THE PRINCESS BRIDE, the Perfect Mawwiage in Romance and Comedy

The princess B poster

It’s March- a transition into springtime. For college hoops fans that means March Madness, for Irish affecianados, March means St. Pat’s celebrations and for many young lovers, this is the perfect time to plan nuptials. How better a time to discuss the best moments from a romantic comedy classic of a fairytale love story, Rob Reiner’s THE PRINCESS BRIDE (1987)? Here are my cinematic tidbits that explain why this film has endured, and became a fan favorite of all ages…

The Story. It’s a classic love story, based on a book and screenplay by William Goldman; but it’s so much more than syrupy sap. It possesses all the elements of terrific storytelling. True love, adventure, sword-fighting, interesting characters, battle of good vs. evil, revenge, humor, great writing, friendship, family, friendly giants, and even rodents of unusual size.

Our story begins as grandfather (Peter Falk) reads a book to his sick and initially reluctant grandson (Fred Savange). The tale he reads is of  a young and uniquely beautiful farm girl named Buttercup (Robin Wright) who falls for her farm-hand Westley (Cary Elwes), a peasant boy who dutifully answers “as you wish” to her every command. In time she realizes that translates to “I love you” and she loves him in return.

Westley goes off to seek a fortune worthy to marry his lovely Buttercup. But news returns that Dread Pirate Roberts has attacked Westley’s ship and he’s assumed dead. Five years has passed and heartbroken Buttercup agrees to marry evil Prince Humperdinck- as the law of the land dictates, she has no choice anyway. Already grooming for her Princess duties of unhappiness, she takes a solo horse ride where she is captured by bandits seeking ransom and political power play. Here is where the journey and real adventures begin. And our Westley returns seeking true love. As you can imagine, the grandson is now entranced by this story and replaces his grumbling with pleads for more (while coyly playing it cool), for his grandfather to continue reading… even the ‘kissing parts.’

Brilliant Cast:

  • Cary Elwes~ Westly
  • Mandy Patinkin~ Inigo Montoya
  • Chris Sarandon~ Prince Humperdinck
  • Christopher Guest~ Count Tyrone Rugen
  • Wallace Shawn~ Vizzini
  • Andre the Giant~ Fezzik
  • Fred Savage~ the grandson
  • Robin Wright~ the Princess Bride
  • Peter Falk~ the grandfather/ narrator
  • Peter Cook~ impressive clergyman
  • Mel Smith~ the albino
  • Carol Kane~ Valerie
  • Billy Crystal~ Miracle Max
  • Anne Dyson~ the Queen
  • Willoughby Gray~ the King

Fascinating Characters.

Buttercup is a forceful and loyal character (depite appearances) although stuck dealing with playing the role of a pawn in a sexist game. A pretty toy to be captured then recaptured by various men to claim her as a trophy. But alas, she remains strong throughout and devoted via her love of sweet Westley. Westley aka ‘The Man in Black’ has defined himself through his unwavering love and devotion to Buttercup. Director Reiner also envisioned his character as a swashbuckling Errol Flynn or Douglas Fairbanks archetype and Elwes fits the bill nicely. More over, Reiner’s touch of wonderful and oft sardonic humor is seen throughout the film and its characters. Westley isn’t simply handsome, superiorly skilled and charming, he confidently slings clever comebacks and wins over everyone he meets, from all walks of life and forging loyalties along the way.

Vizzini is an arrogant and pushy leader to his tiny band of rebels, Inigo Montoya and Fezznik. He bullies them and touts his superior intellect at every turn. Yet his physical stature (a small diminuitive man with fully bald head and heavy lisp) coupled with his bravado-laced lines makes him a hysterical character and a perfect adversary to The Man In Black. Master fencing Spaniard Inigo Montoya is a man on a mission. He seeks revenge from a six-fingered man who killed his father. He’s spent his life training to become the ultimate swordsman in hopes to find him again. Initially he matches swashbuckling wits with The Man In Black but finds equal respect. By the time he discovers the six-fingered man, his payback is fulfilled in triumphant scene. Andre the Giant portrays Fezznik, certainly a more lovable character than thug, who doesn’t really fit in as Vizzini’s henchman. This role required a sweet natured man with epic size. Some actors that were once considered were Arnold Schwarzenegger, Richard Kiel, Kareem Abdul-Jabar and even Liam Neeson. It’s interesting to note Andre looked the part but was experiencing back problems during filming so the scenes that required strength had to be accomodated, such as wires to hold up Robin Wright when she falls into his arms. Andre enjoyed this role as he felt he was perceived as an equal on the set, not stared at for his size, as was typical.

The funniest characters in this film are without a doubt, Carol Kane and Billy Crystal as Valerie and Max. Rob Reiner had to leave during some shooting because he couldn’t stop laughing and Mandy Patinkin claims to have injured a rib during scenes where he was trying to physically hold in laughter while acting with Crystal. To capture the ‘look’ of these characters, Crystal utilized his makeup artist from his SNL days and showed photos of his elderly family members.

Quotable Quotes.

Inigo Montoya: “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”  (…said 6 times in the film. Patinkin is quoted as saying this famous line is delivered to him from fans 2-3 times per day. This is also his favorite character of his career. )

Vizzini: “INCONCEIVABLE!” (said 5 times in the film, with a delightful lisp annunciation.)

Westley: “As you wish…” (said 6 times in the film.)

Vizzini: “Never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line.” (Vizzini is the name of a small town in Sicily.)

Westley: “Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.” Buttercup: “I will never doubt again.” Westley: “There will never be a need.”

Miracle Max: “You rush a miracle, you get rotten miracles.” 

This is one of my favorite films because I still enjoy watching it countless times over and continue to quote these lines. It seemed like the perfect inclusion into my classic film themed wedding. So I did just that. When I walked down the aisle of my wedding nearly seven years ago, the theme from this film was played. And as a total surprise to me, my husband arranged another Princess Bride homage. There is a scene where Peter Cook as the clergyman starts the wedding ceremony with loudly blurting out “Mawwiage!” to startle the onlookers. I was similarly taken back and cackled when our officiant (Judge Murphy) did the same.

For more entries and other films from the diverse and talented director Rob Reiner, visit the MOVIE ROB site throughout this month:

Meathead March


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