A young man grows restless living in a small Kansas town, dreaming of the adventures of the Three Musketeers. So in hopes of becoming a modern D'Artagnan, he mounts his steed (a Model T ... See full summary »
A young man grows restless living in a small Kansas town, dreaming of the adventures of the Three Musketeers. So in hopes of becoming a modern D'Artagnan, he mounts his steed (a Model T Ford) and sets out across the West in search of excitement and adventure. Written by
Jim Beaver <email@example.com>
This was the first film shown at the newly built Rivoli Theater in New York City. See more »
When Chin-de-dah leads Vandeteer and Elsie through the Canyon, the shadows of the cameraman and another crew member are visible on the ground. See more »
Except for Douglas Fairbanks, whose name appears above the title, there is no cast list. Actors are introduced by intertitle cards just before they appear on the screen. The IMDb cast list therefore uses this "order of appearance" sequence. See more »
Danish Film Archive's Complete Print of "A Modern Musketeer" Shown On TCM
Turner Classic Movies showed a complete print of "A Modern Musketeer" last night, March 20, 2008. The credit at the end identified the movie as a 2006 Danish Film Archive restoration. TCM added a Monte Alto Orchestra score to the silent. The Danish Archive did a mighty fine job restoring the movie, if the the print had any speckles, fading or snow, I missed seeing them. The miracles of a frame-by-frame computer restoration of a 90+ year old movie.
The movie itself is a showcase for Douglas Fairbanks' acrobatic talents. His playing a role set in the present does not stop him from doing a handstand at the edge of a precipice, getting onto a horse by leaping onto the saddle without using a stirrup (Steve McQueen did that too in his western TV series, but Fairbanks does the leap further from the saddle) and sliding in and out of cut stone windows at every opportunity.
This movie shows that in 1917 Hollywood art directors were on the ball. At the end, the movie's interior action takes place in a set that represents an Anasazi cave dwelling. This cave set sure looks authentic to me. The director Alan Dwan later said that in a Fairbanks movie everything was arranged to make it look as if Fairbanks was not exerting himself as he performed his stunts. So the height of windows in the cave set allow Fairbanks to fly though them. Outside of this set, much of the action seems to take place on the south rim of the Grand Canyon, not far from the El Tovar hotel.
If the El Tovar hotel gave the cast and crew of this movie free or discounted accommodations, I would not be surprised. At every chance, the movie uses vistas of the Grand Canyon as background for the action. The El Tovar hotel must have seen a spike in tourists staying at the hotel after the movie came out, moviegoers who became tourists.
The movie's story is pretty lame. Fairbanks rescues the girl from not one, but two villains. But the story is important only in that it showcases Fairbanks the personality and the stunt man. Thanks to the Danish film archive and TCM, this Fairbanks star vehicle is again available for viewing (when TCM shows it again). ---
Addition (26 July 2009): I finally bought on sale A Modern Musketeer on DVD as part of the Douglas Fairbanks 5 DVD movie box set of the same name. The one thing that stands out for me now is how advanced most of the movie image framing and editing is. For a 1917 movie, you expect and usually get interior scenes that are static with the camera too far from the actors, as if filming a stage play. Even in 1924's The Sea Hawk, the scenes inside the family manor were shot wide a lot, with few medium close-ups. Not in the case in A Modern Musketeer, where director Dwan keeps the camera much closer to the actors, even when the Grand Canyon is the backdrop, varying the shot selection a lot, just like in movies made decades later.
On the commentary track, the film experts mentioned how many scenes in the movie were shot at less than 24 frames per second, adding speed to the action. I did not notice that undercranking when I saw the movie now, but I did notice that Dwan used an awful lot of setups to film the action from different perspectives. One commentator mentioned how good the wide angle chase scene through the wide floor of the canyon (an area now probably flooded by Lake Meade) must have looked when the original, undamaged print was projected on the big screen in the Rivoli Theater in 1917, as first one group of riders, than a second, take off after Fairbanks and company on the run on horseback. Dwan took advantage of the majestic location to make this wide angle shot, which would look at home in a modern Western except for the missing inserts showing close up shots of the riders. But then, Dwan doesn't overdo the editing, no jump cuts for him either.
The commentators mentioned that other filmmakers copied some scenes in the movie, indicating one streetcar scene that Harold Lloyd used and a "cyclone" scene in Kansas with a house falling down that Buster Keaton referred to years later. I think that Dwan's style of editing and framing scenes must have been copied as well. What also stands out for me, though, is how Dwan, with the limited camera technology then available, moved the camera every which way with loads of setups to compensate for the lack of close-up lenses, no use then (as far as I know) of cameras on rails and managing to film those location scenes at the Grand Canyon using orthochromatic film (the last mostly the responsibility of ace cinematographer Hugh McClung).
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