THE EXILE was the second half of a double-edged 1947 return to movie adventure for Douglas Fairbanks Jr., after years of real life derring-do as a highly decorated naval officer in WW2. Preceded by his costly Technicolor romp as Sinbad the Sailor, this similarly light-hearted, though historically based saga was set not in a mythical 9th-century Middle East, but in the power-playing Holland of 1660. Locales, names and costumes have changed but duty, damsels and dastards are in deed-demand.
“The Year of Our Lord, 1660…There dwelt in this house Britain’s wandering young king, Charles Stuart, exiled by the ‘Roundheads’ of the tyrant, Cromwell…Neglected by all–Save a few cavaliers…Forgotten by all–Save his people.”
Charles Stuart (Fairbanks,37) known to history as Charles II, has fled the British Isles for precarious safety in Holland, pursued by agents of Oliver Cromwell, who had executed Stuart’s father, King Charles I of England. Though duty calls, the devil-may-care Charles is smitten by innkeeper and sweet-natured tulip grower ‘Katie’ (Rita Corday) who gives him a place to duck out from Roundhead assassins’. She also puts up with a brief interlude from his former flame, worldly aristocrat Countess Anbella de Courteuil (Maria Montez). As the windmills turn…
“You belong to your people, not yourself. You are their memory, their hope, their flag.”
Besides displaying ample dash in the lead, Fairbanks produced the picture & wrote the screenplay. It was the first American film directed by Max Ophüls (billed Opuls), who stages his sequences with a fluidly gliding camera (Franz Planer was lead cinematographer) in the seemingly effortless yet intricate manner that would later grace his superb Letter From An Unknown Woman and The Earrings Of Madame de…
On the surface a swashbuckler, under Ophüls direction it delves a bit deeper than was usual for the genre, with an affecting dramatic finale. Attention to detail is key ($1,774,990 was expended), with the elaborate stylized sets designed by Broadway veteran Howard Bay (art direction credited to Hilyard Brown and Bernard Herzbrun) beautifully lensed by cameraman Planer and the uncredited Hal Mohr. Nicely undercoated with a zestful score from Universal’s prolific Frank Skinner. **
Exciting swordplay eventually arrives, with Fairbanks facing off against dourly venomous Henry Daniell. Rita Corday (“introduced” as Paule Croset, despite having already appeared in 18 pictures over four years) is charming, while Montez, despite contractually commanding top billing, has what is just an amusing cameo. Nigel Bruce provides additional heart as Charles’ loyal advisor.
Fairbanks: “It should have been done in color but we ran out of money and Universal forced Maria Montez on us. But I love it.” A suit from Montez over her billing ended up costing Fairbanks production company $250,000. Grosses lagged (one source claims a lowball $600,000), and despite style and effort it only claimed 171st place in 1947, bested by the color and spectacle of epics like Unconquered, Forever Amber and Captain From Castile.
95 minutes, with Robert Coote and Otto Waldis.
* Fairbanks screenplay was based off “His Majesty, the King: A Romantic Love Chase of the Seventeenth Century“ a 1926 novel by Cosmo Hamilton. Charles II has been a popular ruler for movies to fancy with. The same year as The Exile, he showed up in the hit Forever Amber, played there by George Sanders. Look for his Lordship in Restoration (Sam Neill), The King’s Thief (Sanders again), The Moonraker (Gary Raymond), The Libertine (John Malkovich), The Lady And The Highwayman (Michael York) and Stage Beauty (Rupert Everett).
** Designer Howard Bay: “This is not a realistic set, but a romantic one fashioned to fit the mood of the story. We aimed at the picturesque rather than scenes from the workaday world; the exaggeration is deliberate.”