THE STUDENT PRINCE IN OLD HEIDELBERG
Produced and Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Premiere: September 21, 1927 (New York)
Released: January 30, 1928
Featured cast: Norma Shearer, Ramon Novarro, Jean Hersholt
Producer: Irving Thalberg
Director: Ernst Lubitsch
Screenwriters: Hanns Kräly (as Hans Kraly); Marian Ainslee, Ruth Cummings (titles)
Source: Alt Heidelberg: Schauspiel in fünf Aufzügen, a book by Wilhelm Meyer-Fӧrster; The Student Prince, a play by Dorothy Donnelly, Sigmund Romberg
Cinematographer: John Mescall
A girl working in a beer garden catches the eye of a prince who is studying at the nearby university.
“Claims to the film rights of Old Heidelberg have been made by the author Meyer-Fӧrster and the Czerepy Film Company, who have made demands against M-G-M representatives in Berlin for $500,000. Fӧrster claims that he never relinquished rights to his story when Ufa filmed it several years ago.”
- “Dispute Over Old Heidelberg,” The Film Daily, June 2, 1927
“M-G-M has purchased screen rights of The Student Prince operetta. The title will be supplemented by the subtitle In Old Heidelberg. The purchase will permit use of musical selections from the operetta in connection with the picture, which is expected to see a road show release.”
- “M-G-M Buys Student Prince,” The Film Daily, June 17, 1924
“In this new offering, Mr. Lubitsch lives up to all that has been written about him. He may be a stylist, but he is one who does not choose to repeat on any of his past bright camera ideas. Yet the satirical shafts, the careful attention to telling details, the half-second notes and the keeping within certain bounds, inform the spectator, even though the name of Lubitsch were not emblazoned on the screen, that it is the master from Berlin who has directed this splendid shadow story. Norma Shearer is attractive as Kathie. She, however, does not seem to put her soul into the part. She does not respond as other players have done to Mr. Lubitsch’s direction.”
- Mordaunt Hall, The New York Times, September 22, 1927
“Ernst Lubitsch gets the very best out of his company. Ramon Novarro has a fine part as Prince Karl Heinrich and fills it with a charming sincerity. Norma Shearer is a graceful, tender Kathie. The careful casting and perfect acting of every part, down to the very smallest, give a fine finish to this wholly attractive film.”
- Michael Orme, Illustrated London News, February 18, 1928
LETTERS FROM REGIONAL THEATER OWNERS
“This picture failed to please those who saw it. We lost money because we paid M-G-M too much for it.”
- W.L. Komegay, Victoria Theatre, Mount Olive, North Carolina, Exhibitors Herald and Moving Picture World, April 28, 1928
“Our advertising proved effective on this, but our patrons expressed disappointment. The proper music is needed to bring this picture out.
- B.V. MacDougald, Amuse-U Theatre, Monticello, Arkansas, Exhibitors Herald and Moving Picture World, May 5, 1928
“A picture which will please the better class. Well acted and a good story. Had many favorable comments. The roughnecks may not like it, but we have to please both classes at times.
- John Cosner, Sun Theatre, Sargent, Nebraska, Exhibitors Herald and Moving Picture World, May 5, 1928
“Being a brilliant mimic, Ernst Lubitsch used to act out scenes and expect you to imitate his way of doing it. I found it difficult to copy this inimitable little rascal with his sly, impish face. He was a master of the art of ridicule. I was afraid of this, although I enjoyed his sense of the ridiculous. I was in awe of his mind but never found his heart.”
- Norma Shearer, Memoir Notes
The Student Prince cost $1,205,000 and grossed $1,556,000. It lost $307,000. Since starting with M-G-M, Norma Shearer had made films that were consistently and increasingly profitable. This was the first to lose money, possibly because of two star salaries, costly production values, and a sad ending.
(These figures have not been adjusted for inflation nor do they include profits from reissues, television syndication, and home entertainment formats.)