Classic Film Guide

Scaramouche (1923)

Directed by Rex Ingram, this Rafael Sabatini novel was adapted by Willis Goldbeck, and was later remade with Stewart Granger, Mel Ferrer, Richard Anderson, Eleanor Parker, Nina Foch & Janet Leigh (among others) by George Sidney in a much different adaptation that was released in 1952. Having not read the novel, I can only assume that this was a more faithful telling, though somewhat less entertaining, than the remake. The restoration is excellent, a crisp clean print of this exceptional silent, and classic story. This one stars heartthrob Ramon Novarro and Lewis Stone (The Patriot (1928)), among others.

The story is set around the time of the French Revolution, and the peasants are getting fed up with the ways of the aristocracy. They are looking for a voice, someone to rally behind against the tyranny, and they find it in nobleman André-Louis Moreau (Novarro), the godson of Quintin de Kercadiou (Lloyd Ingraham). Quintin's niece is Aline (Alice Terry), who's won the affections of the Marquis de la Tour d’Azyr (Stone), the scourge of the common man. The Marquis is a master swordsman who duels and defeats (kills?) all challengers to the throne's rule.

Though the film boasts many lavish sets, there is not as much mystery or intrigue in this original as there is in the Granger-Ferrer version, which also features Stone in another role. Not the same love triangle conflict for Aline as there is for Leigh's character, and not the same resolution to the unknown kinship between Stone's & Novarro's either. Plus, the "man behind the mask" angle is downplayed and the Eleanor Parker character is non-existent in this version. Still, it's amazing to see the production values in this one and its length is unusually long, without becoming tedious or boring, for the time.

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