Friday, September 19


It's Talk Like a Pirate Day, but I Feel Like Talking Like a Ruritanian Princeling

From Richard Cohen. By the Sword: A History of Gladiators, Musketeers, Samurai, Swashbucklers, and Olympic Champions, 2002:

Amid the many terrible lines to which the genre [swashbuckling movies] gave birth, there is one glorious exception. It comes during one of the finest of all film duels, between Ronald Coleman as Rudolf Rassendyll and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. as Rupert of Hentzau in the 1937 version of The Prisoner of Zenda. As the two men fight in one continuous take, around murky dungeons, up and down winding staircases, and through the shadowy main hall of the castle, they spar verbally with equal expertise:
Rupert:Touché, Rassyendyl. I cannot get used to fighting with furniture; where did you learn it?
Rudolf:: That all goes with the old school tie.
Rupert: Well, then, here's your last fencing lesson. Look out for your head. Why don't you stand your ground and fight?
Rudolf: "He who fights and runs away"--remember?
Rupert: I see. You want to let the drawbridge down. I've just killed a man for trying that.
Rudolf: An unarmed man, of course.
Rupert: Of course.... You English are a stubborn lot.
Rudolf: Well, "England expects that every man..."--remember?
Rupert: Your golden-haired goddess will look well in black, Rassendyll.* I'll console her for you...kiss away her tears. What, no quotation?
Rudolf: Yes, a barking dog never bites.
Rupert: Aargh! You'd be a sensation in a circus. I can't understand it. Where did you learn such roller-skating?
Rudolf: Coldstream Guards, my boy. Come on, now, when does the fencing lesson begin?
Rupert: Stand still and fight, you coward.
Rudolf: Bad-tempered fellow, aren't you, underneath all the charm?
Rupert: Why don't you let me kill you quietly?
Rudolf: Oh, a little noise adds a touch of cheer. You notice I'm getting you closer to the drawbirdge rope?
Rupert: You're so fond of rope, it's a pity to have to finish you off with steel. What did they teach you on the playing fields of Eton? Puss in the corner?
Rudolf: Oh, chiefly not throwing knives at other people's backs.
*This is, of course, incorrect, as every schoolboy knows. Princess Flavia, The Love Interest, was, as all members of the House of Elphburg, a natural redhead. --MGA

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