Robert Morley received his only Oscar nomination for portraying King Louis XVI in Marie Antoinette.
Robert Morley plays the rather pathetic King Louis XVI who is in over his head from the very moment he appears on screen to make his speech to Marie Antoinette, and barely even being able to do that well. In these moments Morley brings out the right humor from just how pathetic, and incompetent Louis is, something Basil Rathbone was not able to do nearly as well as another Louis. Morley makes Louis the right kind of overgrown child, particularly in his first private talk with Marie (Norma Shearer) where he talks about caring far more about being a lock smith than a King or a husband.
Unfortunately for Morley, Louis is forgotten about for a good long time, and when he does show up he just is not humorous as he was before, since the routine eventually does get a little old. He mostly is just there for a great deal of the film, and it is very easy to ignore him. His big scene where he finally speaks up against his grandfather the King, is done well enough by Morley, but I think it could have been a great moment either in terms of comedy, or character development, but it just never reaches that height.
Later on the film when he becomes King his incompetence no longer is funny and just really is very sad. Morley actually handles this transition very well, and does fairly effectively create a portrait of a little boy who simply never should have been King. He has the right degree of sadness, in all of these moments as he finally must face his people, a particularly standout scene is when he completely fails to rally his troops behind him, Morley excels in simply the failure of Louis. Morley gives a good performance that manages to avoid the stuffy feeling of much of the rest of the film, although it could perhaps been an even better performance it stands as a good one.