Play List:

1. The Rath Boys

2. The Witchfinder

3. A Madcap Prince

4. Corinne

5. The Queen of Connaught

6. The Nine Days’ Queen

7. The Mormons

8. The Shadow of the Sword

9. Lucy Brandon

10. Storm-Beaten

11. Lady Clare

[Flowers of the Forest]

12. A Sailor and His Lass

13. Bachelors

14. Constance

15. Lottie

16. Agnes

17. Alone in London

18. Sophia

19. Fascination

20. The Blue Bells of Scotland

21. Partners

22. Joseph’s Sweetheart

23. That Doctor Cupid

24. Angelina!

25. The Old Home

26. A Man’s Shadow

27. Theodora

28. Man and the Woman

29. Clarissa

30. Miss Tomboy

31. The Bride of Love

32. Sweet Nancy

33. The English Rose

34. The Struggle for Life

35. The Sixth Commandment

36. Marmion

37. The Gifted Lady

38. The Trumpet Call

39. Squire Kate

40. The White Rose

41. The Lights of Home

42. The Black Domino

43. The Piper of Hamelin

44. The Charlatan

45. Dick Sheridan

46. A Society Butterfly

47. Lady Gladys

48. The Strange Adventures of Miss Brown

49. The Romance of the Shopwalker

50. The Wanderer from Venus

51. The Mariners of England

52. Two Little Maids from School

53. When Knights Were Bold


Short Plays

Other Plays

Buchanan’s Theatrical Ventures in America

Poetry Readings





The Fleshly School Controversy
Buchanan and the Press
Buchanan and the Law

The Critical Response
Harriett Jay

Site Diary
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7. When Knights Were Bold - The Films - continued


Script by
Douglas Furber and Austin Parker, directed by Jack Raymond
Musical Numbers by Harry Perritt, George Windeatt, Maurice Sigler, Al Goodhart, Al Hoffman
Cinematographer: Freddie Young
Produced by Capitol Film Corporation
Jack Buchanan         Sir Guy De Vere
Fay Wray                 Lady Rowena
Garry Marsh            Brian Ballymote
Kate Cutler               Aunt Agatha
Martita Hunt           Aunt Esther
Robert Horton        Cousin Bertie
Aubrey Mather        The Canon
Aubrey Fitzgerald     Barker, the butler
Robert Nainby         Whittle, the 'boy'
Moore Marriott       The Tramp
Charles Paton          The Mayor
Barry Fitzgerald
Michael Wilding
Runtime: 76 min
BFI synopsis: “Sir Guy de Vere inherits his father’s estate only to be greeted with hostility from the rest of the family when he goes to live in the family's ancestral home.”


The 1936 version of When Knights Were Bold is available here.

knightsfilm4 knightsfilm5

                     Fay Wray and Jack Buchanan.                                                Fay Wray as Lady Rowena.

Jack Buchanan as Sir Guy in full armour.


The 1936 film contained several musical numbers: ‘I’m Still Dreaming’ and ‘Let’s Put Some People To Work’ by Al Goodhart, Al Hoffman and Maurice Sigler, and ‘Forward, Onward We Go’.

Jack Buchanan singing “Lets Put Some People To Work” from When Knights Were Bold.



The Daily Mirror (31 October, 1935 - p.8)


The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News (21 February, 1936 - p.34)




Daily Express (21 February, 1936 - p.4)


ANYTHING this local farmyard product has it owes to the presence of Jack Buchanan.
     I don’t know whose idea it was to make the famous Christmas kiddie-comedy into a musical talkie. But, granting the premise that it had to be, and nobody could do a thing about it, Jack was the man to play Sir Guy de Vere.
     He still has that easy-going charm which has steered him through many an ill-written scene without a tomato being thrown. He needs all of it here.
     The producers of the film have gone to a lot of trouble and expense to make it what they doubtless regard as cinematic. That is to say that, blanched with terror of critical too-much-dialogue onslaughts, they have added a lot of scenes not in the play, in which people rush about a good deal (injecting action).
     They start off with a scene in Poona, introduced by a map in case you thought it was just a new American abbreviation of piano-tuner.
     Then there are big fight scenes showing the attack on the castle during the dream sequence, and an extremely peculiar procession of medieval knights on variously shaped bicycles. Apart from the stock “Gadzooks!” jokes, this is about the only attempt to capitalise on the possibilities here presented for rich anachronistic comedy.
     In spite of its laudable effort to put more action into a fairly static play, the film script is a rare triumph of unimaginativeness.



