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Marguerite De La Motte,
What do women want? Don Juan is aging. He's arrived secretly in Seville after a 20 year absence. His wife Dolores, whom he hasn't lived with in five years, still loves him. He refuses to see her; he fears the life of a husband. She has bought his debts and will remand him to jail for two years if he won't come to her. Meanwhile, an impostor is climbing the balconies of Seville claiming to be Don Juan. When a jealous husband kills him, the real Don Juan sees a way to avoid jail and get some peace. He hides as Captain Mariano in a small town. After six months, he's ready to return to society: can he measure up to the legend, will women find him attractive, and what about Doña Dolores? Written by
The most wonderful 'goodbye' from a REALLY great star
In 1934, at age 51, Douglas Fairbanks had already decided to end his magnificent and very prolific acting career. Not because he couldn't cope with sound (he had a very nice, strong voice), or with the kind of movies that were popular at the time - he'd originally started as a comedian before he went into the romantic swashbucklers that made him so hugely famous; and in the 30s, screwball comedies were at their height, so he could still have remained a top star for years if he'd wanted to.
But he wanted to retire WHILE he was still on top - and while he could still perform some of those marvelous acrobatic tricks that he'd always employed in his swashbucklers as well as in his comedies and that he himself loved so much doing; and so, for his last role, he chose the one famous character that he hadn't impersonated yet among all the classic heroes of romantic fiction, and that suited him so very well: Don Juan - but an aging Don Juan. A Don Juan who had become tired of keeping in shape for balcony climbing and love-making to young ladies, something which required daily training and diet - a kind of self-confession that he conveyed through his role...
So he shows us here for the last time a display of his famous sword fighting, balcony climbing, and of course romancing - but at the same time, he parodies not only the self-satisfied Don Juan with the myth that surrounds him, but also himself; he wasn't above that.
He was in NO way obliged to admit to his doctor, who calls him "King of Hearts": - "Well, nowadays, when I sit down to a... quiet game with a lady, I'm - no longer sure of holding the card..." Neither to play that scene with the middle-aged innkeeper who has a go at him in a PRETTY unflattering way: "You've no money, no looks, not very much brain - and you're no chicken! You'd make a nice husband..." Neither to have all the young girls of Seville laugh at him when he, who was believed dead, finally steps in in the middle of a stage play about his own 'private life' and declares that HE is the real Don Juan...
And yet he DID play all these scenes - because he wanted to. He wanted to say 'goodbye' to acting with a good dose of self-mockery; he was MAN enough not only to admit that time hadn't just passed him by, but to ridicule that fact in such an exaggerated way that again makes us say automatically: "But hey, you're just joking - you ARE the King of Hearts, and you always will be!" So, with this hilariously funny, bright, romantic costume piece full of action and laughter, Doug Fairbanks retired from the acting stage - not in a pathetic, dramatic way, but in a humorous, lovable one that's kept him in the hearts of his fans until this day. So that's the special meaning behind this very enjoyable period comedy-parody that certainly never gets dull or sentimental or boring for one single moment...
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