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|Index||15 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A year after The Prisoner of Zenda, Rex Ingram shoots another film with
more or less the same team. This time, it takes place during the French
Revolution. So we can se Alice Terry (Mrs Ingram), Lewis Stone and
Ramon Novarro. But when you look closely, you can recognize Edward
Snitz, John George, Edward Conelly... Scaramouche is the film where the
story and the History collide. The story is the one of André Louis
Moreau (Ramon Novarro), an orphan whose friend, a fighter for freedom,
is killed in duel by the Marquis de la Tour d'Azyr (Lewis Stone).
Moreau is also in love with Aline de Kercadiou (Alice Terry), the niece
of the man who raised him. The History is the one of France. But it is
rewritten by Hollywood. So, when you are French, you do not recognize
your History. Before, there was Griffith's French Revolution (Orphans
of the Storm, 1921), now there is Ingram's. This time, Robespierre is
not a communist, but we can see a very ugly Danton (George Siegman),
with his "pock-marked" face. There is also a very peculiar Parisian
crowd: savage, shouting, bloodthirsty and greedy for aristocratic heads
to fall. There are also the historic characters: Louis XVI, his wife
Marie-Antoinette (and their children), Danton and Marat (Roy Coulson),
and a young officer who watches silently, Napoleon (Slavko Vorkapich).
Fortunately, we are interested in the story. Ramon Novarro is young,
bold and handsome; Alice Terry is beautiful and cries easily; Lewis
Stone is, as usual, very straight-up, and also a sort of villain, for
he kills Moreau's friend. Once more, we have a fencing dual, but this
time, it is better than in Zenda. But what strikes the spectator are
the glittering eyes. In the first sequence, a dead man is brought back
home. He was killed by the tyranny. We see his wife crying, the tears
glittering in her eyes. Later, Moreau's eyes will glitter, when his
friend is killed by de la Tour. IN every great moment of the film, we
have these glittering eyes.
Time and space have a very strange aspect in this film. Indeed, when you know France, you do not understand everything. It seems that the likelihood has been put aside. The events happen in three locations: Gavrillac (a village in Brittany), Rennes and Paris. Gavrillac is the place where Moreau and Alice grow up . Rennes is where Moreau speaks about Freedom. This is also where he meets Marat, another famous actor of the Revolution (who does not look like him at all, except the cloth he wears on his head). Paris is where everything really happens, where everyone meets. This is where the Assembly is meeting; where the play Figaro-Scaramouche (written by Moreau) is performed; where Aline, de la Tour and Moreau finally meet. Unfortunately, if we recognize very well each location, there is a big problem of space: in 1789, you cannot ride from Rennes to Paris in one day! Nevertheless, the characters of the film can be on Sunday in Gavrillac or Rennes and on Monday in Paris! As for the Time of the film, I would prefer not to talk about it. One date is right: August the 12th, 1792. When the people of Paris invades the Tuileries Palace, creating in the same time a real bloodbath.
Despite all this, this Scaramouche movie has much charm. The fencing duel may be shorter than in George Sidney's movie (Scaramouche, 1952), it is nevertheless a great moment. The final revelation is quite amazing, and the actors were really well chosen. And, despite the fact that Moreau (and the script) is naive, we feel quite happy for him at the end.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
You'd have a difficult time recognizing this as the same story that the
1952 version was built around. I read the novel when I was a kid but
can't say how closely either version sticks to the book. All I remember
of the novel is that Rafael Sabatini didn't know anything about
In 1952, Stewart Granger was Andre Moreau. His best friend, a social activist in pre-revolutionary France, is killed by an aristocrat who is a deadly swordsman, Mel Ferrer. The remainder of the movie has Granger on the run from the authorities, disguising himself as a comic figure in a traveling troupe, having an affair with one of the players, falling for a rich and delicate young lady, putting Herculean efforts into learning how to fence, and finally beating Mel Ferrer in a duel but allowing him to live.
I don't mean to carry on at too much length about the 1952 version but it's probably more familiar to viewers than the 1923 silent, with Ramon Navarro as the hero, Andre. After a few similarities in the first half hour, the plots pretty much diverge.
