Dangerous Exile (1957)

 

 

 

Director:     Brian Desmond Hurst. 

Starring:     Louis Jourdan (Duke Philippe de Beauvais),  Belinda Lee (Virginia Traill),  Keith Michell (Colonel St. Gerard),  Richard O'Sullivan (Louis XVII / Richard de Beauvais),  Martita Hunt (Lady Lydia Fell),  Finlay Currie (Mr. Patient),  Anne Heywood (Glynis),  Brian Rawlinson (Dylan Evans),  Terence Longdon (Col. Sir Frederick Venner),  Frederick Leister (Capt. Andrew Ogden),  Derek Oldham (William),  Jean Mercure (Chief of Police),  Raymond Gérôme (Citizen-Director of the Revolution),  Austin Trevor (M. Petitval). 

fate of ten year old Louis XVII, who died in 1795, (many thought he escaped from his French revolutionary captors)

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

"In the year 1795 the French Revolution had triumphed and the monarch has been overthrown.  Britain still supported the Royalist cause and a state of war existed between the two countries." 

In Britain, rumors of invasion by the French were rife.  In Pembroke, England a man hangs onto a ladder attached to an aerial balloon.  He is spotted and a bell is rung to call out the people of the town.  The people come running and they see the man hovering just over the buildings of the town.  Troops come out to see what is going on. 

A very pretty Virginia Triall finds a boy who looks half frozen sitting on part of a statue.  The citizens find the grapnel of a French balloon.  Colonel Sir Frederick Venner asks Virginia if she would please leave this matter of the boy and the balloon to the military?  Virginia refuses to do so.  She is determined to take charge of the boy.  Virginia tells the Colonel that she will take the boy to her island castle owned by her Aunt Lady Lydia Fell.    

Virginia and the boy arrive at the castle.  Aunt Lydia wonders where the boy and Virginia are?  Virginia comes into the room and tells her Aunt that he arrived in a balloon.  The aunt says what an imagination her niece has and what audacity.  The boy is at least ten years old, while Virginia is twenty-two.  She goes and checks on the boy.  He is in bed sleeping.  She says the Lord's Prayer over him.  The boy wakes and speaks a few words of English to Virginia, but falls back asleep.

The next morning Virginia and the boy play on the beach.  He will not tell Virginia anything because, he says, he swore he would not tell.  He does say, however, that he saw some horrible things.  She wonders what she should call him.  The boy says she has been calling him Honey, so she can just call him that.  Sir Frederick arrives and Virginia tells Honey to go back to the castle.  Sir Frederick tells Virginia that they found the balloon in Milford washed up by the sea. 

An old man named Mr. Patient, who runs a newspaper in Pembroke, sees the boy and grabs him, which frightens the lad.  The man tells the boy not to be afraid.  He tells him that there's a hidden treasure on Colony Island.  Honey is saved by the arrival of Virginia and Sir Frederick. 

A servant named Dylan is deeply in love with another servant named Glynis.  He tells her that he loves her, but she tells him that any man that she marries must have money.  Virginia, Sir Frederick, Honey and Mr. Patient arrive at the castle.  When he is alone with Glynis, Mr. Patient asks her if she found out anything.  Glynis says that she hasn't been able to because Miss Virginia is always with the boy.  Mr. Patients pays Glynis some money. 

On another day Sir Frederick and the Frenchman Duke Philippe de Beauvais come racing up to the castle.  When the Duke sees "Honey" he refers to him as "Your Majesty".   Honey says he doesn't want to be king.  Apparently, he is King Louis XVII of France and the Duke is his guardian.  Louie says that he wants to stay on the island with Virginia. 

Virginia puts the boy to bed.  The Duke speaks to her and tells her that he only had time to land the king from the balloon in Pembroke.  That was not their planned destination, but they had been blown off course by strong winds.

Louie has a nightmare and Virginia comforts him.  He had a flashback to France.  He was held in prison by the French revolutionaries.  They wanted him to sign a statement as to the many affairs of his mother, Marie Antoinette.  They forced him to drink liquor to loosen his tongue.  He says:  "Please, I miss my mother."  So they take him over to a window and he watches as the Queen is executed using the guillotine.  Of course, this is very traumatic for the young boy.

