Sunday, July 13, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Scaramouche (1952)

1952 was a good year for Stewart Granger. He starred in two spectactular swashbucklers, SCARAMOUCHE and THE PRISONER OF ZENDA, which continue to provide marvelous entertainment over half a century after they were first released.

SCARAMOUCHE is loosely based on the novel by Rafael Sabatini. Revolution is brewing in France, and for reasons too complicated to explain here, Andre Moreau (Granger) is on the run for his life and ends up taking refuge with an acting company, where he hides behind a mask as the comedic title character.

There is a colorful cast of characters, including flame-haired Eleanor Parker as the free-spirited, mercenary Lenore, an actress who loves Andre; Janet Leigh as Aline, a sweet young woman of the nobility who also loves Andre, but may never be able to have a relationship with him; and Mel Ferrer as Noel, Aline's guardian and later fiance, who is a master swordsman whose dueling competitors rarely survive. Andre has pledged to kill Noel, as Noel killed Andre's best friend (Richard Anderson). But first, Andre must learn fencing...

All four actors are wonderful. I particularly enjoyed Parker and Granger's love-hate relationship, as well as the alliance Parker and Leigh form to try to save the life of the man they both love. Granger and Ferrer's climactic duel all over the theater is said to be the longest dueling sequence filmed at that point in time.

The cast includes Robert Coote and Lewis Stone, who also appeared with Granger in THE PRISONER OF ZENDA. Lewis Stone, rather remarkably, was in the silent versions of both SCARAMOUCHE and THE PRISONER OF ZENDA. Henry Wilcoxon, Nina Foch, John Dehner, and Elisabeth Risdon are among the many other excellent actors appearing in the film.

Barbara Ruick can be glimpsed in a quick scene, in her second film; four years later she played Carrie Pipperidge and sang "Mr. Snow" in CAROUSEL. Ruick, the daughter of character actors Melville Ruick and Lurene Tuttle, was married to composer-conductor John Williams for nearly 20 years, until her untimely death in 1974.

The movie was directed by George Sidney, who directed many classic MGM musicals including SHOW BOAT and KISS ME KATE. He also directed Gene Kelly's version of THE THREE MUSKETEERS.

This film runs 115 minutes. It was strikingly photographed by Charles Rosher. As an Amazon review notes, "Rosher's Technicolor palette alternates commedia dell'arte garishness and misty, Watteau-like imagery."

SCARAMOUCHE is available on video and DVD.

The DVD contains a wonderful 2003 interview with Mel Ferrer, who just passed away last month. Ferrer describes how he learned fencing as a series of dance routines, since he had a background as a dancer. He and Granger did most, if not all, of their own stunts, including Granger swinging on a rope into the theater box.

SCARAMOUCHE can also be seen on TCM, where it next airs tomorrow, July 14, 2008, as well as on August 26, 2008.

The trailer can be seen here.


Blogger barrylane said...

Lewis Stone was Stewart Granger's favorite actor growing up and he managed to have his hero work with him. He writes of this in Sparks fly Upward, and excellent read.

10:12 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older