David Niven in Bonnie Prince Charlie (1948)

Niven's Stiff Upper Lip

Having been living in exile in Italy for many years, James Francis Edward the son of deposed King James II feels his time has past and is too old to return home to reclaim the English, Scottish and Irish crowns. So instead he summons his son, Prince Charles Edward Stuart and makes him Prince Regent, entrusting him with the task of returning home to reclaim the crowns from King George II, the current monarch.

I have always been a fan of David Niven ever since I first saw him in "Casino Royale", yes I know it wasn't a great movie but as a child it entertained. Sadly I can't say the same of the earlier David Niven movie "Bonnie Prince Charlie" as not only wasn't it great but failed to entertain either and frankly comes across like an expensive dirge. Maybe back in 1948 this dramatisation of history will have entertained and maybe those with knowledge of these historical events will be able to appreciate its reconstruction of them, although I wouldn't be surprised if those with historical knowledge dislike it as well.

The trouble with "Bonnie Prince Charlie" is that it is a product of its era and as such is more of a stiff costume drama rather than realistically dramatic. As such when we see people in battle they miraculously manage to fight without getting grubby and that was sadly expected of the era as who wanted to see a star looking anything other than clean and handsome. This has a knock on effect when it comes to the acting because the like of Niven and Hawkins end up struggling to establish characters ending up coming across as clothes horses reciting lines with little passion or belief.

What this all boils down to is that "Bonnie Prince Charlie" is one of those old movies which hasn't aged at all well and now comes across as stiff costume drama rather than an entertaining biopic.