Virginia talks with Philippe and tells him that he cannot take Louis back to France.  The Duke says that Louie can heal the nation.  He tells Virginia that they found a substitute to play the part of Louie, while the real king was whisked away.  He insists that the leaders of the Revolution must never know that the real king escaped.  Virginia asks what kind of person would allow their son to be switched with Louie?  Philippe's silence and strange expression lets Virginia know that he is the father of the substitute boy.  She finds it hard to believe that he would put his own son in prison in Paris. 

Flashback.  At the prison in Paris, Philippe has to kill a prison guard.  He has already bribed another guard.  He lets his son Richard into the prison and takes him to the place where Louie stays.  He puts his own son in the place of the king.  Philippe tells his son he will be back for him as soon as the king is safe where his enemies can't reach him.  The boy is worried and asks if his dad will come back for him.  Philippe tells him yes. 

Back to the present.   Philippe tells Virginia that he shall never forget the look on his son's face.  He justifies his action by saying that of all the candidates his son was the one who most looked like the king.  His mother had died many years ago. 

Mr. Patient asks Glynis if the boy in prison is Philippe's son?  Glynis says she doesn't know.  This still doesn't stop her for asking for more money from the man.  Mr. Patient sends out a homing pigeon with a message to Paris. 

Louie tells Virginia that he had a dream in which he spoke with Richard.  Virginia says that tonight they will include Richard in their prayers.  Louie asks Virginia if he had to go away, would she go with him?  Virginia just says Louie can stay on the island as long as he wants.  Louie says:  "You could marry me."  He kisses her hand.  When Virginia speaks with Philippe she says that the King of France proposed marriage to her.

Back at the prison in Paris the conspirators plan to fake an illness for Richard in order to move him out of his imprisonment.  The doctor involved tells Colonel St. Gerard that the boy needs to be taken out into the country for the country air.  But St. Gerard wants the opinion of another doctor.  A second doctor is brought in and goes to speak with St. Gerard.  The Colonel takes the doctor to see Richard, but Richard has already been taken away by the conspirators.  The guard who was bribed is guillotined. 

The Colonel speaks with the Citizen-Director of the Revolution.  The director says that they could shoot the little king, but decides in favor of capturing the child alive.  He also says that he knows nothing of this.  The conspirators talk about faking the death of the King.  They will substitute a son of the dead guard for the King.   One man says:  "Let's have this funeral and be done with it."  So they hold a funeral. 

But others don't believe the King is really dead.  They are looking all over for the real King. 

A birthday party is held for Louie.  He says that he wishes he could stay on the island for always and never be the King of France.  This upsets the Duke who tells him that what we like to do is sometimes very different from what we must do.  He adds:  "France needs you." 

Virginia tells Philippe that she loves him.  He tells her that she just loves an image of him, not the real him.  Sir Frederick arrives to talk with Philippe.  Glynis knows that she has to find out fast what is going on.  She wants to recruit Dylan to help her, but he is very reluctant.  So she tells him that she will marry him if he helps her now.  Dylan quickly goes into action hiding in the main room.  He hears that the English will give Philippe the H.M.S. Neptune, their fastest ship, to sail him to France.  But they are going to have to hurry if they are to catch the ship out of Pembroke.  Sir Frederick goes out so Philippe and Virginia can say goodbye.  The couple kiss.  Philippe gives her a copy of the will of Louie's father, King Louis XVI.  She hides the paper in a secret compartment in her desk and then closes and locks the desk.  They leave the room.

Dylan goes into action.  He starts to break open the desk to get the papers.  William the servant hears the noise and goes up to see what's going on.  Dylan ends up killing William.  Then he gets the will and runs out.    Virginia finds William dead, but has no idea who killed him.  She also sees that the will is gone.  Virginia tells Glynis to have Dylan ride after Philippe and tell him what happened.  Glynis goes to Dylan and tells him to go after Philippe, but don't catch him.  Then Dylan is to ride over to Mr. Patient and tell him that Glynis has the some very important papers to sell to him, but at her price. Dylan rides out.

