Rivaled only by the awesome Babylonian segments of D. W. Griffith’s Intolerance, Douglas Fairbanks’ lavish, extravagant The Thief of Bagdad ranks as the very pinnacle of silent-era spectacle.
You haven’t seen Zorro until you’ve seen Douglas Fairbanks Sr. as Zorro in the 1920 silent swashbuckling classic.
Don Q Son of Zorro, named one of the year’s ten best films by The New York Times, actually outdoes its predecessor, with a stronger and more sophisticated plot, better pacing, more interesting and complex characterizations, grander production values and set design, and more consistent action.
Silent action king Douglas Fairbanks Sr. is the most exuberantly athletic of Robin Hoods, for sheer physicality perhaps outdoing even Errol Flynn’s definitive performance.
Fairbanks’s astonishing acrobatics remain dazzling today, and the climactic battle includes some great underwater footage of an aquatic assault on the pirates. This film includes Fairbanks’ most famous and widely copied stunt, riding down a sail on the edge of a knife; but my favorite is the scene in which he cuts loose the corner of a billowing sail and then holds on as the wind carries him up off the deck of the ship and high into the rigging.
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!
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.