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You are probably familiar with the plot of this already, but I'm
recounting it anyways:
France, 1925: D'Artagnan (Gene Kelly), a
hot-headed countryboy, comes to Paris because he wants to become a
Musketeer - and after proving his skills alongside the King's (Frank
Morgan) three best fighters - Athos (Van Heflin), Porthos (Gig Young), and
Aramis (Robert Coote) -, he becomes not only that but these three
Musketeers best friend and ally.
Soon, the Queen (Angela Lansbury) is in
dire need of the Musketeers, because she has given a priceless set of
diamonds to her lover, British prime minister Buckingham (John Sutton),
but now she's supposed to wear the jewels on an official occasion -
something that was suggested by the Cardinal Richelieu (Vincent Price),
her fiercest adversary and an all-around baddie. It's a race against time
for the three Musketeers and D'Artagnan to England to retrieve the stones,
and along the way, D'Artagnan loses his friends - but somehow makes it.
There is another problem though, the set of jewels in Buckingham's
possession is no longer complete, two were stolen by his seductive
mistress, the Mylady de Winter (Lana Turner), a close ally of Richelieu,
who wants to make sure his plan doesn't fail. However, Buckingham has the
stones replaced by his jeweller, and ultimately, D'Artagnan makes it back
to Paris and the King's palace just in time to hand over the now complete
set of jewels to the Queen and have Richelieu's plan blow up in his own
Richelieu doesn't like it one bit that D'Artagnan has made him
lose face, so he has his men arrest D'Artagnan's girlfriend Constance
(June Allyson), then humiliates him by suggesting he should become a
member of his guard. D'artagnan knows Richelieu is trying to play a dirty
trick, so he tries to delay everything as long as possible, then woos
Mylady de Winter, and when he learns she's madly in love with a man he
killed out of necessity (Dick Simmons), he pretend to be that man for a
night of sin. When she finds out, she's nothing short of infuriated.
Constance is released from captivity, and to keep her out of harm's way,
D'Artagnan sends her to England to be watched over by Buckingham - who
soon enough starts a little war on France to keep Richelieu's men from
following her. Mylady de Winter however manages to cross the Channel, with
the express purpose to kill Buckingham, but D'Artagnan's servant Planchet
(Keenan Wynn) follows on her heels, and ultimately sees to it that she is
thrown into a British jail, with Constance being made her jailer. When
D'Artagnan and Athos, who has once been married to the Mylady, learn about
this, they rush to Constance's aid, but alas to late, the Mylady has
already killed both Constance and Buckingham, and it's only with luck that
D'Artagnan and Athos manage to escape themselves.
In France, D'Artagnan
and the three Musketeers manage to track down Mylady de Winter, and they
have her executed - which seems to play right into the hand of Richelieu,
who figures he can have themn court-martialed for the execution ... but
not so, because D'Artagnan has a document in his possession that gave the
Mylady virtually a carte blanche to kill Buckingham, and that's signed by
Basically, the film falls in two halves:
first part about the retrieval of the jewels is without a doubt Gene
Kelly's showcase - as a great dancer with acrobatic skills, he makes a
wonderfully agile D'Artagnan, and he's featured in quite a number of
impressive fights and imaginative stunts ... so even if the swashbuckler
wasn't necessarily something he was known for, he proves to be perfectly
Lana Turner is also perfectly cast as Mylady de Winter, who
dominates the second half of the film, as she is able to play the role
with all the seductiveness and cruelty the role demands ... but
unfortunately, she is not given nearly as much screentime as Gene Kelly in
the first half to make the second half her own, and her half is marred by
choppy writing and quite a few plotholes.
As a result, the film falls
into two halves in more ways than one, not only narratively but also in
mood and quality: While the first half is a light-footed swashbuckling
adventure, half number two is a serious and actually a bit depressing
historical drama - and director George Sidney feels much more at home in
the first half, basically because he has a background as a musical
director and always tended to favour the physical aspects of his filmsover
the dramatic undercurrents.
In all, this is still a fun Three
Musketeers adaptation, but maybe the second half could have done
with some rewrites and a bit of trimming.