Mr. Patient tells Dylan that they will let the Frenchman return to Paris.  He instructs Dylan not to return to the castle until midnight and tells them that he was too late to stop Philippe in Pembroke. 

Mr. Patients prints the news that the King of France died three days ago.  Virginia comes into talk to him.  He tells her that there was an attempt to rescue the boy, but it failed.  Five royalists went to the guillotine for it.  Virginia flees from the office.  Glynis rushes in to get her money for the will.  Mr. Patient pays her, she hands over the will and leaves. 

The Citizen-Director learns what has happened via their spy Mr. Patient.  He tells Colonel St. Gerard to sail to the island and make sure he kills the boy.  The Colonel says he is a soldier, not an assassin, but the Citizen-Director says that no one must find out the truth so the boy has to be killed. 

Philippe arrives in France and learns that Richard has been moved out of prison and is safe.  But the revolutionaries have learned the location of the real king.  So Philippe must get Richard and sail for Colony Island immediately.   Philippe rides to the castle to get Richard.  When he enters he sees a dead female servant and a dying butler.  Philippe runs up the stairs to check on Richard.  He finds his son but he has already been killed and the assassin is still in the room.  A sword fight begins and Philippe kills his son's killer. 

The revolutionaries ask themselves who would have an interest besides them in the death of the king.  They say the lad's uncle would benefit because he could then become king.  He must have had the imposter king killed.  The Colonel sails for Colony Island. 

On the island, Louie tells Virginia that he will abdicate.  He then gives a little speech with the help of Virginia abdicating his throne.  Mr. Patient talks with Glynis again.  Dylan sees them walking to the beach and he follows them.  They are going to meet the Colonel's ship from France.  Mr. Patient goes to the signaling point, while Glynis goes to the beach.  He signals with his lantern that it is safe to land.  Dylan follows Mr. Patient and sees him signaling a French ship.  He tells Mr. Patient that he is a spy for the French.  They start struggling with each other and they both go over the cliff to their deaths.    The Colonel and some French soldiers land on the beach.  Glynis leads them to the castle.  Soon afterwards Philippe's ship approaches the island. 

Glynis tells the colonel where Louie's room is and he goes there immediately.  But Louie is not there.  He is with Virginia.  Virginia hears all the noise outside her door, so she locks her door.  The Colonel knocks on the door, but Virginia will not open it.  He shouts through the door that his orders are to take the king back to France.  He also lies and tells Virginia that Philippe and his son are now in a French prison.  Virginia says:  "You're lying!"   The Colonel says his soldiers will start their search. 

The Colonel goes in to see Aunt Lydia.  He says he would like to do this without violence.  The aunt rings for Virginia and yells that they are after the boy.  Virginia hides Louie in a secret compartment area and then runs to see what is happening to her aunt.  Her aunt tells Virginia that they must play for time.   She also gives Virginia a pistol, just in case.  Glynis tries to find out where the boy is hidden, but Virginia only says:  "I have hidden him where no one will find him." Virginia goes to check on the boy.  Glynis watches her.  She sees Virginia open a secret compartment and she runs to tell the colonel.  Virginia knows she has been spotted by Glynis and she runs after her.   Just as Glynis reaches the colonel and starts to tell where the boy is hidden, Virginia shoots her in the back and she dies. 

The colonel rushes Virginia and she struggles with him.  She faints.   At this time Philippe and the English sailors arrive.  The colonel goes over to Virginia and starts to fondle her hair when she wakes up.  Virginia tries to bribe him with her Aunt's money.  He is not interested.  So she tells him that she will go with him.  St. Gerard doesn't believe her, so she kisses him.  It might have worked, but now the couple hear the shots announcing Philippe's arrival.  The soldiers and sailors start fighting and killing each other.  St. Gerard joins the fight. 

