« The King's Jester »
"The King's Jester", which opened yesterday at the Apollo in West Forty-second Street, is an Italian dramatization of Victor Hugo's invective play, "Le Roi s'amuse", from which Giuseppe Verdi drew in composing his masterpiece, "Rigoletto". While the Verdi music is used only to create atmosphere, only the " La Donna e Mobile" aria is sung in its entirety, for the film is primarily concerned with the story of Hugo's somewhat acerbic portrayal of the dandified aristocracy of sixteenth-century France.
Michel Simon, who speaks a fluent Italian, gives an impressive performance as Rigoletto, the clown whose lashing invectives draw a fatal curse from a condemned courtier whom he has insulted. His characterization of the Jester represents a rich mixture of mocking, pitiless clowning and touching pathos. And his acting is nicely matched in the romantic scenes by Maria Mercader as the daughter of the pleasure-seeking King Francis I.
However, aside from M. Simon and the singing of Toti dal Monte and Ferruccio Tagliavini, the picture has many weaknesses not only in its slow-moving story but also in photography, which is fuzzy. The Italian dialogue is adequately translated in the English titles. J. B.