send me this message: 'All is well'."

Princess Flavia's apartments occupied a wing of the royal palace.

Although the people divided their allegiance between King Rudolf and his half-brother Duke Michael, they were unanimous in their love for Princess Flavia, the orphan cousin of the King.

"Tell me, Flavia, would you be happier if it were the King who visited you?"

"Happiness does not enter into it, Marshal Strakencz! When I marry Rudolf it will be because my people want me for their Queen."

"Do not anger the Duke by keeping him waiting, my child. His power is great and until Rudolf is crowned King of Ruritania I am uneasy."

"It is true that the people are disappointed with Rudolf, but you are their idol. When he is your husband they will be satisfied."

"I have a word for your ear alone, Princess."

"I have no secrets from Helga."

"Dear cousin, I have come to assure you once again of my undying devotion."

"Your gallantry is well known Cousin Michael; as to your devotion, here is Strelsau we have heard of a Parisian friend of yours—was not the name Antoinette de Mauban?"




"Mademoiselle de Mauban! I wish I had known you were on the same train with me! Are you too going to Strelsau to see the coronation?"

"I am stepping off here for a few hours to see the famous castle. Perhaps you have heard of it?"

"Yes, the Castle of Zenda—on the estate of Duke Michael of Strelsau."

"Perhaps we will meet at the coronation tomorrow."

A day's tramping in the hills left Rudolf Rassendyll pleasantly wearied.

"The devil is in it! Shave him and he'd be the King!

"I am Colonel Sapt, Chief of Staff to King Rudolf. This gentlemen if Captain Fritz von Tarlenheim."

"May I ask your name?"

"I knew it! You're of the English Rassendylls?"

"Why, Fritz, you know the story?"

"You have the height too—and even the voice. Why man!—but for your beard you are the King of Ruritania!"

"You must taste of our hospitality. The Hunting Lodge is only a few steps away."

Dame Nature is not supposed to repeat herself—but it is ever the exception that proves the rule.

"One of the English Rassendylls—"

"Well met, cousin! You must forgive me if I was taken aback, but it's early in the evening for a man to see double."

"A thousand crowns for a sight of brother Michael's face when he sees a pair of us!

"Seriously, I question Mr. Rassendyll's wisdom in visiting Strelsau just now."

"Rather than cause your Majesty embarrassment I will leave Ruritania today."

"No, by heaven, you shan't! You shall dine with me tonight, happen what will afterward."

"An extra place, Josef! My cousin will dine with us."

And in a private dining room of the Grand Hotel in Strelsau.

"What spell have you put upon me that I cannot refuse you anything—that I even follow you to Strelsau at your request?"

In honour of the English cousin.

"Remember, Sire, tomorrow is your coronation."

"His Highness, Duke Michael of Strelsau, sends this wine to the King and prays him to drink for the love he bears his brother.

"My brother may be a rascal but he knows good wine."

"Gentlemen! The half of my kingdom is yours—but ask me not for a drop of this divine wine!"

The dawn of the coronation day.

"I have spent half an hour on him already. It looks as though he'll not come to for hours."

"The last bottle—drugged!"

"Take it all in all—a very pretty plan of Black Michael's to keep the King away from Strelsau today."

"Postpone the coronation on account of the King's illness.

"The people know his illnesses—besides, if it is postponed for any reason whatsoever—Michael will seize the throne himself."

"Why man! Half the army is there to meet him with Black Michael at its head."

"As a man grows old he believes in fate. Fate sent you here."

"Fate sends you now to Strelsau in the King's place."

"The King shave off his beard yesterday. That will account for any difference people may notice."

"I means his throne—perhaps his life."

"If Fate sent me here—then let Fate decide."

"Bersonin, we shall soon see now whether that old bear Sapt will dare to go back to Strelsau without his cub."

"I'm going to lock him up in the wine cellar until we can get you back here tonight. Too many kings might spoil the broth."

"We will be back tonight after the coronation. You understand, Josef—I shall hold you responsible for the King."

"There is the King—and he's as fit as I am!"

"It cannot be the King! I tell you I saw him drain the bottle myself!"

