The Iron Duke
The Iron Duke – 1934 | 88 mins | Drama | B&W
The Iron Duke is a historical biopic charting a short period in the Duke of Wellington’s life from 1815 to 1816; as he attempts to restore peace to France in the wake of Napoleon’s reign. Wellington (George Arliss), has captured Napoleon and placed the exiled Louis XVIII on the throne of France. Wellington travels to the Congress of Vienna to persuade the alliance that the delicate peace in Europe can only be maintained by the fair-handed treatment of France. However, word soon arrives that Napoleon has escaped from Elba and whilst the King begins to panic, Wellington keeps his calm and assembles his men. The Battle of Waterloo ensues, in which Wellington’s army is victorious. The threat destroyed, Wellington’s attentions focus on creating peace in France. Unknown to him, however, the King’s vengeful niece (Gladys Cooper) is plotting to disgrace Wellington and create unrest on the streets of Paris. At home, Wellington must contend with a House of Lords that are hostile to his decision not to impose stern sanctions on the French.
The colourful yet flat historical drama features George Arliss as the Iron Duke, who was skilled at playing historical characters and delivers a typically perceptive performance. The film recounts the military conflict, political intrigue and personal scandal that filled Wellington’s time, and depicts him as both a skilful military tactician and world statesman. The Waterloo battle scenes are disappointingly staged but the interior sets are excellent.