Poster of Professional Soldier
|Directed by||Tay Garnett|
|Produced by||Darryl F. Zanuck|
|Based on||"Gentlemen, the King!"|
by Damon Runyon
|Edited by||Barbara McLean|
Professional Soldier is a 1935 adventure film based on a 1931 story by Damon Runyon, "Gentlemen, the King!" It stars Victor McLaglen and Freddie Bartholomew. The film was directed by Tay Garnett, and produced by Twentieth Century Fox.
The film concerns the kidnapping of young Prince Peter, the rightful heir to the throne of a small European country. After the deed is done, the hired kidnapper learns that the new king is evil and plans to set up a dictatorship, and that the young Prince Peter is in danger of being killed. The kidnapper escapes from prison in order to rescue young Peter and restore him to the throne.
Michael Donovan (McLaglen), a soldier of fortune and former Marine colonel, is fed up with his latest job: keeping spoiled playboy George Foster (Michael Whalen) out of trouble from women and liquor. Thus, he is eager to accept when revolutionaries Valdis (Lumsden Hare) and Ledgard (Walter Kingsford) want to hire him to kidnap King Peter II, ruler of a country somewhere in the Balkans. When a drunken Foster wakes up and interrupts their meeting, Donovan calls him his aide.
When the two men sneak back into the palace later that night, they are surprised to discover that Peter (Freddie Bartholomew) is just a boy. Donovan is too disgusted to want to abduct him, though Peter is thrilled at the idea of an adventure. However, when Countess Sonia stumbles upon the scene and raises the alarm, Donovan has no choice. Peter helpfully shows him a secret escape passage; Sonia reluctantly goes with them to take care of the lad.
As prearranged, the kidnappers take Peter to Lady Augusta (Constance Collier), who turns out to be Peter's former nurse. Donovan's employers succeed in overthrowing Gino (C. Henry Gordon) and installing their own reform government under the leadership of Stefan Bernaldo (Pedro de Cordoba).
As time goes on, Donovan becomes very fond of Peter and vice versa, while Foster convinces Sonia he really does love her. However, that does not sway her from what she sees as her duty; she manages to send a message to Gino revealing where the king is being held. Peter and Donovan initially evade Gino's men, but are recaptured within sight of the palace.
Peter orders Gino to release Donovan unharmed, but Gino secretly has him imprisoned. Gino tells supporter Prince Edric (Lester Matthews) to start rumors that the new regime has killed the very popular king. Edric is aghast, grasping the implication that Gino intends to murder Peter. Sonia also realizes her mistake, and frees Donovan and Foster. With Foster's help, Donovan kills or captures all 250 of Gino's men just in time to save Peter from a firing squad. When Gino resists, Donovan shoots him. Later, a grateful Peter bestows a decoration on Donovan before they tearfully part.
- Victor McLaglen as Michael Donovan
- Freddie Bartholomew as King Peter
- Gloria Stuart as Countess Sonia
- Constance Collier as Lady Augusta
- Michael Whalen as George Foster
- C. Henry Gordon as Gino
- Pedro de Cordoba as Stefan Bernaldo
- Lumsden Hare as Paul Valdis
- Walter Kingsford as Christian Ledgard
- Lester Matthews as Prince Edric
- Rita Hayworth as Gypsy dancer (uncredited)
In the New York Times, Frank Nugent wrote "Professional Soldier is incongruous, it is loud and, intermittently, it is funny. ... Although there are long moments when nothing happens, the picture is rousingly comic in the scenes devoted to Colonel Mike's battles, and it has some claim to fame in presenting the most amazing co-starring team in screen history – Victor McLaglen and little Freddie Bartholomew."
The 2015 DVD Talk review of the film calls it "an enjoyable – if often sketchy – big screen adventure", adding that "To its credit, you don't really care that Professional Soldier bounces nonsensically around ... because the dialogue is light and amusing ... while the players, particularly McLaglen and Bartholomew, are charming together."
- Runyon, Damon. "Gentlemen, the King!" Collier's. April 25, 1931.
- New York Times review
- Greene, Graham (22 May 1936). "Klondyke Annie/Professional Soldier". The Spectator. (reprinted in: John Russel, Taylor, ed. (1980). The Pleasure Dome. p. 76. ISBN 0192812866.)