July 23, 1953 – The Live Action Film The Sword and the Rose is Released to Theaters
“Because I like him. And if I liked him not, you’d fall in love with him.”
On July 23, 1953, the live-action adventure film The Sword and the Rose was released to theaters. Based on the 1898 novel When Knighthood Was in Flower by Charles Major, it was the third and most elaborate live-action film to be created with the blocked-up funds that Disney had amassed in England during World War II. A policy had been passed that money made in England during the war could not be brought back to the United States, and the Disney Studios used those funds to create Treasure Island, Robin Hood and His Merrie Men, and The Sword and the Rose. The film was directed by Ken Annakin, and starred Richard Todd as Charles Brandon, Glynis Johns as Mary Tudor, James Robertson Justice as Henry VIII, Michael Gough as the Duke of Buckingham, and Jean Mercure as King Louis.
The film is set at Windsor Castle in the early years of the reign of King Henry VIII, and begins with a wrestling match between the English and the French. Henry’s sister, Princess Mary Tudor, appears as he is watching the match, and goes to greet her brother. Henry is not happy that the English are losing to the French, and when he asks if anyone can beat the French, a newcomer to the court named Charles Brandon offers his services. The Duke of Buckingham, vying for the affections of the fair Mary, first tries to wrestle the French, and is successful. Mary, eyeing Brandon, asks her brother how he thinks the newcomer would fare against Buckingham. The two set up their scuffle, and Brandon emerges as the victor, much to the delight of Mary.
Mary invites Brandon for a private dance in her chambers, highlighting a growing attraction between the two
Brandon is made the Captain of the Guard, thanks to his efforts and the persuasion of Mary. Brandon, however, did not want to stay in England; rather, he wished to seek his fortune in the New World. One of Brandon’s friends warns him not to fall in love with Mary, but Brandon assures his friend that he will do no such thing. Mary is set up to marry King Louis of France, but clearly does not wish to be; she is also pursued by the Duke of Buckingham, who commands the Tower of London. However, Mary is rather intrigued by Brandon, and arranges to have a private dance with him in her chambers. Brandon is invited to the princess’s party, which angers Buckingham, who dislikes Brandon simply for being a commoner. When Mary picks Brandon for her dancing partner in the opening dance, this seals Brandon’s fate, as far as Buckingham is concerned.
The flirting between Brandon and Mary continues, nearly resulting in a kiss between the two during a hunting expedition. While this is going on behind King Henry’s back, he is continuing to arrange the marriage of his sister to the aging King Louis, hoping that this arrangement will provide peace between the two nations. Lady Margaret, Mary’s lady in waiting, worries about Mary’s pursuit of a commoner, but Mary angrily warns her that “Mary Tudor will marry a beggar if she chooses.” When she rushes to find Brandon, she finds that he has resigned from his post and set of for Bristol to board a ship for the New World. Heartbroken, yet determined, Mary dresses as a boy and follows him, telling him that she intends to sail away with him. The pair finally share their first kiss, and attempt to set sail, but her identity is soon exposed and the two are sent back ashore.
The heir to the French throne, who has not made his attempt to woo Mary subtle in the least, threatens her that she will remain to be his after King Louis dies
When King Henry gets wind of what happened, Brandon is arrested and sent to the Tower of London. Mary pleads with her brother to save Brandon, and promises to even marry King Louis. Buckingham also comes up with the promise that Mary can marry anyone she chooses after Louis dies. Brandon is to be freed after she marries Louis, and she asks Buckingham, whom she believes to be her truest friend, to inform Brandon of the deal, since she is not permitted to see him. Buckingham, however, plans to help Brandon arrange an “escape,” but then have him murdered as he does so. Mary continues to cause mischief, having King Louis drink lots of wine and be active, deteriorating his already frail health. His heir declares to Mary that she is never to leave, as he claims her for his own after the king dies. She sends Lady Margaret to England to find Buckingham and rescue Brandon, but is greeted with grim news, as Buckingham declares that Brandon’s body lies at the bottom of the Thames. Buckingham declares that he will go to France to rescue her himself. Brandon’s friends, however, find Brandon is alive and well, and retrieve him from his hiding spot.
Mary leaves with Buckingham, and he informs her that Brandon is dead. Still consumed with his love for her, Buckingham takes her to rest at a church and tries to force Mary to marry him. She tries to struggle, but he threatens to take her back to the French if she does not agree. Brandon arrives just in time to rescue Mary and the two escape. Brandon notices that they are being pursued by Buckingham’s men, and in ends with a climactic swordfight between Buckingham and Brandon, with Brandon emerging victorious. True to his word, although rather reluctant, King Henry allows Mary to marry whomever she wants, and the king makes Brandon the Duke of Suffolk.