The Times (24 February, 1936 - p.10)

     When Knights Were Bold.—The trouble with the films in which Mr. Jack Buchanan appears is that they have no imaginative ambitions. It is obvious that in this musical version of the farce made famous by the late Mr. Bromley Challenor a lot of time and money have been spent on the dream sequences which show Sir Guy de Vere (Mr. Buchanan) back in the Middle Ages, but the only reflection they leave is that they are allowed to go on far too long and that if they are intended as satire on such films as The Crusaders they should have more point and venom. Lack of imagination again, and it is a thousand pities that Mr. Buchanan, who potentially has so much to give to light comedy, is content with films worthy of a player with a quarter of his talents. There are moments, especially at the beginning, as Sir Guy is finding exactly how difficult and feudal his relations can be, when the film breaks into something like freshness and invention—there is one good song which finished disappointingly soon. Miss Fay Wray takes the part of the Lady Rowena with a surprising and triumphant seriousness, but it is not enough, and When Knights Were Bold still leaves Mr. Buchanan in search of his film.



The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News (24 April, 1936 - p.35)


Evening Post (Wellington, New Zealand) (4 July, 1936)


     With the coming of every Buchanan picture to the screen, the public are immediately on tip-toe with expectancy for some new, real song hits, and they will certainly not be disappointed in Jack’s latest success, “When Knights Were   Bold,” which is the main attraction at the Tivoli Theatre. Two of the numbers which enhance the entertainment value of the film are “I’m Still Dreaming” and “Let’s Put Some People to Work,” sung in Jack’s own inimitable breezy style. “When Knights Were Bold” gives an intimate glimpse of Buchanan’s own favourite style of acting, as the producers, Capitol Films, gave him free rein in selecting the story for this, his first “World Standard” production, and he has chosen a mirthful mix-up, brimful of laughs, riotously funny situations, spicy interludes, and catchy songs. The exploits of a New York star reporter who assists the police in solving a mysterious crime, only to find himsslf in jeopardy, are vividly depicted in the second feature, “The Murder Man,” starring Spencer Tracy, with Virginia Bruce, Lionel Atwill, Harvey Stephens, and Robert Barratt.



The New York Times (31 March, 1942)


Ancient Accident

WHEN KNIGHTS WERE BOLD, adapted by Douglas Furber and Austin Parkes from the play by Charles Marlowe; directed by Jack Raymond; produced in England by Capitol Films. At the Little Carnegie Playhouse.

Sir Guy de Vere . . . . . Jack Buchanan
Lady Rowena . . . . . . . . . . .Fay Wray
Brian Ballynote . . . . . . .  Garry Marsh
Aunt Agatha . . . . . . . . . . .Kate Cutler
Aunt Esther . . . . . . . . . . Martitia Hunt
Cousin Bertie . . . . . . . .Robert Horton
The Tramp . . . . . . . . .Moore Marriott


     The Little Carnegie Playhouse refuses to let cold turkeys lie, and again it has raided the ice-box for another relic from a British studio, which it is offering to local audiences as though it were just grabbed off the roost. You may rest assured it wasn't. It is all of six years old—this exceedingly moldy farce-comedy entitled “When Knights Were Bold”—and the only cleverness which it betokens is that of the exhibitors who have previously passed it up.
     It is, to state it briefly, a pointless trifle, a minor vaudeville skit, in which Jack Buchanan, pretending to be an English baronet, has a difficult time comprehending the feudal posing of some pompous relatives. Then he gets conked on the head and dreams the time is 1400, which gives rise to such gags as the following - Halberdier: “What’s afoot?” Buchanan: “Twelve inches, I think.” And, after some aimless aping of “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,” the time switches back to the present—or rather, to 1936—and Mr. Buchanan espouses the beautiful Lady Rowena, who is merely Fay Wray.
     If the Little Carnegie is anxious to show none but British product, why doesn’t it play in revival some really memorable films? We can think of two dozen British pictures such as “The Ghost Goes West,” “South Riding,” “To the Victor” and “Drums,” not to mention the Hitchcock classics, which most certainly retain their appeal. Why expose a blunder which had better be forgot?



New York Post (31 March, 1942 - p.11)

Movie Talk
By Archer Winston

“When Knights Were Bold”
Opens at Little Carnegie

     A Capitol Picture. Directed by Jack Raymond. Screenplay by Douglas Furber and Austin Parkes. From the play by Charles Marlowe.

