King Steps Out, The (1936)

King Steps Out, The (1936)

“I’ll look you in the eye later; I’m too busy now.”

To prevent her sister (Frieda Inescort) from having to marry the Emperor of Bavaria (Franchot Tone), “Sissy” (Grace Moore) travels incognito to Tone’s court, where she poses as a dress-maker and attempts to seduce him.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Cross-Class Romance
  • Franchot Tone Films
  • Historical Drama
  • Josef von Sternberg Films
  • Mistaken or Hidden Identities
  • Musicals
  • Romantic Comedy
  • Royalty and Nobility

Loosely based on the life of the Empress Elisabeth of Austria, this romantic comedy — directed by Josef von Sternberg for Columbia Pictures after he completed Crime and Punishment (1935) — featured operatic soprano Grace Moore, who only appeared in nine films before dying in a plane crash at age 48. Unfortunately, the storyline here is utterly tiresome, and Moore’s presence grates on one’s nerves (at least, my own). This is clearly a film for those who like their narratives feathery light, and don’t mind scenarios interrupted by trilling arias which instantly cause male romantic leads to swoon. Meanwhile, the ongoing “comic relief” is tiresome; nobody, really, comes off well here. According to Wikipedia’s article on von Sternberg:

Columbia had high hopes for Sternberg’s next feature, The King Steps Out, starring soprano Grace Moore and based on Fritz Kreisler‘s operetta Cissy. A comedy of errors concerning Austrian royalty set in Vienna, the production was undermined by personal and professional discord between opera diva and director. Sternberg found himself unable to identify himself with his leading lady or adapt his style to the demands of operetta. Wishing to distance himself from the fiasco, Sternberg quickly departed Columbia Pictures after the film’s completion. The King Steps Out is the only movie that he insisted be expunged from any retrospective of his work.

I can’t say I blame him.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Creative sets

Must See?
No; you can definitely skip this one.


One thought on “King Steps Out, The (1936)

  1. First viewing. Not must-see.

    Though I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it, I wouldn’t say it’s quite as bad as the assessment suggests. But it’s definitely a piffle. No doubt designed to attract the MacDonald-Eddy film fans, it’s still missing what gives such films their particular elegance.

    The score, in particular, is rather forgettable immediately.

    Tone acquits himself nicely – in fact, here he looks rather handsome. I can’t say it’s to a pronounced degree – but this is the first time it struck me that Tone can, at times, bear a… certain… (perhaps less harsh) resemblance to Joan Crawford (to whom he was married at the time of this film). It’s a little creepy (but still understandable) that Joan would marry someone who she somewhat looked like.

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