At high noon.

"No word from Hentzau yet?"

"The Duke of Strelsau! 'Tis he should be crowned King today!"

All is well - Salutations to Michael I King of Ruritania!


The famous Black Cuisassiers, the back-bone of Michael's power in Strelsau.

Who knows but that the spirit of the Countess Amelia looked down with wondering pride when her great-grandson was crowned King of Ruritania.

"His Royal Highness the Duke of Strelsau!"

And then, through the narrow, twisted street of old Strelsau to the palace in the modern part of the city.

"Do you know, Rudolf, you look somehow different do-day?"

"More—manly. Can it be that you are beginning to take things seriously?"

"Would that please you?"

"Oh, you know my views, Rudolf——although you have never paid any attention on them!"

"And when is the wedding?"

For Flavia as well as Rudolf the day had been a fateful one.

"Helga, did you not think that the King seemed different today?"

"No Princess. To me he seemed as usual, but for the difference of his smooth chin. But then I did not, perhaps, observe him as closely as you did."

"They have got the King. Josef died in his defence."

"You must go back to Strelsau and hold the Throne for Rudolf V."

"God bless my King."

At Zenda Castle.

"But for that dog Rassendyll, I would be on the throne or Ruritania tonight."

"Yes, sir. Every servant, gardener and stable-boy has been sent back to Strelsau except the olderly, Hans."

"You, de Gautet, will return to Strelsau with me. Bring out the horses."

"Detchard and Bersonin will guard the prisoner, one of you watching by this door night and day—and the drawbridge must be raised at all times."

"Don't leave me, Michael, take me back to Strelsau with you. I am afraid—I have a presentiment of evil."

"I will be back soon, Antoinette. You can help me more by staying here until I return."

After the longest night Fritz had ever spent.

"What if they have killed the King?"

"In that case, here is as true an Elphberg as any."

"The throne shall be his before is shall be Black Michael's!"

"I wish to inquire as to my dear brother's health after the fatigues or coronation day."

"It seems to have agreed with me for I never felt better in my life."

The King is my prisoner. If you will take fifty thousand pounds English, to leave Ruritania, no harm will befall either you or him. If not, you will both die.

"It is gratifying to see that your Majesty is not easily disturbed."

While Rassendyll—caught in the toils of this strange adventure—came to know the sweetness and the despair of love.

"My country! How serene it seems! Full of beauty and peace, but underneath, what discord ans turmoil!"

"But you will bring it, peace, Rudolf!"

"Yes, yes, Rudolf. God will help you to—for since the coronation you have been a true and noble King."

In the crowded days that followed, Fritz, despatched to Zenda, sought to discover the whereabouts of the King and the chances for a rescue.

"I ran across my good friend Captain von Tarlenheim in the forest and persuaded him to come back and meet you."

"Duke Michael is at Strelsau, in attendance on the King. Naturally, he has a brother's concern for His Majesty's health."

"By the way—perhaps you can settle an argument for us. Is it not well known that the Duke is a suitor for the hand of the Princess Flavia?"

"It is quite true, Mademoiselle."

"Oh, this is an old drain pipe—it has a funny name—we call it Jacob's Ladder."

"—and God help the man who gets caught in that current—behind the castle the moat plunged a hundred feet onto the rocks below."

"Rassendyll, the people are clamouring for a betrothal. You will have to propose to her."

"You ask too much, Sapt. I love her so myself that I can hardly trust myself in her presence. Moreover, if morning brings no word from Fritz, we start for Zenda ourselves."

"Is it not a miracle? This marriage that was to have been the tragedy of my heart will now be my joy."

"But why—since his proposal of marriage two months ago, has he never again spoken of love?"

"Well, Princess, he is waiting for you to accept his offer."

"Shall I tell him then, Helga?—tell him that I will?"

"Indeed you should, Princess. There will be an opportunity during the ball tonight."

Come to the edge of the forest near the moat at nine to night.

Do not fail, to morrow will be too late.

At the Ball in Strelsau that night.

"A good thing for the city it would be if the talk about who is to be her husband should end tonight."

