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The Three Musketeers

USA 1948
produced by
Pandro S. Berman for MGM
directed by George Sidney
starring Gene Kelly, Lana Turner, June Allyson, Van Heflin, Vincent Price, Angela Lansbury, Gig Young, Robert Coote, Keenan Wynn, John Sutton, Frank Morgan, Reginald Owen, Ian Keith, Patricia Medina, Richard Stapley (= Richard Wyler), Dick Simmons, Robert Warwick, Byron Foulger, Kirk Alyn, Sol Gorss, Tom Tyler, Norman Leavitt, Alberto Morin, Ruth Robinson
screenplay by Robert Ardrey, based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas père, music by Herbert Stothart

Three Musketeers

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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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 face.

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.

Somehow, 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 ... Richelieu.

 

Basically, the film falls in two halves:

The 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 cast.

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.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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On the same day
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WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
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directed by
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written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
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out now on DVD

 

 

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