Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Though filmmaker Erich Von Stroheim's notorious profligacy had made him virtually unhirable in the US by 1929, screen-star Gloria Swanson still had faith in him. She poured a great deal of her own money in Von Stroheim's last silent film, Queen Kelly, and agreed to play the leading role to insure box-office success. When production began, Stroheim had not quite completed his script: all he had was the premise of a young Irish convent girl named Kitty Kelly (Gloria Swanson) being seduced by a German nobleman (Walter Byron) who was slated to marry the mad Queen (Seena Owen) of a tiny European principality. Brandishing a whip, the loony Queen drives the hapless Kitty from the palace. It was after shooting had started that Von Stroheim filled Swanson in on the rest of the plot: Kitty was to inherit all the worldly possessions of her aunt in German East Africa. Arriving to take charge of the estate, Kitty would learn that she was proud possessor of a string of brothels. Realizing that such a plot device would never get past the American censors, Swanson reacted in horror; she frantically called her money men in America and screamed "There's a madman in charge!" In the final release version of Queen Kelly, hastily completed by Swanson to recoup her losses and ultimately released in Europe, Kitty Kelly was forced into a marriage with brothel manager Tully Marshall, a tobacco-juiced stained degenerate. She ultimately returns to the nobleman who'd seduced her, is driven from the palace by Queen Owen, and commits suicide. This version contained dialogue sequences, and one musical interlude, sung by star Swanson. Despite its tawdry plot, Queen Kelly was beautifully photographed; its most famous shot, of Swanson praying in church, her face framed by flickering candles, was excerpted in the actress' much-later talkie Sunset Boulevard. The currently available restored version of Queen Kelly uses still pictures and explanatory titles to fill in the footage that has decomposed over the years.
brothel, inheritance, queen [royalty], suicide, convent
High Artistic Quality