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‘Her Highness and the Bellboy’ From 1945: Royalty and Romance

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Commentary

“Her Highness and the Bellboy” from 1945 is an MGM film produced by Joe Pasternak starring Hedy Lamarr, Robert Walker, and June Allyson. It has become an obscure film, but it was a big hit for the studio upon its original release. Although made at the height of World War II, the film includes no references to the war. Despite the modern clothing and hairstyles, the story is obviously set in pre-war days, specifically 1938, since one of the characters refers to a radio as “the latest 1938 model.”

This movie was successful and popular because it’s a lovely fairytale. As such, it offered a much-needed escape from the harsh realities of wartime life.

Epoch Times Photo
Cropped screenshot of Hedy Lamarr from the trailer for the film “Her Highness and the Bellboy” from 1945. (Public Domain)

A Fairytale

The story primarily takes place at a grand hotel in New York City. The central character is Jimmy Dobson (Walker), a hotel bellboy whose main job is walking guests’ dogs. His best friend is Albert Weever (Rags Ragland), a slow-witted but very kind hotel porter whom Jimmy tries to keep out of criminal activity. Jimmy and Albert are devoted friends to Leslie Odell (Allyson), a sweet but frail young lady who paints Santa Claus figurines for a little money, since she can’t walk.

One day, Jimmy meets a gorgeous young woman named Veronica (Lamarr) as she is leaving the hotel, and he assumes that she is a new maid. They spend some time together, and he is obviously mesmerized by her beauty. When they get back to the hotel, the manager (Ferdinand Munier) reveals that she is in fact a visiting European princess. He wants to fire Jimmy for being so familiar with their royal guest, but Veronica saves his job by requesting him as her personal attendant. The princess is visiting New York with her aunt, Countess Zoe (Agnes Moorehead), the prime minister, Mr. Pufi (Ludwig Stossel), and her persistent suitor, Baron Zoltan Faludi (Carl Esmond). Zoe knows that her niece wanted to come to the United States to see her forbidden sweetheart, columnist Paul McMillan (Warner Anderson), with whom she fell in love back in Europe six years ago. They parted ways because she realized that she needed to marry a nobleman, but now that she is a widow, she wants to see her true love again, hoping that he still loves her.

Meanwhile, Jimmy is spending all his time with Princess Veronica, staying late at the hotel night after night while Leslie patiently waits for him to visit her. She is deeply in love with him, but she is afraid that an invalid like her can’t compete with the beautiful princess. Her fears are not unfounded, since Jimmy believes he is falling in love with Veronica. He begins to forget how much he cares about Leslie as he grows to believe that the princess is in love with him. Little does he realize that she and Paul, with whom he eagerly reunited her, are still deeply in love.

Epoch Times Photo
Cropped screenshot of Hedy Lamarr and Robert Walker from the trailer for the film “Her Highness and the Bellboy” from 1945. (Public Domain)

A Fairytale Romance

“Her Highness and the Bellboy” revolves around a fairytale theme. It’s a story about a princess and a commoner, whose love is forbidden by her rank. In addition to this general concept, the story is told in the fashion of a fairytale. Although most of the movie takes place in New York, the prologue shows Princess Veronica on her palace balcony in Europe, accompanied by the narration, “Once upon a time, not so many years ago, in an old kingdom there was an old castle, and in the castle lived a princess, a lovely, lonely princess.” The storytelling theme continues all the way to “And they lived happily ever after.”

In the movie, Jimmy frequently reads fairytales to Leslie and Albert. As he reads the story of a lonely princess and the simple swineherd who loved her, all the tenants of their apartment building gather on the roof to hear the touching story. Leslie’s eyes grow dreamy as she listens to her beloved Jimmy’s voice. Later, she falls asleep while Albert reads her the story of “The Princess and the Frog.” This leads into a magical dream sequence, in which Leslie is at a royal ball hosted by King Albert, wearing her pajamas! She is surrounded by ballerinas, whom she joins in their dance, since she was once a dancer. The ball is interrupted by a giant frog, who magically transforms into her Prince Jimmy. This is the only real musical number, although some of the characters sing at other points in the film.

Epoch Times Photo
Cropped screenshot of June Allyson from the film “Her Highness and the Bellboy” from 1945. (Public Domain)

Who is better suited to playing a European princess than Hedy Lamarr? She exudes royalty with her elegant beauty. She was famous for her exotic style, including dramatic turbans and hats, and her fashion is gorgeous and perfectly fitting for Princess Veronica. Robert Walker is charmingly funny and endearing in the role of Jimmy, although we viewers are bound to get frustrated when he seems to be forgetting about Leslie. June Allyson’s performance is heartwarming and heartrending at the same time. She’s so sweet and brave, even as she sees the man she loves losing interest in her for another woman. She’s happy that his qualities are being recognized, even if his good fortune will take him away from her, since she just wants him to be happy. Rags Ragland has an unusually large role, playing a comedic sidekick throughout the film. He’s an uneducated thug, but he has a wonderful heart, if not a sound moral compass. His inability to pronounce words correctly and his unbreakable habit of casually flirting with every girl he sees provide comic relief.

A Delightful Film

This is a Joe Pasternak production through and through, because it has lots of heart as well as lots of laughs. He is my favorite producer from the Golden Era of Hollywood; his films struck the perfect balance between being heavy and being silly. They are fun yet meaningful with excellent actors. “Her Highness and the Bellboy” is a great example of one of his non-musical (or nearly so) films, since many of his movies centered around musical stars and classical musicians.

Epoch Times Photo
Cropped screenshot of Hedy Lamarr from the trailer for the film “Her Highness and the Bellboy” from 1945. (Public Domain)

This is a delightful movie which is lighthearted enough to enjoy at any time. One of the quirkiest recurring gags is that Jimmy rattles off U.S. city names when he’s confused or stalling, a habit which other characters imitate. You have to see it yourself to really understand what I’m describing, but I’ll just say Schenectady goes to the Baltimore for an Albuquerque in Fresno! However, it also has inspiring story elements.

All the central characters in this film show great acts of selflessness and compassion for the people they love and hold dear. Jimmy and Albert spend their time and money to heal Leslie’s body and spirit, whether that’s with medical treatments, gifts, or just reading her stories. Leslie hates to be a burden on anyone, and she’s willing to sacrifice her own happiness to see Jimmy be happy. Jimmy gets into trouble with criminals because he is insistent on keeping his good friend Albert out of trouble by helping him stay honest. In return, Albert is his faithful companion in everything. Even Veronica and Paul show great selflessness, since they deny the desires of their hearts for years because of their strong senses of duty. This fairytale movie has a wonderful message about bravery and love.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.



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