Swan, The (1956): Charles Vidor’s Romantic Comedy, Starring Grace Kelly in her Last Screen Role

Charles Vidor directed The Swan, a lavishly produced but thematically minor romantic comedy, starring Grace Kelly in her very last screen performance.

The Swan
Swan Poster.jpg

Movie poster

Our grade: B- (** out of *****)

Produced by Dore Schary, the film (a remake of the 1925 silent and the 1930 sound film) is scripted by John Dighton, based on Hungarian Ferenc Molnar’s 1920 play.

Set in 1910, the tale centers on Princess Alexandra (Kelly), the daughter of a minor branch of a European royal house, who’s under pressure from her mother (Jessie Royce Landis) to marry her cousin, the crown prince Albert (Alec Guinness), so that the family may regain the throne taken from them by Napoleon.

Princess Alexandra tries to gain the attention of Albert, who’s busy shooting duck and playing football with Alexandra’s two younger brothers. In order to draw Albert’s attention and make him jealous, Alexandra’s mother urges her to show interest in the handsome tutor, Dr. Nicholas Agi (Louis Jourdan).

Smitten with Alexandra, Agi accepts her invite to the farewell ball for the crown prince. Later on, when they are dancing at the ball, Albert seems more interested in playing music.

Alexandra confesses that it was all a ploy to get Albert to propose to her. Albert, discovering the scheme, trade insults with Agi.

Distraught over what happened, Alexandra tries to leave with Agi, but he refuses her again. Albert’s mother, The Queen, (Agnes Moorehead), is upset by the story. Albert gives the couple his blessing, but Agi leaves the mansion.

Albert tries to console Alexandra by telling her she is like a swan: on the water she looks serene, but on land she is like a goose. Albert offers Alexandra his arm and they walk back into the mansion together.

A low point in the careers of all its actors, The Swan is a disappointingly stiff movie that still feels like a play.

The role of Prince Albert was originally offered to Rex Harrison, before casting Guinness, in what became his first American film.

The movie, which did well at the box-office, was ultimately declared a failure, due to its excessively large budget.

Grace Kelly, who had previously appeared in the CBS TV production of The Swan, on June 9, 1950, gives a passable performance, lacking the charm, fervor, and power of her three films for Hitchcock.

.MGM’s publicity machine made sure that the movie’s release date will be on the same day, April 18, 1956, of the wedding ceremony of Kelly to Prince Rainier of Monaco.

Grace Kelly as Princess Alexandra
Alec Guinness as Crown Prince Albert
Louis Jourdan as Dr. Nicholas Agi
Agnes Moorehead as Queen Maria Dominika
Jessie Royce Landis as Princess Beatrix
Brian Aherne as Father Carl Hyacinth
Leo G. Carroll as Caesar
Estelle Winwood as Symphorosa
Van Dyke Parks as George
Christopher Cook as Arsene
Robert Coote as Capt. Wunderlich
Doris Lloyd as Countess Sibenstoyn
Edith Barrett as Elsa, Beatrix’s maid


Directed by Charles Vidor
Produced by Dore Schary
Written by John Dighton, based on A hattyú (1920 play; The Swan) by Ferenc Molnár
Music by Bronislau Kaper
Cinematography Joseph Ruttenberg, Robert Surtees
Edited by John D. Dunning
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Release date: April 18, 1956

Running time: 104 minutes
Budget $3,094,000
Box office $3,749,000