With an absolutely magnificent cast, this is a film that is not be missed. Colman creates distinctive personalities in the characters of King Rudolf and Rassendyll (and given he has very little to work with when it come to the King - who we barely see - it is all the more exceptional). With his fantastic voice and his engaging personality, it is quite clear why Flavia would fall for him almost instantly, even when she thinks he is the King (who she dislikes).
His equal is Douglas Fairbanks, Jr as the arch-villain Rupert of Hentzau. Fairbanks gives him a sparkle that makes him attractive and treacherous at the same time. When the film was remade in 1952, James Mason took over the role; while Mason had the evil down perfectly, he just doesn't have the charm that Fairbanks does in the role. That little twinkle in his eyes, as he performs his nefarious deeds is the difference. Interestingly, Fairbanks badly wanted the lead role, and almost turned down the part of Rupert when that was offered instead. His father, Douglas Sr, is the one who talked him into doing it - he told him the character was "witty, irresistible, and as sly as Iago". That the part was "so actor-proof... that Rin Tin Tin could play the part and walk away with it!", we are inclined to disagree (in our opinions, Mason didn't walk away with it!). It's proof of the talent of Fairbanks, Jr. that he could make you look away from Colman on occasion. (This TCM article goes into more detail on the history of the film).
Niven's Star of the Month turn on TCM, Robert Osborne recalled being at an event where a group was laughing at someone's tales. Mr. Osborne surreptitiously wandered over, to discover Mr. Niven regaling the table with stories. Mr. Niven married twice - he was widowed when Primula Rollo died after falling down a flight of stairs during a game of hide and seek. Two years later, he wed Hjördis Tersmeden, and though they were together until his death in 1983 of ALS, it was allegedly not a happy marriage (Niven's close friends Roger Moore and Robert Wagner actively disliked her). Niven served in the British Army during the Second World War, returning home from America when war broke out. This hiatus had little effect on his career - he returned from military duty to make such excellent films as A Matter of Life and Death (1946), The Bishop's Wife (1947), and his Oscar-winning turn in Separate Tables (1958).
on screen). She also worked on film production aimed at promoting "better understanding among the peoples of the world". He efforts also helped to raise money for an orphanage housing children injured in France during World War II. She died in 1987, at age 81.
The film that we see today did change from the original concept. It seems there was a prologue and an epilogue that were filmed and never used. The film would have opened with the much older Rassendyll recounting the story of his adventures in Ruritania, now many years in the past. As the film ended, he would have learned of the death of Princess Flavia. Interestingly, this differs from the sequel written by Anthony Hope, entitled Rupert of Hentzau, in which Flavia become Queen after the deaths of King Rudolf and Rassendyll.
We'll close with the fencing scene from the end of the film. According to the AFI Catalog, David O. Selznick was not satisfied with the scenes originally filmed by John Cromwell and brought in W.S. Van Dyke to reshoot them. The fencing, as you will see, is excellent: