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The Iron Duke (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Iron Duke
"The Iron Duke" (1934).jpg
Directed byVictor Saville
Written by
Produced byMichael Balcon
CinematographyCurt Courant
Edited byIan Dalrymple
Music byLouis Levy
Distributed byGainsborough Pictures (UK)
Release date
30 November 1934 (London)
Running time
88 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

The Iron Duke is a 1934 British historical film directed by Victor Saville and starring George Arliss, Ellaline Terriss and Gladys Cooper. Arliss plays Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington in the events leading up to the Battle of Waterloo and beyond.[1]

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With Napoleon defeated and exiled, the reluctant Duke of Wellington is persuaded by Lord Castelreagh to represent Great Britain's interests at the Congress of Vienna, where the victorious allies will decide the future of Europe. While there, his friend the Duchess of Richmond introduces the married man to the pretty Lady Frances Webster, an ardent admirer, at her ball. During the course of the evening, however, Wellington receives an urgent message: Napoleon has escaped and has landed in France.[a]

French King Louis XVIII and his niece and most trusted adviser, Madame, the Duchess d'Angoulême, are not alarmed in the least. Ney, formerly one of Napoleon's marshals, volunteers to take 4000 picked men and capture his former leader. However, he switches sides, and the majority of Frenchmen follow suit.

With France once again under Napoleon's control, both sides race to gather their armies. Napoleon routs the Prussians under Marshal Blücher before coming to grips with his old nemesis Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo. At the crucial point of the battle, Blücher's timely arrival turns the tide, and Napoleon is defeated for the final time.

The allies occupy France and gather in Paris to divide the spoils. Once again, Castelreagh sends Wellington to try to restrain the others from punishing France too severely, in order to ensure a lasting peace. Wellington's task is made more difficult by the opposition of Madame, who is certain he wants to rule France himself.

Wellington warns Louis that Madame's desire to have the still-popular Ney executed for treason would risk another revolution. Madame arranges for Wellington's recall to London to answer a newspaper story that he is carrying on an affair with Lady Frances. Wellington soon disproves the claim, but while he is gone, Ney is convicted and shot by firing squad. The French people are outraged. Upon his return, Wellington forces the King to dismiss his advisers, including Madame.

Back in London, Wellington has to defend his decision to accept no reparations for his country.



The film was the ninth most popular at the British box office in 1935–36.[2]

The New York Times reviewer wrote, "The Iron Duke can be recommended to Mr. Arliss's admirers everywhere as a pseudo-historical drama which manages to be both impressive and amusing and which reveals the star at his very best".[3] The Maclean's magazine critic complained that "The picture went on quite a long time after Waterloo, however, without a great deal of story to go on" and that "George Arliss, however, with his familiar blend of elderly gentlemanly oddity and amiability, didn't seem very fortunately cast as a warrior, especially a warrior on the grand scale of the Duke of Wellington."[4]

More recently, TV Guide gave the film two out of four stars, and wrote, "Not only are the pace and direction of The Iron Duke uninspired and haphazard, but the script is rife with historical inaccuracies, the glossing over of less flattering events, and definite misrepresentation in the case of Marshal Ney's (Willard) execution".[5] Britmovie called the film a "colourful yet flat historical drama", though it praised George Arliss, "who was skilled at playing historical characters and delivers a typically perceptive performance."[6]


  1. ^ In real life at the time of the ball Lady Frances Webster was heavily pregnant with her second child who would be christened Charles Byron and was born in Paris on 28 August 1815.[7]
  1. ^ "The Iron Duke (1935)".
  2. ^ "The Film Business in the United States and Britain during the 1930s" by John Sedgwick and Michael Pokorny, The Economic History Review New Series, Vol. 58, No. 1 (Feb., 2005), pp. 79–112
  3. ^ "Movie Reviews". The New York Times. 18 January 2022.
  4. ^ Ross, Ann (15 March 1935). "Shots and Angles". Maclean's.
  5. ^ "The Iron Duke".
  6. ^ "The Iron Duke 1934 – Britmovie – Home of British Films".
  7. ^ Wedderburn 1898, p. 334.


External links

This page was last edited on 23 May 2023, at 18:15
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