In 1912, film pioneers Edwin S. Porter, Adolph Zukor and David Frohman formed the Famous Players film corporation for the express purpose of immortalizing on celluloid the greatest performances of Broadway's finest actors. The new company's first production was Anthony Hope's Ruritanian swashbuckler The Prisoner of Zenda, starring James K. Hackett as Rudolph Rassendyl and Beatrice Beckley as Princess Flavia. As promised, the film was a faithful rendition of the stage version (adapted from Hope's novel by Edward Rose), with the original "dual identity" plotline and the colorful cast of characters intact. But as directed by Edwin S. Porter, the film was cinematically primitive and unimaginative, with every shot filmed as though the camera was anchored in the third row of the theater. Within two years, a vastly superior version of Prisoner of Zenda would be filmed in England with Henry Ainley as Rudolph Rassendyl, followed by the even more accomplished adaptations of 1922, 1937 and 1952.
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