An airplane carrying three Brits--Major Crespin, his wife Lucille, and Dr. Trahern--crash lands in the kingdom of Rukh. The Rajah holds them prisoner because the British are about to ... See full summary »
Biopic of the famed British Prime Minister focusing on his concern about Russia's growing interest in the Indian subcontinent and his attempts to buy the Suez Canal. He sees the Canal as the key strategic resource in maintaining the Empire in the East but is unpopular in many quarters. With antisemitism rife at the time, Disraeli finds little support for his plan to purchase the canal or his foreign policy in general. There is no doubt that the Russians are plotting against British interests and he is surrounded by spies, even in his office at 10 Downing St. When the Bank of England refuses to finance the purchase of the available shares he turns to private sources to raise the available cash only to find the conspirators one step ahead of him.Written by
I must second the comments about Mr. Arliss. He is magnificent. I eat up everything of his I can find. I highly recommend The Iron Duke, about the Duke of Wellington. It's really fun to compare it with Disraeli. Actually, George Arliss plays George Arliss in both, but then Barrymore and Bette Davis (whom, by the way, Arliss discovered) were always playing themselves, too. The point is, that we love watching them play themselves. Arliss shops for roles that fit him. He doesn't try to shoehorn himself into a role.
I think I get as much of a kick out of Arliss's banter, his small talk, as his great declamations. He really is great with one-liners, which come off in a completely natural way, creating the illusion that we really are a fly on the wall, witnessing great historical figures on an intimate level. For example, the way he formally introduces to others his office assistant, whom he knows to be a spy: "This is Mr. Foljambe such a hard worker."
Another wonderful thing about Disraeli is something others have also touched on here. This was one of the first talkies, and acting was still informed by the flamboyant physical gestures that were the language of silent cinema and necessities of the stage, where actors had to project themselves without benefit of a big screen's projecting them with closeups. We can see this especially in the male ingénue part played by Anthony Bushell, whose arm across the chest was meant to convey ardor but which now comes across as corny. But I enjoy seeing this as an artifact, like listening to music of the period.
In the case of Mr. Arliss, the staginess is indeed transcended. In Mr. Arliss we are lucky in having preserved one of the great stage actors of the era, a window into the a world when the theatre was THE great medium and when stage actors were THE great actors. So Disraeli is not only a great entertainment but a great document, of both its subject and of its own era.
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