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Film / Disraeli

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Disraeli is a 1929 film directed by Alfred E. Green, starring George Arliss, his wife Florence Arliss, Doris Lloyd, and a young, gorgeous Joan Bennett.

George Arliss plays Benjamin Disraeli, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 1868 and 1874-80. The film concentrates on Disraeli's efforts to purchase a controlling interest in the newly constructed Suez Canal in 1875. When Lord Probert, the director of the Bank of England, refuses to back the initiative—revealing a strong anti-Semitic dislike of Disraeli—the prime minister turns to a private banker for the funds. While outflanking Probert, Disraeli has to outwit two Russian spies: the treacherous Mrs. Travers (Lloyd) and Mr. Foljambe, who is working as Disraeli's secretary. And while doing all this, he finds the time to match up his assistant Lord Charles Deeford with the lovely Lady Clarissa Pevensey (Bennett).

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Disraeli is typical of the stiff, dull, stagey films that constituted most early talkies. George Arliss won the Academy Award for Best Actor for alternating between dullness and Large Ham as Disraeli.


Tropes:

  • As You Know: Some awkward exposition. like when someone asks Lord Probert "What does the director of the Bank of England say?", only for Lord Probert to answer "I say...".
  • Batman Gambit: The Russians try to shortcircuit Disraeli's scheme by ruining Myers, the banker who's financing the purchase. Disraeli goes back to Probert and asks him to extend Myers credit in order to let the purchase proceed. When Probert refuses, Disraeli goes on a long rant about how he'll expose Probert for being unpatriotic, and ruin him and his bank. Probert caves, signing a letter of credit. Afterwards, Disraeli admits to Clarissa and his wife that he was completely bluffing about having the power to revoke the charter of the Bank of England.
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  • Call-Forward: Disraeli observes that "a ferment is at work all over the world" due to "the spirit of nationality" causing conflicts between the great powers. World War I is forty years in the future.
  • Government Procedural: Although it's really more about backstage maneuvering.
  • Happily Married: Mr. and Mrs. Disraeli, played by the Happily Married George and Florence Arliss. Disraeli is distraught when his wife Mary is too ill to come with him to a congratulatory reception being thrown by Queen Victoria.
  • High-Class Glass: Disraeli wears one. He is the Prime Minister, after all.
  • Hypocritical Humor: At the reception celebrating the purchase of the Suez Canal, Lord Probert, who violently opposed the purchase and personally insulted Disraeli in doing so, brags about how Disraeli consulted him and how they worked together to close the deal.
  • The Matchmaker: After Charles completely botches his proposal to Clarissa, Disraeli makes Charles his personal aid in part to match him back up with her.
  • The Mole: Mr. Foljambe, a Russian spy working as Disraeli's private secretary. Disraeli has sniffed him out, however.
  • The Remake: Of a 1921 silent film that also starred Mr. and Mrs. Arliss as Mr. and Mrs. Disraeli.
  • Mononymous Biopic Title: Although it's really about a short period in 1875, not Disraeli's whole life.
  • Spy Fiction: Definitely of the Martini variety, as Disraeli and Mrs. Travers trade wisecracks, and Mrs. Travers gives him a wave and a rueful smile when she finally realizes he's outwitted her and secured the canal.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: Clarissa keeps her handkerchief there.
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