Although this Fox epic, lavishly produced but thin on historical accuracy, starred Power--then fourth billed--the top star was listed as the precocious Bartholomew, the studio's wunderkind, who plays Power as a boy. Bartholomew and his pal Scott, playing a young Horatio, later Lord
Nelson, one of England's greatest naval heroes, overhear pirates in 1770 planning to scuttle a ship and steal its cargo. Both boys run off to inform the great insurance brokers, Lloyds of London, but Scott gets side-tracked and only Bartholomew finds his way to the brokerage house. He cannot enter
until a kindly Benjamin Franklin (Pogue) escorts him inside. He finds the senior official, Standing, and reports his terrible findings. Standing takes quick action and then rewards Bartholomew with an apprenticeship with the firm. He grows up to be Power, a man who stands high in the company,
especially after inventing a message relay system to bring news to England from the continent and because of his lifelong friendship with Nelson, played as a grownup by Burton. Sanders, the haughty nephew of the First Lord of the Admiralty, hates Power for his influential position.
When Napoleon Bonaparte comes to power in France, Power goes to the continent to aid some of his friends who are trapped in the Reign of Terror, rescuing a beautiful English girl, Carroll. He smuggles her back to England but she vanishes. Power learns that Carroll is the wife of his nemesis,
Sanders, and he tries to put her out of his mind by swamping himself with work. Power has a bit of sweet revenge when Sanders requests a loan from Lloyds to cover his enormous gambling debts. The strutting Sanders is turned down, becoming a mortal enemy of Power as well as of Lloyds'. The
insurance brokerage firm itself falls upon hard times when it refuses to insure ships after England begins to lose its war with Bonaparte. Carroll gives her fortune to help shore up the company at Power's request and Sanders almost goes crazy when he hears of this. Moreover, he believes that Power
has lied when bringing news through his relay service that his friend Nelson has won a great naval victory over the French at Trafalgar. He begins to spread the word that Power and Lloyds are complete frauds--which almost ruins the company--but, at the last minute, confirmation of Nelson's victory
and tragic death arrives and the day is saved. Sanders finds Carroll in Power's arms and explodes, challenging Power to a duel. Power is wounded but Sanders dies of a fatal wound. Carroll now nurses the man she really loves back to health and happiness.
The production is rich and historically correct in costume and props but the events have been twisted about a bit, a habit of Fox boss Zanuck who took great liberties with the facts in most of the historical epics he made in the 1930s, including THE HOUSE OF ROTHSCHILD, CLIVE OF INDIA, and others,
causing critics of his studio to dub the studio "16th Century-Fox." This was the first of eleven films director King would make with Power, who was nothing more than a lowly contract player until Zanuck decided to risk a big-budget film on him. LLOYDS OF LONDON made Power an overnight sensation,
and he became one of Fox's greatest stars. Actually King was the man who urged Zanuck to give Power the break; Power had been a studio stock player and was literally pulled from the ranks, replacing Don Ameche, whom Zanuck originally cast in the lead part. Carroll was also a replacement. Loretta
Young had originally signed to play the femme lead against Ameche, but when King began building Power's part--at the expense of her own role, she believed--Young exploded in fury at the upstart youngster's part being padded and left the production. The studio spent $850,000 on the film, its
biggest budget to date, and soon had a hit. The film earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Interior Decoration.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Although this Fox epic, lavishly produced but thin on historical accuracy, starred Power--then fourth billed--the top star was listed as the precocious Bartholomew, the studio's wunderkind, who plays Power as a boy. Bartholomew and his pal Scott, playing a… (more)