Friday, February 09, 2007

"Au revoir, play-actor!"

Lawyer and Parliamentary candidate Sir Anthony Hope-Hawkins, better known as British novelist Anthony Hope, was born on February 9, 1863. He died in 1933.

Hope's best-known work is probably that swashbuckling tale of political intrigue, The Prisoner of Zenda, with its far-fetched yet engaging scenario of identical cousins (cue "Patty Duke Show" music here), one a commoner and the other a king, pitted against the nefarious Prince Michael and Rupert of Henzau (boo, hiss). It was a smash bestseller when published in 1894, which generated a congratulatory telegram to the author from Robert Louis Stevenson.

There were three silent-film Zendas before the beloved 1937 film with Ronald Colman, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and Madeleine Carroll. It was filmed again, less successfully, in 1952 with Stewart Granger, Deborah Kerr, and James Mason, and its premise was also seen in the 1993 movie Dave with Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, and Frank Langella.

I plan to play part 1 of a radio production of "The Prisoner of Zenda" on the February 12th broadcast of my radio show "It's a Mystery." It stars Ronald Colman, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and C. Aubrey Smith. "It's a Mystery" airs at 11 AM ET on Mondays and is Webcast here.

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