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The Laughing Academy
A Life of Noisy Desperation
Will you do the fandango? 
7th-Jul-2009 08:03 pm
Wyeth - Captain Blood
File under “happy coincidence”: this morning on the train I finished re-reading one of my favorite historical romances, Scaramouche, by Rafael Sabatini. Tonight, on TCM? The 1952 Hollywood movie based on same, which is not an entirely satisfactory adaptation but does have an epic 10-minute swordfight in a crowded theater between Stewart Granger as Our Hero and Mel Ferrer as his nemesis, the Marquis.

Let the swashbuckling commence!

ETA: Wow, I’d forgotten just how faithful an adaptation this isn’t. Fifteen minutes in, and our peripatetic protagonist, André-Louis Moreau, has dropped the “Louis”; his nemesis, Gervaise, le Marquis de la Tour d’Azyr, is Noel, le Marquis de Maynes (and an ex-lover of Marie Antoinette, who isn’t in the book); Aline de Kercadiou, the beloved of both the Marquis and André-Louis, is Aline de Gavrillac de Bourbon; the actress, Climène, is Lenore, and her performances with André-Louis have been reduced from commedia dell’ arte to an especially crude Punch and Judy show.

*Sigh* This book deserves so much better. André-Louis is one of my favorite characters — how can you not love someone of whom it is written, “He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad”? And then, on the next page:
Out of his zestful study of Man, from Thucydides to the Encyclopaedists, from Seneca to Rousseau, he had confirmed into an unassailable conviction his earliest conscious impressions of the general insanity of his own species. Nor can I discover that anything in his eventful life ever afterwards caused him to waver in that opinion.

On the other hand, Aline comes across surprisingly well: “I am neither a child nor a chattel. I am woman, and want to be loved for my own sake or not at all.” Not bad for Hollywood in the ’fifties.

ETA II — The Revenge: Okay, someone explain to me why the screenwriters decided André needed to spend most of the film believing that Aline was his half-sister? Sabatini was able to get major dramatic mileage out of the issue of his hero’s parentage (that’s another thing — the book reveals the identity of André’s father and mother, whereas according to MGM only Daddy matters, naturally) without playing the LOL INCEST card.
Comments 
8th-Jul-2009 01:34 am (UTC)
I *love* Scaramouche! Although I have to say, your writeup has not made me rush out to see the film. *g*
8th-Jul-2009 02:29 am (UTC)
The ’52 movie, fun as it is in places, does not do Sabatini justice. It does, however, make me curious about the 1923 silent version, which, judging from its IMDb entry, was far more faithful to the source material and is probably a better movie for it. (Ooh — it’s on DVD!)



Edited at 2009-07-08 02:30 am (UTC)
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