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Marguerite De La Motte,
A law student becomes an outlaw French revolutionary when he decides to avenge the unjust killing of his friend. To get close to the aristocrat who has killed his friend the student adopts the identity of Scaramouche the clown. Written by
Steve Crook <email@example.com>
Hats off to Rex Ingram. Scaramouche, like his other gorgeously mounted adventure sagas The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, The Prisoner of Zenda, or Ben-Hur (which he co-directed) illustrate clearly how the art of cinema took a body blow with the coming of sound, recovery from which took several years. The kinds of stunning compositions and environmental detail that were possible before the soundtrack era had to be jettisoned just for the sake of miking, so we lost much of this intensive artistry. Visually this film is every bit as impressive as Selznick's A Tale of Two Cities, or Korda's The Scarlet Pimpernel, both made well into the sound era over a decade later. Ingram was a visionary, right up there with Griffith, Stroheim and early DeMille. This film is beautiful right down to the title cards.
In this tale of the French Revolution we are treated to large doses of "The Masses," as in the later Selznick Tale of Two Cities. In fact, these masses are so vividly presented that one suspects that Selznick borrowed some of his imagery from Ingram. Like The Scarlet Pimpernel, Scaramouche is a participant in the events of the era. But whereas the Pimpernel used ingenious disguises and impersonations to save selected aristocrats from the guillotine, Scaramouche uses his position as popular comedic stage actor and skilled swordsman to rouse the masses to revolutionary action and successfully duel to the death with reactionary members of the National Assembly. Ramon Novarro, who plays the title character, was second only to Valentino as a heartthrob of the silent era but his countenance and manner were gentler. Lewis Stone, best known for his stern but benign elder patriarch roles in talkies, was once the dashing, chiselled-featured leading man on display here. Alice Terry as the love interest reminds us of how cinematic standards of beauty have changed. Her costuming and coiffure notwithstanding, there is a pre-20th-century quality to her, as if she stepped out of a painting or daguerrotype.
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