Sir Guy de Vere . . . . . Jack Buchanan
Lady Rowena . . . . . . . . . . Fay Wray
Brian Ballynote . . . . . . . Garry Marsh
Aunt Agatha . . . . . . . . . . Kate Cutler
Aunt Esther . . . . . . . . . . Martitia Hunt
Cousin Bertie . . . . . . . Robert Horton
The Tramp . . . . . . . . Moore Marriott

     “The amazing thing,” writes the Little Carnegie Playhouse in its current program, “is not that beleaguered Great Britain is continuing to turn out films, despite war-time difficulties, but that they can be so light-hearted and gay, so full of that irresistible spirit that says ‘Yes’ to life that must ultimately confound their enemies. An arch-typical example of this is Jack Buchanan’s latest musical screen comedy, ‘When Knights Were Bold,’ etc.”
     One of the many things wrong with that statement is that the picture, now on view at the Little Carnegie, was produced in 1936, even before England had got around to appeasement. Moreover, the “light-hearted, gay, irresistible spirit” stems from one of the least appealing fountains of British comedy. To put it bluntly, this is a musty, moth-eaten vehicle which was not good even in its own day, which was six years ago. In 1922 the fable had a success in the silent films, and back in the dim days it was a success on the stage.
     Exactly why the Little Carnegie Theatre feels called upon at this time to be exhuming old and inferior British pictures is a puzzle. It does not improve Anglo-American relations. It cannot enrich either British distributors or the American exhibitors. Possibly it is a method of keeping open one of the most pleasant little motion picture theatres in town. If that is the purpose, a program of the better British documentaries would serve as well and prove less excruciating to the audience.
     As for “When Knights Were Bold,” let us forget in the certain knowledge that another week will find it safely back in the can with no other runs in prospect. “Fighting The Fire Bomb” is also on the program. Now let us review what we have learned.



The New York Sun (31 March, 1942 - p.23)

The New Movie

‘When Knights Were Bold,’ Dreary English Farce.


     Humor, even more than romance, is highly perishable. It differs so markedly in different countries that attempts to transport it are often disastrous. The Little Carnegie Playhouse now is showing one of these lesser disasters, “When Knights Were Bold.” This is typical English musical comedy fun. In the United States it seems merely silly.
     Jack Buchanan, British dancing star, sticks to comedy and a bit of singing in “When Knights Were Bold.” In regulation London vaudeville style, he sees to it that no one misses the point of any joke, even if he has to bludgeon the audience into laughing at it. Yesterday afternoon an American audience failed to laugh even then.
     Puns supply much of the comedy, such as there is. Mr. Buchanan plays an army officer returned to England from India when he inherits a castle and title. He finds some aunts and cousins awaiting him grimly at home. They are far from pleased that he has inherited. Only one cousin, a stuffy young person who tries to conceal her sense of humor, is even civil. The new Sir Guy carries on light-heartedly, even dreams of more romantic days, when chivalry was more than a word. The ending is quite as dull as the beginning and the middle, too.
     “When Knights Were Bold” has all the evidence of age, as age goes in the movie world. The Little Carnegie attaches no date to the film. Costumes, dialogue and photography make the film appear to be 3 or 4 years old. Fay Wray, very pretty indeed, plays the stuffy young cousin.


Grahame N’s Web Pages has some additional information about the film, and there’s a review on Dave Sindelar’s Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings site:

“The heir to an ancestral home returns from India to meet his family for the first time. He discovers they are all stiff and joyless, but he falls for his cousin, the Lady Rowena.You know, some of these movies really do leave me scratching my head when I try to decide whether they rightfully belong in the fantastic movie genres or not, and this is one of them. The basic plot of this musical-comedy certainly doesn't give any indication of having a fantastic premise, and for most of the movie I was wondering what would come up. However, the last third of the movie consists of a dream sequence in which our hero ends up in the middle ages and must defend the castle against an onslaught of invaders. It's here that the comedy really takes an anarchic turn, and the question becomes whether outrageous anarchic comedy qualifies as fantastic cinema. However, scenes in which the knights come riding in on bizarre bicycles, and a series of gags involving magnets both push this into the realm of fantasy, so I guess it does qualify to some extent. The movie itself is quite amusing and very British. Barry Fitzgerald and Terry-Thomas both appear somewhere in this movie, though I wouldn't be able to point them out.”

