Don Juan (1926 film)

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Don Juan
DonJuanP.jpg
Directed by Alan Crosland
Produced by Warner Brothers
Written by Maude Fulton (intertitles)
Walter Anthony (intertitles)
Screenplay by Bess Meredyth
Based on Don Juan 
by Lord Byron
Starring John Barrymore
Mary Astor
Warner Oland
Music by William Axt
David Mendoza
Cinematography Byron Haskin
Edited by Harold McCord
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • August 6, 1926 (1926-08-06)
Running time 112 min.
Country United States
Language Silent
English intertitles
Budget $789,963
Box office $1,258,000
First-nighters posing for the camera outside the Warners' Theater before the premiere

Don Juan is a 1926 American romantic adventure/drama film directed by Alan Crosland. It is the first feature-length film with synchronized Vitaphone sound effects and musical soundtrack, though it has no spoken dialogue.[1] The film is inspired Lord Byron's 1821 epic poem of the same name. The screenplay was written by Bess Meredyth with intertitles by Maude Fulton and Walter Anthony.[2]

Don Juan stars John Barrymore as the hand-kissing womanizer.[2] The film has the most kisses in film history, with Barrymore kissing (all together) Mary Astor and Estelle Taylor 127 times.[3]

Plot[edit]

In the prologue, Don José, warned of his wife's infidelity, seals his wife's lover alive in his hiding place and drives her from the castle; abandoned to his lust, he is stabbed by his last mistress, and with his dying words he implores his son, Don Juan, to take all from women but yield nothing. Ten years later, young Don Juan is famous as a lover and pursued by many women, including the powerful Lucretia Borgia, who invites him to her ball; his contempt for her incites her hatred of Adriana, the daughter of the Duke Della Varnese, with whom he is enraptured; and Lucretia plots to marry her to Donati and poison the duke. Don Juan intervenes and thwarts the scheme, winning the love of Adriana, but the Borgia declare war on the duke's kinsmen, offering them safety if Adriana marries Donati; Don Juan is summoned to the wedding, but he prefers death to marriage with Lucretia. He escapes and kills Donati in a duel; the lovers are led to the death-tower, but while Adriana pretends suicide, he escapes; and following a series of battles, he defeats his pursuers and is united with Adriana.

Cast[edit]

Production notes[edit]

George Groves, on assignment to Vitaphone, was charged with recording the soundtrack to the film. He devised an innovative, multi-microphone technique and performed a live mix of the 107-strong orchestra. In doing so he became the first music mixer in film history.

At the film's premiere, several short sound films were shown before the film began. Will Hays, the then "Czar" and censor of the industry, contributed an on-screen introduction, talking in synchronized sound, greeting everyone in the audience with "Welcome to a new era of motion picture." After the introduction, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra was filmed playing "Tannhäuser", along with violinists Mischa Elman and Efrem Zimbalist Sr., then guitarist Roy Smeck, three opera shorts with Giovanni Martinelli Marion Talley and Anna Case, a ten minute intermission, and then the feature itself.

Reception[edit]

Don Juan premiered in New York City at the Warners' Theater on August 6, 1926. The film was critically acclaimed upon release, as well as a box-office success. It was produced at a cost of $789,963, the largest budget of any Warner Bros. film up to that point. The soundtrack for the film was performed by the New York Philharmonic.

Status and home media release[edit]

A print of Don Juan, including its Vitaphone soundtrack, still survives and is preserved at the UCLA Film and Television Archive.[3] In 2011, the film, along with the original Vitaphone sound shorts, was released on manufactured-on-demand DVD by the Warner Archive Collection.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Stephens, E. J.; Wanamaker, Marc (2010). Early Warner Bros. Studios. Arcadia Publishing. p. 25. ISBN 0-738-58091-0. 
  2. ^ a b White Munden, Kenneth, ed. (1997). The American Film Institute Catalog of Motion Pictures Produced in the United States, Part 1. University of California Press. p. 195. ISBN 0-520-20969-9. 
  3. ^ a b Don Juan at silentera.com database
  4. ^ Don Juan DVD release at silentera.com

External links[edit]