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The Louis Jourdan Website - The Swan

Director:  Charles Vidor

Writers:  Ferenc Molnár (original play), John Dighton (screenplay)

Other cast members:  Grace Kelly, Alec Guinness, Jessie Royce Landis, Brian Aherne, Estelle Winwood, Agnes Moorehead, Van Dyke Parks

Filmed in the late summer and fall of 1955 with exteriors shot on location at the Biltmore Estate of George W. Vanderbilt in Asheville, North Carolina (as well as Lake Junaluska), and with interiors at MGM Studios who released the movie in April 1956.

The original 1914 Hungarian work by Molnár (Hungarian title meaning "the swan") was translated by Melville C. Baker  to create the 1923 Broadway play "The Swan," starring Eva Le Galliene in the leading role. It was followed by a silent film with Adolphe Menjou as the Crown Prince. Another version, under the title "One Romantic Night" was filmed in 1930 starring Lillian Gish, and Grace Kelly herself appeared in the title role as "The Swan" on television for the series "Actor's Studio" on June 9, 1950.

Louis Jourdan plays a tutor to royal children,  who is in love with their sister - a basically humble and shy man with a streak of boldness

A romantic fable, perfect as a fairy tale castle on a chocolate box, THE SWAN offered a twist on Louis Jourdan's conventional role as a woman's admirer.

Bookish and unassuming, his part as Professor Agi is a continent away from the glamorous and self-assured  Prince Dino in “Three Coins in the Fountain” or lover of Madame Bovary.

Better still, he's a complex man - one who acts correctly and modestly keeping his “lowly” place in the royal household while brimming with confidence on the inside. When the professor commands the fencing lesson, he is like a general.

Agi also hides an undiluted affection for the daughter of the house (Grace Kelly, a week away from becoming a real-life princess when the film premiered), and given half a chance, he expresses his love forthrightly and with self conviction - but never losing the perpetual dignity.

His great “opportunity” to declare himself occurs when the country's Crown Prince (played by Alec Guinness in his first American picture) comes to pay a visit to the diminished family of minor royals, ostensibly to meet the princess with an eye to making her his bride.

Whatever one might have expected from such an encounter, it doesn't happen. (As the Crown Prince describes it, “she was like an icicle, and I was like a fish.”) The two make an art of understatement.

Having shown absolutely no interest in the girl, the Crown Prince's behavior moves the mother to try jealousy as a means of attracting him, and the tutor is brought in as the bait.

Now Louis Jourdan displays a further side of the professor - supremely contented as he waltzes his dream girl around the dance floor, then expresses his admiration in the tenderest way - innocent and hopeful, believing that the princess' invitation to the ball was a declaration of her interest in him.

When she reveals the truth, he snaps again into dignified mode - once more hiding his feelings though stating that he cannot forgive the betrayal.

The inner strength kicks in again when they go inside, and the knight emerges in full flight - not only embracing the princess, kissing her and avowing his love, but also taking on the Crown Prince in a verbal sparring match.

In an entirely convincing performance, Louis Jourdan makes all these changes of character flow seamlessly as layers of the same deep individual. The four-year break away from Hollywood sound stages only proved a benefit.

As a perfect ensemble piece, everyone stands out, executing their parts flawlessly - the younger brothers playing the boisterous chorus when things get too serene, the aunt as jester, her lines peppered with delightful wit, the mother the fool who triumphs anyway, the ingénue floating in white throughout, smooth as silk, the friar uncle, conscience of the affair and the two male leads with their understated ways, frustrating audiences with their apparent inability to capture the maiden. And not least of all, Agnes Moorhead (as the Queen) breezes in at the end, and virtually starts a whole new picture centering around herself. A triumph.

Watch THE SWAN online

Clip 1 - news of Crown Prince's visit that could turn a princess into a queen

Clip 2 - The Prince arrives, but proves a disappointment to the hopeful family

Clip 3 - Mother has the idea to make the tutor an object of jealousy

Clip 4 - A dream comes true for the tutor as he dances with the Princess

Clip 5 - His love revealed , she admits his invitation to the ball was her mother's ploy

Clip 6 - After first disappointment, they declare their love for one another

Clip 7 - In the morning, he leaves, knowing their love can never be

Clip 8 - The Crown Prince understands her disappointment, but offers hope

NOT TO BE MISSED - The fencing scene - Click image to see it