I also came across the following in the William K. Everson Archive at the New York University. It’s a copy of the programme notes for a showing of the film on September 28th, 1970 at the Theodore Huff Memorial Film Society:


Finally, in Fay Wray’s autobiography, On The Other Hand, the film is mentioned in the following passage:

     “A second film with Jack Buchanan was produced by Herbert Wilcox, who arranged the very best contract I ever had. It was totally uncomplicated, not a ‘whereas’ or ‘in the event’ or any kind of legal phrasing. All on one page, it stipulated salary and billing only. Jack, of course, was to have billing over me. When the film, When Knights Were Bold, was finished and was about to be shown in Piccadilly Circus, Vincent Sheehan had come to town. He and John and I were en route to dinner at Boulestin’s in the Strand. I saw workmen putting up lights on the huge marquee of the theater, my name on top of everything. I knew that was wrong but I enjoyed my dinner thoroughly. I had never had a French red wine before: Nuit Saint George. A lovely nuit for me! By the time we passed the theater on our return taxi ride, my lovely nuit was over. Jack Buchanan’s name was up there where mine had been. I wondered if he, too, might have been dining in the Strand that night!”


Swedish poster for Bland Balde Riddersman designed by Gosta Aberg (1905-1981):


Spanish posters for Frac en la Edad Media (“A Tailcoat in the Middle Ages”):


[The Longford Cinema in Stretford, Manchester, February 1937.]



A few shorts and a near-miss

IMDB lists several other films with the ‘When Knights Were Bold’ title - as far as I know titles have never been subject to copyright - not all connected to the ‘Charles Marlowe’ play. There is one from 1908, written by D. W. Griffith, an extract from which is available on youtube, which is unconnected to ‘our’ play. Similarly a couple of cartoons, one from 1915 and a Terry Toon from 1941. And then there’s a Laurel and Hardy spoof from 1923, entitled ‘When Knights Were Cold’, only half of which has survived. However, there is one entry which I believe was probably inspuired by the play, or at least was cashing in on its popularity, since it does include the dream device. Of course, Buchanan stole the device from Mark Twain’s ‘Connecticut Yankee’ and it has been used countless times in various permutations, but going from this plot summary from The Moving Picture World (19 September, 1914 - Vol. 21, No. 12, p. 1645), I would suggest this might be the earliest film version, if not directly credited to, then at least, inspired by, the play.



Wallace Beery -  The Earl
Ruth Hennessy -  The Earl’s Sweetheart
Robert Bolder -  The Earl’s Father
Helen Dunbar -  The Earl’s Mother

Silent, b&w, 1 reel (300 m).
Produced by The Essanay Film Manufacturing Company. Rreleased 7 September, 1914.



Although there is another contender, another dream scenario, but this one, released a few months before has a different title and is performed by children. Here’s the synopsis from The Moving Picture World (25 July, 1914 - Vol. 21, No. 4, p. 615):


And another one from The Moving Picture World (6 August, 1914 - Vol. 21, No. 6, p. 837) revealing the full horror:


I think we can let that one go, since the plot seems to veer into Snow White territory, but if you want the credits here’s the relevant page from IMDB.



And then there’s the near-miss. This only seems to exist as a poster. In black and white:


Or colour:


There’s a clean (no watermark) colour version at Getty Images, which I daren’t nick - best not to mess with the Gettys. And that seems to be it for this 1925 version of When Knights Were Bold starring Raymond Griffith, ‘the Silk Hat Comedian’. According to the article by Bruce Calvert at The Silent Film Still Archive:

“In late 1925, Griffith started having problems working with Paramount.  Several Griffith films were announced to the press, but were never filmed.”

Presumably When Knights Were Bold was one of those.


Raymond Grifith is largely forgotten today, most of his films have been lost, and, because of a childhood bout of diptheria which damaged his vocal cords, he could barely speak above a whisper and so his career largely ended with the advent of the Talkies. However his final film role is worth mentioning, espccially since I’m writing this in 2023, after the new German version of All Quiet On The Western Front, scooped most of the BAFTAS and, in my opinion, should have done the same at this year’s Oscars.

“Griffith's final film role turned out to be his best-remembered one. In Lewis Milestone's All Quiet on the Western Front (Universal, 1930) he played Gerard Duval, a French soldier in the foxhole. In a poignant  scene, he is killed by Lew Ayres' character Paul Baumer. As Duval lays dying, Baumer realizes the horror of the war. Griffith's wordless cameo  performance was a highlight of the movie. Universal studios used a new  high-camera crane to film many of the battle scenes, including Griffith's scene. The film won the Academy Award for best picture of 1930.”


8. When Knights Were Bold - The Musical

or back to When Knights Were Bold main menu








The Fleshly School Controversy
Buchanan and the Press
Buchanan and the Law


The Critical Response
Harriett Jay


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