Academy Releases “The Prisoner of Zenda”

Beverly Hills, CA (December 1, 2009) — In celebration of what would have been Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.’s 100th birthday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will screen “The Prisoner of Zenda” on Wednesday, December 9, at 8 p.m. at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. Oscar®-winning visual effects supervisor Craig Barron and Oscar-winning sound designer Ben Burtt will examine the innovative photographic and sound effects used in creating the classic 1937 film.

The evening will feature rare behind-the-scenes color footage of “Zenda” from the Academy Film Archive’s Home Movie Collection, including footage of the film’s cinematographer James Wong Howe and his camera crew, along with Fairbanks practicing sword fighting for the film. The presentation will also include never-before-seen camera tests from the personal collection of the film’s visual effects cameraman Clarence Slifer that show how many of the film’s illusions were created. In addition, Burtt will demonstrate how the sound effects from the film’s famous sword fighting scene were achieved.

“The Prisoner of Zenda,” which stars Fairbanks along with Ronald Colman, Madeleine Carroll, Raymond Massey, C. Aubrey Smith and David Niven, is based on the 1894 adventure novel by Anthony Hope. “Zenda” tells the story of the soon-to-be-crowned King of Ruritania (Colman), who is abducted by his rival Black Michael (Massey) on the eve of his coronation, and the distant cousin Rudolf Rassendyll (also played by Colman) who must impersonate him in order to save the monarchy.

Presented by the Academy’s Science and Technology Council, “Zenda” stands out as being one of the first Hollywood sound films to successfully enable one actor (Colman) to appear as two different characters within the same shot, using in-camera split-screens and an audio playback system.

The film earned Academy Award® nominations for Art Direction (Lyle Wheeler) and Music – Scoring (Selznick International Pictures Music Department, Alfred Newman, musical director).

Tickets to “The Prisoner of Zenda,” are $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students with a valid ID.

Tickets are available for purchase by mail, at the Academy box office (8949 Wilshire Boulevard, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.), or online at Doors open one hour prior to the event. All seating is unreserved.

The Samuel Goldwyn Theater is located at the 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. For more information call (310) 247-3600 or visit

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Teni Melidonian

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