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If I Were King

(1938 b 101')

En: 6 Ed: 6

Based on a play by Justin H. McCarthy, the poet Francois Villon kills the constable but is given his job to save Paris and himself from hanging in 1463.

In besieged Paris Francois Villon (Ronald Coleman) tries to free a man who stole food and flees soldiers. Father Villon (C. V. France) reprimands Francois but hides him. At church Francois meets Katherine (Frances Dee) and recites the poem "If I Were King." Francois is captured but is cleared by Katherine. King Louis XI (Basil Rathbone) laments his storehouse was robbed but learns about a tavern from a tortured man. Louis goes there incognito. Francois brings in food and wine, seeing his women with Louis. Francois says the king does nothing and condemns him. Louis asks Francois what he would do. Huguette (Ellen Drew) is jealous because Francois has new love poetry. Soldiers come in, and they fight. Francois kills the constable, and Louis reveals himself and orders the leaders arrested.

In the dungeon Francois composes poetic epitaphs. Louis tells Francois that the constable was a traitor and gives him the job as head of the army. Francois summons the prisoners and from behind a screen questions them. He fines Robin Turgis (Sidney Toler) fifty gold pieces and gives the other seven people seven coins each for damages. Huguette asks about Francois, and he gives her a ring. Louis introduces Francois at court as a count. A Burgundian envoy demands they surrender; but Francois gives the Burgundians one week to disband. Francois talks with Katherine, who gives him her kerchief. Francois argues with General Dudon (Montagu Love), who refuses to fight. Louis gives Francois one week before he is hanged. Francois goes into Katherine's room, and she says the generals would fight if they had no food. Francois kisses her and takes the guard to order storehouse food distributed to people. The Queen (Heather Thatcher) asks for her eggs and sends Katherine to Louis, who learns all the food was given away. The palace has food for five days. Francois tells Louis that he is popular. People eat and discuss Louis.

Francois tells Katherine the army won't fight. Father Villon comes and tells Francois of plans to loot the city. Francois escapes from Louis. Rene de Montigny (Stanley Ridges) tells people how to sack the city; but Francois persuades them to fight the Burgundians. The battle rages; but people led by Francois turn defeat into victory. Francois sees Huguette fall and carries her into the church, where he kisses her as she dies. General Dudon orders Francois arrested as a traitor and announces victory to Louis, who orders Francois hanged; but Katherine says that he saved the city, and Father Villon confirms it. Louis finds Francois in the dungeon and commutes his sentence to life in France outside of Paris. Katherine asks Father Villon where Francois went and follows him.

The great poet Francois Villon was in and out of prison often for murder and theft. He was nearly hanged in 1463 but was banished from Paris for ten years instead; but his becoming constable and fighting the Burgundians is a complete fabrication, showing an unfortunate increase of the war spirit.

Copyright © 2001 by Sanderson Beck

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