Virginia takes Louie out of his hiding place and they go into her aunt's room and lock the door.  St. Gerard has the door broken down.  Philippe arrives just in time to shoot the French colonel.  Before dying he tells Philippe and Virginia that the boy's own uncle killed the pretender in order to claim the throne of France for himself. 

Virginia tells Philippe that now they can't take Louie back to France.  He is all on his own now.  Philippe agrees that he can't take him back.  Virginia says:  "Your son gave his life for the king, why can't the king live as your son?"  Philippe likes the idea of marrying Virginia and having Louie as their step son.  He agrees to the idea. 

 

Most of the film is made-up history, but the historical background is at least partly true.  And there were a lot of stories about what really happened to King Louis XVII.  So they made up one imaginary possibility.  The story itself is pretty straight-forward and it moves fast so there's no slow segments in the movie.  Belinda Lee was very pretty as Virginia.  One problem is that her declaration of love for Philippe happens way too suddenly with no build up to that point.  Boom, there it is!  And they had time to enter a couple of short segments about her developing love for the man.  Yeah, the love story itself is not developed enough to really get one really rooting for the couple.  Also they did nothing with Englishman Sir Frederick's love for Virginia.  On the other hand, what really happened to the King of France is sad, but here at least there is a happy ending. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 


Historical Background:

1785 – Louis Charles de France was born at the Palace of Versailles to Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI.

1789 – he became the Dauphin (the heir to the throne) at the death of his elder brother.

For the first seven years of his life Madame de Rambaud was in charge of the Dauphin. She never left him during this time. She was more of a mother to him that was his own mother.

1793 (January 21) – Louis was named the king of France. Comte de Provence named himself the king’s regent. Now start new plots to get the king out of Temple prison.

1793 (July 3) – since the Dauphin was now proclaimed King Louis XVII by exiled royalists after his father’s death, commissioners took him, screaming and crying, out of the Temple prison. He was taken to the royal family's apartment. The republican government kept him in prison in solitary confinement.

1793-1795 – he stayed in prison until his death at the age of ten.

Louis-Charles had to work as an assistant to a drunkard cobbler within the prison. The cobbler forced him to drink a lot of liquor, to curse his parents and the aristocracy and to sleep with prostitutes. The poor boy caught venereal diseases from the women. (Nevertheless, there is no definitive proof of the excessive amount of abuse heaped on the child by the cobbler and his wife.)

He was also threatened by death by the guillotine and told that his still alive parents did not want him.

1793 (October 6) – Pache, Chaumette, Hébert and others force the king to admit the truth of the accusation against his mother since she came to the Temple.

1794 (January 19) – the cobbler’s wife becomes ill and they leave the prison.

1794 – after the cobbler left the prison, the boy was held in solitary confinement for 6 months.

1794 (July 27) – Barras visits the king. He reports that the child suffers from extreme neglect. He was under the care of prison guards that changed from day to day. He suffered from tumors and scabies, scars covered his body and he had been ravaged by malnutrition. They now clean him and his room up. He is also given an attendant named Jean Jacques Christophe Laurent.

1794 (from the end of October onwards)  --   the king obstinately would not talk to anyone.

1794 (November 8) – Laurent given assistance from a man named Gomin

1794 (December 19) – three commissioners visit the king but he says nothing to them.

1795 (March 31) – after Laurent retires, Étienne Lasne is appointed as guardian.

1795 (May) – the king is seriously ill. A doctor visits him.

1795 (June 1) – the doctor dies and two new doctors are called in.

1795 (June 8) – Charles dies. As tradition, upon his death, his heart is taken out and preserved. He is buried in a mass grave. It is said he died of a scrofulous affection. Now the comte de Provence becomes Louis XVIII.

Almost immediately after the dauphin’s death, rumors start about the dauphin being alive. This gives rise to the legend of the "Lost Dauphin".

1814 – the Bourbon monarchy is restored and immediately and then for decades afterward, hundreds of claimants to the French throne come forward. Quite a few elaborate stories are told about the escape of the dauphin, involving substitutes and deaf mutes.

 

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