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Armand Du Plessis, the Duke Of Richelieu and also a Cardinal of the Church of Rome remains to this day a fascinating historical figure. He was in addition to being a Prince of the Church was the first minister to King Louis XIII of France. He was legendary for his cunning and his power grabbing. Richelieu has come down to us as a villain as a result of Alexandre Dumas's classic novel The Three Musketeers. In point of fact anyone who was looking to rise in France at the time buddied up with Richelieu. He said himself he had no enemies, but the enemies of France.
Cardinal Richelieu the film is adapted from an old 19th century play by British author Edward Bulwer-Lytton and in America the great actor and first real American stage matinée idol Edwin Forrest originated the role. A man like George Arliss whose style of acting stemmed from two centuries ago was the perfect choice to play Richelieu as realized by Bulwer- Lytton.
The play covers the period before and during an incident known as the Day Of Dupes when Richelieu managed to bag all his court rivals in a treasonous plot against him and his master Louis XIII played here by Edward Arnold. It may not have happened that way on film, but history records he was unchallenged at court until almost his death.
Leading the plot is Douglass Dumbrille and it involved the Dowager Queen Violet Kemble-Cooper, the current Queen Katharine Alexander and the idiot second son Gaston who is unforgettably played by Francis Lister. Gaston was every bit the idiot that Lister plays him as.
Handling the romantic interest is Richelieu's ward Maureen O'Sullivan and young noble Cesar Romero in one of his earliest roles. Romero is dashing and brave, but a bit of a fat head who gets in turn manipulated by Dumbrille and then Arliss.
The Three Musketeers has done dirt to Cardinal Richelieu's reputation. Though this film comes from a play out of the romantic era that also produced The Three Musketeers it shows Richelieu in a better and more true light. Arliss might be old fashioned for today's taste, but I think his performance is grand.
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