The Student Prince | Sunday Observer
Retro Reviews: Cinema of Yesteryear

The Student Prince

11 October, 2020

An American musical film from 1954, directed by Richard Thorpe, The Student Prince is a delightful movie from the golden classic age of Hollywood. Starring Ann Blyth and Edmund Purdom in the lead roles as Kathie and Karl, it is a love story that will enchant the viewer with attractive mise en scene, lively choreography, good plot construction, singing that is driven with various facets of emotions, and of course good acting.

Young and handsome Crown Prince Karl of the Kingdom of Karlsburg, which is a German-speaking small fictional kingdom in Europe, has been brought up with excellent military training and courtly manners to fulfil his role as heir apparent to the throne of his grandfather, King Ferdinand of Karlsburg, played impressively by Louis Calhern. However the Prince is said to lack sociability and charm as found by Princess Johanna, played by Betta St. John, when the two of them, whose marriage had been arranged years ago, share each other’s company at a grand royal ball to announce the impending royal betrothal. The Kingdom of Karlsburg whose royal coffers are empty needs the marriage to take place as a matter of State requirement. Upon the advice of his personal tutor, Prof. Juttner, played by Edmund Gwenn, Prince Karl is enrolled as a student in the University of Heidelberg so that he may have the opportunity to socialise with youth of his own age group and develop a more sociable character.

What follows thereafter is a captivating flow of light comedy, sweeping romance and musical gaiety that sees the uptight Prince been introduced to university life.He soon becomes enamoured with the freedom he enjoys especially as he finds himself falling deeply in love with Kathie, the niece of the owner of the Inn where the Prince and his staff take lodging for the duration of the Prince’s stay at Heidelberg. Kathie as a barmaid first dutifully attends to the Prince with the utmost respect and courtesy but as ‘royal advances’ become intolerable for the beautiful blonde to bear, she resigns her position at the Inn and seeks employment at a restaurant that is across the river. Karl becomes sincerely regretful about his behaviour and seeks Kathie’s forgiveness. He realises that he has fallen in love with her and confesses to her how much he needs her.

Endearing musical wooing with operatic depth to love serenading, romantic antics, sociable frolics, light hilarity as well as poignant partings drive this musical which finally sees Prince Karl suddenly recalled to his Kingdom on a matter of utmost urgency, crumbling the joys of a young lover who had only begun to live life and had dared to love his own choice. To Karl and Kathie reality dawns in a manner that makes their short lived romance almost like a beautiful dream. The ending shows His Majesty King Karl of Karlsburg keeping his word to his first true love, Kathie, by returning to see her once again, while en route to his marriage to Princess Johanna, and realising that Kathie bears no resentment towards him but only sincere good will in the form of a true friend. It is a moment that leaves a deep and memorable impression. It is a love story that is worth watching and applauding. And I have no doubt that all cinema lovers who are romantics at heart will be won over by The Student Prince.