If I Were King  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

If I Were King is a 1938 biographical historical drama film starring Ronald Colman as medieval poet François Villon, and featuring Basil Rathbone and Frances Dee. It is based on the 1901 play and novel, both of the same name, by Justin Huntly McCarthy, and was directed by Frank Lloyd.


King Louis XI of France (Basil Rathbone) is in desperate straits. He is besieged in Paris by the Burgundians and suspects that there is a traitor in his court. He goes in disguise to a tavern to see who accepts a message from the enemy. While there, he is amused by the antics of poet François Villon (Ronald Colman), who has stolen food from the royal storehouse. The rascal criticizes the king and brags about how much better he would do if he were in Louis' place.

The traitor is revealed to be Grand Constable D'Aussigny (John Miljan), but before he can be arrested, the turncoat is killed in a brawl by Villon. As a jest, Louis rewards Villon by making him the new Constable, though the king secretly intends to have him executed after a week.

His low-born origin kept a secret, Villon falls in love with lady-in-waiting Katherine DeVaucelles (Frances Dee) and she with him. Then Louis informs Villon about his grim fate. Villon escapes, but when the Burgundians break down the city gates, he rallies the common people in routing them and lifting the siege. Having had to put up with Villon's impudence and wanting less aggravation in his life, Louis decides to permanently exile him from Paris. Villon leaves on foot, with Katherine following at a discreet distance in her carriage.

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