Barrymore had signed for a 2 picture contract with Joseph Schenck of UNITED ARTISTS. There was no time clause in the contract and since it took 2 years to make THE BELOVED ROGUE and THE TEMPEST, John ended up earning less than $2,000 per week as compared to the $10,000 per week he earned at WARNERS. The renowned german actor, CONRAD VEIDT, was brought to Hollywood to play Louis XI. When he was met at the train station by BARRYMORE, such was his admiration for John that he fell to his knees and kissed his hand. BARRYMORE'S performance is probably his most athletic. Usually wearing tights, he is even a more blatant sex object in a sequence when wearing nothing but a torn loin cloth, he flexes while being tortured.
Unquestionably the highpoint of the film is the clown sequence. Crowned King of the Fools, Villon is dressed in traditional clown costume and make-up: white face, big red nose, bright lipstick, bald head, etc. His reaction to the banishment from his beloved Paris by the King, was never more expressive or touching. It is a sequence of transcendent acting impossible to forget. Using only his face BARRYMORE expresses what most actors using their entire bodies and voices are unable to convey.
He gaily skips arm in arm with his drinking cohorts, passionately embraces his beloved and theatrically defies his captors. An heroic slide down a banister culminates in a very unheroic pratfall. Afraid of being discovered in a lady's boudoir, looking for a place to hide, he hitches up the lady's skirt. These moments do "burlesque the whole idea of romance" though they are fewer in number and consequently less effective in their over-all impact on the film's tone than was Barrymore's original intent.
VILLON ALWAYS IDOL OF BARRYMORE
"As a result of a conversation between my sister ETHEL and CISSIE LOFTUS, I was commissioned to do a poster for E.H. SOTHERN'S production of Justin McCarthay's Francois Villon play IF I WERE KING, in which Miss Loftus was the leading woman. The poster I turned out for the production was a good one and was in use many years, and later, when the play was revived, it was used again. It does not embarrass me to mention how good this drawing was, for BRIDGMAN did most of it." (note; JB had studied art in a school run by GEORGE BRIDGMAN) "I believe Mr. DANIEL FROHMAN, Sothern's Manager, paid me five dollars for it"
In a bit of business first used in SHERLOCK HOLMES and then repeated in ARSENE LUPIN, TWENTIETH CENTURY AND BULLDOG DRUMMOND COMES BACK, he slowly takes off his (KING OF FOOLS) make-up. In the first two films the sequences come as surprises and are testaments to his mimetic skill. The sequences in the last two films are essentially sardonic comments on his famous profile. But in the sequence in THE BELOVED ROGUE any thoughts of mimetic talent or persona reference vanish in the face of such overwhelming artistry.
BARRYMORE TRIED TO MAKE BUSTER LAUGH
A story is being told in Hollywood of a chance meeting between JOHN BARRYMORE and BUSTER KEATON in a cigar store the day after The Beloved Rogue had been completed.
The great actor was happy over completion of his first United Artists picture and proceeded to tell a new joke to Buster Keaton, who had just completed THE GENERAL also his first United Artists picture! The unsmiling comedian took the joke with a frozen face. "I'll tell you a better one Buster and I'll bet you a box of cigars this one makes you laugh."
The bet was made and Barrymore told his joke. Keaton was as frozen-faced as ever, so Barrymore good-naturedly handed over the cigars. Whereupon Buster lit a Corona, puffed delightedly at it and smiled in contentment. So Barrymore took back the cigars!