Danny Kaye in that classic swashbuckling satire The Court Jester may well have been thinking of the great Douglas Fairbanks when he described his own character with the words: “He never walks when he can leap, he never flees when he can fight. He lives for a sigh, he dies for a kiss, he lusts for a laugh!”
Fairbanks’s ebullient physicality animates all his silent swashbucklers from The Mark of Zorro to The Gaucho. The Three Musketeers is his first major silent costume swashbuckler (The Mark of Zorro, for all its success, was a comparatively small film), and it’s more than a little wobbly, threatening to bog down in the first act with more than a half hour dedicated to establishing its large cast of characters and setting up its intrigues and alliances. After that, though, it’s gung-ho action all the way.
The film exuberantly embraces the melodramatic absurdities of Alexandre Dumas’s moral universe, with valiant heroes and scheming villains risking all to capture a diamond brooch foolishly given by the Queen to an indiscreet admirer, all for the purpose of either embarrassing or saving the honor of the Queen and thereby pushing her weak-minded King one way or the other in the power struggle between the Queen’s allies and the villainous Cardinal Richelieu.
Yes, it’s really as convoluted as all that. (Fairbanks’s 1925 sequel to The Mask of Zorro, Don Q Son of Zorro, did far better with this kind of sophisticated European intrigue.) Still, Fairbanks is in top form, leaping and dueling as the young D’Artangnan.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.