"I can stay but a moment without being missed—it is in your hands to prevent a double murder tonight."

"Yes, the King is alive and imprisoned here, but very week—dying by inches."

"Rassendyll is to be assassinated tonight in Strelsau. Michael is only awaiting the news of his death to return here at top speed."

"—then he will have the King bound, weighted and slipped through Jacob's Ladder into the moat."

"Michael himself told me—God forgive me! He trusts me implicitly, but I cannot help him to the throne when it means his marriage with Flavia."

"Go—go—do not question me! But hurry to Strelsau and warn Rassendyll."

"He'd have been a dead man long ago but for the guard who watches in the room while he sleeps."

"The guards will not trouble you tonight—they are in my pay."

"When it is over flash this from the window. I will be watching."

"It is cooler in the conservatory—shall we go down there, Rudolph?"

"O Rudolph! Why do you look at me so strangely?"

"Do you remember the question you asked me two months ago?"

"Oh, Flavia, is it me you love? Me—me?"

"Since when?"

"Just lately—since coronation day, Rudolph—"

"But Rudolph, why—why have you not spoken of our betrothal for so long?"

"Flavia—I am not—"

"Sire, his Eminence the Cardinal has arrived."

"—and Colonel Sapt, a matter that has long been in question is settled at last."

An hour later—with the memory if a great defeat—and a greater victory—

"The Duke is on the way to Zenda at this moment to kill the King. He believes Rassendyll dead."

"God grant we reach Zenda in time!"


"Where is Bersonin? He had better be here by the time Michael arrives."

"One step nearer and I shall ring for help!"

"Why won't you be sensible, Antoinette? Michael cares nothing for you, while I—"

"Would you believe me if you heard it from Michael's own lips?"

"Wait here for a signal from me."

"Rassendyll is dead."

"What about your marriage with the princess Flavia?"

"That will be my next step."

"What will you do with Mademoiselle de Mauban?"

"You've been thinking of her for some time, haven't you, Rupert? Well—she's yours."

"Now let us prepare brother Rudolf for his slide down Jacob's ladder."

"For God's sake! Not that, Michael, my brother! Not that!"

"We must find out where they are—you watch the bridge, Rassendyll, while Fritz and I reconnoitre."

"De Gautet! The bridge must be down! Close it and we have him trapped!"

"Wait, Rassendyll! Now that Michael has left us why not have a new deal all around?"

"The Jacob's Ladder for the King—the throne and the princess for you—and for me, say, a competence and your Majesty's gratitude!"

"While you'e unhung, Hentzau, hell lacks its master!"

"Your Majesty!"

Towards the end of the day, when the soul is weary and the heart longs for its beloved.

"Tell me quickly of the King! Is he safe and well? I heard only this morning of the attempt assassination and that he had gone immediately to Zenda Castle."

"Yes, Princess, he is at the castle now—I will take you to him myself."

"I heard this gentleman say the King was at Zenda Castle. Your Highness, the King is here in the lodge."

"I will see this gentleman."

"Do not kiss him, Madame—he is not the King."

"Do I not know my love?"

"Your love, Madame, but not the King. The King is at Zenda Castle——this gentleman is Rudolf Rassendyll."

"Rudolf, why do you let him torment me?"

"God forgive me—I am not the King."

"What does it mean?"

"Then—since coronation day it has been you?"

"The part you played with me, Rudolf, was that false too?"

"From the moment I first saw you in the cathedral I have loved you with my whole heart and soul."

"What shall we do, Rudolf?"

"I leave Ruritania tonight. Oh, my darling, if I could take you with me!"

"If love were all Rudolf—I would follow you to the ends of the world."

"But—if love were all, you would have left the King to die."

"Honour binds a woman, too, Rudolf. I don't know why God has let me love you, but I must be true to my country and my people."

"You are right, my darling—God help us both!"

"Whatever else I wear, this will I wear always—till I die—and after."

"Be happy, my dear one. It would break my heart to think that I had brought grief to you—"


"God does not always make the right men kings. You are the finest Elphberg of them all!"


The End


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1927.

The author died in 1950, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 70 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.