Scaramouche (1952 film)
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Original film poster
|Directed by||George Sidney|
|Produced by||Carey Wilson|
|Written by||Ronald Millar
by Rafael Sabatini
|Music by||Victor Young|
|Edited by||James Newcom|
The film stars Stewart Granger, Eleanor Parker, Janet Leigh, and Mel Ferrer. It was directed by George Sidney and produced by Carey Wilson from a screenplay by Ronald Millar and George Froeschel. The original music score was composed by Victor Young and the cinematography by Charles Rosher.
In France just prior to the French Revolution, Queen Marie Antoinette (Nina Foch) asks her cousin Noel, the Marquis de Maynes (Mel Ferrer), to uncover the identity of "Marcus Brutus", a dangerous pamphleteer rousing hatred of the aristocracy.
Meanwhile, André Moreau (Stewart Granger), a nobleman's bastard, kidnaps his beloved Lenore (Eleanor Parker) to keep her from marrying another man. Afterwards, Moreau learns that his father is the Count de Gavrillac. While traveling to meet his parent, Moreau runs into Aline de Gavrillac (Janet Leigh), the Queen's ward, when her carriage breaks down the road. They are strongly attracted to each other, but Moreau's ardor suddenly cools when he learns that she is his half-sister. He hides that information from her.
By chance, de Maynes encounters Marcus Brutus, who turns out to be Moreau's best friend, Philippe de Valmorin (Richard Anderson). A master swordsman, de Maynes provokes de Valmorin into a duel, then toys with his inexperienced opponent before finally dispatching him. Enraged, Moreau attacks, but does no better than his dead friend. After de Maynes easily disarms him several times, Moreau chooses discretion over valor and flees for his life, vowing to kill de Maynes the same way he slew de Valmorin.
Chased by de Maynes's henchmen led by the Chevalier de Chabrillaine (Henry Wilcoxon), Moreau hides out in the commedia dell'arte troupe in which Lenore performs. Forced to disguise himself as the character Scaramouche, he discovers a hidden talent for acting. Burning for revenge, Moreau seeks out de Maynes' personal fencing instructor, Doutreval (John Dehner), and trains diligently in secret for weeks, while also performing with the troupe. However, de Maynes interrupts one such training session and they fight for a second time. Moreau is still overmatched. He is saved only when Aline and Doutreval unexpectedly intervene, allowing Moreau to escape.
Moreau decides that, to surpass de Maynes, he needs to learn from Doutreval's teacher, Perigore (Richard Hale), so he takes the troupe to Paris. There, Dr. Dubuque (John Litel), a deputy of the new National Assembly, seeks his help. The aristocrats in the assembly are systematically killing off the deputies representing the common people by provoking them into duels. Moreau is not interested, until Dubuque mentions that de Maynes is one of the duelists. Then he eagerly accepts the seat of a deceased deputy. Each day, he shows up at the assembly to challenge de Maynes, only to find his enemy absent on trivial, but official duties arranged by Aline and Lenore working together to protect the man they both love. However, other noblemen are eager to fight the newcomer, but Moreau wins each time, gaining valuable experience in the process.
In the meantime, de Maynes becomes engaged to Aline. Overhearing de Maynes' intention to confront Moreau that night, Aline persuades him to take her out instead. As luck would have it, they attend a performance of the troupe and, at last, Moreau has his opportunity for revenge. The two men engage in a spectacular, prolonged duel (reputedly the longest in screen history at about seven minutes) that ranges throughout the theater, from the balcony boxes, to the lobby, through the main seats, backstage and finally back on the stage itself. At the end, Moreau has de Maynes at his mercy, but something he cannot explain stays his hand. Later, Moreau learns that his father was not the Count de Gavrillac, but rather the old Marquis de Maynes, Gavrillac's friend; the man he almost killed is his half-brother. Then he realizes that he is not related to Aline, so they can be married. Lenore, after giving him her blessings, consoles herself with a certain Corsican officer.
Lewis Stone also played the villain, the Marquis de la Tour d'Azyr, in the 1923 silent version.
The studio planned to adapt the novel in late 1938, with production set to commence in early 1939, though pre-production did not start until 1950.
Initially, the film was meant to be a MGM musical starring Gene Kelly, with Ava Gardner as Lenore and Elizabeth Taylor co-starring as Aline. Their commitments to the film were confirmed in early 1951. At one point, other than Kelly, Fernando Lamas and Ricardo Montalban were also considered for the lead.
Granger was then cast in Constable Pedley (later called The Wild North) which required location filming in snow. This meant he left Scaramouche entirely; Montalban returned to the film as the hero, and Fernando Lamas was cast as the villain. Granger went on to shoot part of The Wild North, then production was halted and he made The Light Touch, then completed The Wild North. MGM then decided to reassign him to Scaramouche, with Lamas staying on as the villain.
Gardner and Taylor became unavailable for casting and were replaced by Eleanor Parker and Janet Leigh. Mel Ferrer replaced Fernando Lamas.
Granger, who performed most of his stunts himself, took fencing lessons with Jean Heremans when preparing for the role. The 8-minute-long duel in the theater between Granger and Ferrer took eight weeks of preparation, including memorizing eighty-seven fencing passes. Filming this scene left Granger with a wrenched knee, a damaged shoulder, and an injured back. Other accidents on set included Jean Simmons – who was visiting her husband Granger – almost receiving a sword in her face, and a chandelier hitting a mattress where Granger was supposed to lie.
Eleanor Parker later said that Stewart Granger was the only person in her career that she did not get along with:
It wasn’t a conflict between the two of us. Everyone disliked this man... Stewart Granger was a dreadful person, rude... just awful. Just being in his presence was bad. I thought at one point the crew was going kill him. Jean visited him on the set and would leave his dressing room in tears. He humiliated her. It was terrible. All of the dueling scenes in Scaramouche were wonderful though. I’ll give Granger credit for that. He didn’t
know how to do any of that, but worked hard and learned. Mel Ferrer, his counterpart in the movie, was extremely adept atthe swordplay, but was a gentleman. He could have taken advantage and upstaged Granger, the star, but he never did.
The film earned $2,739,000 at the North American box office during its first year of release. MGM records put its foreign earnings at $4,007,000, and overall the movie made a profit of $1,062,000.
The movie was particularly popular in France, with admissions of 2,975,521.
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- By THOMAS F BRADY Special to THE NEW,YORK TIMES. (1950, Dec 22). STUDIOS ACQUIRE 3 MAJOR STORIES. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/111577928
- By THOMAS F BRADY Special to THE NEW,YORK TIMES. (1951, Jan 27). ELIZABETH TAYLOR GETS METRO LEAD. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/111848185
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- "Eleanor Parker: Incognito, but Invincible" (PDF). Noir City Sentinel. Summer 2010.
- 'Top Box-Office Hits of 1952', Variety, January 7, 1953
- Box office information for Stewart Granger films in France at Box Office Story