This version is at least equally expensive and it's well done for the time, but the emphasis is placed far more on politics than comedy or swordsmanship.
Here, Andre spends hardly any time playing Scaramouche on stage. We see him in costume for about two minutes, and he does nothing that convinces us he's a comic genius. In 1952, Granger knows nothing of the sword at first and has three encounters with Ferrer, the last one rolling, or rather tumbling along in a theater for about fifteen minutes. What a duel! As well done any any other I've seen on the screen, about as good as that in "The Mark of Zorro", but more lavishly staged and more extended. In 1923, Navarro also doesn't know anything about fencing but we see him taking a lesson for about one minute, after which he is an unbeatable master of the weapon.
The 1923 climax has nothing to do with a duel between the hero and the chief heavy. It has to do with the French revolution, into which Navarro has been swept up. The French nobility were bad enough, you know. "Let them eat cake!" All the noblesse and none of the oblige.
But, caramba, the mob that took over was crazed and drunk and given to beheading everybody they could get their hands on. Not only did King Louis XVI get the guillotine but so did Robespierre, one of the fomenters of the revolution. Not that you see any executions in the film, just the outraged savages doing what outraged savages always do in these movies -- smash furniture.
Anyway, the climax is shifted from a duel mano a mano to the epic story of the revolution and its immediate aftermath.
This isn't a bad film, but I prefer the remake -- one of the rare times when the second version is as good, or better, than the original. It just happens to be one of those stories that benefit from OverwhelmoColor and sound. In 1952, the tinks of the metal swords meeting were created by the tinkling of crystal glass. The 1923 is good; the 1952 is phenomenal.
This is a well known film to most silent film buffs. Rex Ingram films his scenes like a painter. Ingram uses his camera like a paint brush. Indeed some of the scenes look like paintings come to life. This film is based on the novel by Rafael Sabatini and stars Ramon Novarro, one of Ingram's favorite actors. It costars Ingram's wife Alice Terry. This film boasts a cast of many well-known silent film supporting actors. An historical subject, Ingram gives great care to accuracy of costumes & history. The score for the film is adequate but tends to drone a bit. Surprisingly Ingrams camera can still be quite static which reminds one of DW Griffith's "Orphans of the Storm"(1921). Both 'Orphans' and 'Scaramouche' take place at the same tiime so a similarity is logical. The picture was made at Metro Studios just prior to the famous merger with Goldwyn & Mayer. Luckily this film survives today to be enjoyed. Rex Ingram, Metro Pictures.
The 1923 "Scaramouche" has all the elements of an epic film saga -- intricate and plausible sets and costumes, clearly drawn characters, ever more intense pacing -- but it just failed to catch fire for me. Maybe it's the way it makes no pretense of being anything but a big bundle of melodramatic clichés wrapped in a too-transparent plot. Too bad; it sure had potential. If you can see the Turner Classic Movie version, with the new score by Jeff Silverman, do so. It's how film scores should be created for silent pictures like these, absolutely in sync with the action but not slavishly commenting on every little detail. Usually it's a backhanded compliment to say that one finds one is losing oneself in the movie and not paying any attention to the score, but in this case, believe me, it's the mark of a resounding success.
My TCM print has excellent picture quality, but the score is not up to scratch; it mainly fails to bring out the action of the film or direct the viewers reaction to what is on the screen; occasionally it succeeds, but overall is not very inspiring-- which describes the whole film, really. They may be historically accurate, but the costumes are dull,Alice Terry is no great beauty and Novarro, in his first major role, looks stodgy and not yet in possession of the looks which later led him to be described as "more beautiful than any man has the right to be!" Lewis Stone plays an arrogant but truly noble aristo who finally sacrifices himself for the benefit of those he loves. The mob scenes, where aristocrats are assaulted by the furious revolutionaries give a real sense of how frightening the experience must have been, but, as usual, no mention is made of the fact that, under "The Terror" , more common folks were guillotined than nobles. The film picks up pace in the second half, but I suspect that those familiar with the Sabatini novel will enjoy it more.
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