THREE MUSKETEERS, THE (director: George Sidney; screenwriters: Robert Ardrey/based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas; cinematographer: Robert H. Planck; editors: George Boemler/Robert Kern; music: Herbert Stothart; cast: Gene Kelly (D’Artagnan), Lana Turner (Lady de Winter), June Allyson (Constance Bonacieux), Van Heflin (Athos), Angela Lansbury (Queen Anne), Vincent Price (Richelieu), Keenan Wynn (Planchet), Frank Morgan (King Louis XIII), Gig Young (Porthos), Robert Coote (Aramis), John Sutton (The Duke of Buckingham), Reginald Owen (Treville); Runtime: 125; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Pandro S. Berman; MGM; 1948)
“It might look good but it doesn’t taste that good after a few bites.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
George Sidney (“Thousands Cheer”/”Pilot No. 5″/”Anchors Aweigh”) helms this rousing comical swashbuckler, the first of the three talkie Musketeer films to be in Technicolor. There’s a liveliness due to Gene Kelly’s dynamic performance in this non-musical, where his many dueling scenes resemble highly choreographed dance numbers. Though only in a small part as a villainess who knows how to make good use of her boudoir, Lana Turner nevertheless got top billing because of her star status. MGM gave in to imagined pressures from the Catholic Church and voluntarily changed the villain Richelieu’s title from cardinal to prime minister. It’s based on the classic novel by Alexandre Dumas and scripted by Robert Ardrey; it leaves out the poetry and splendor of the classic, instead going all out for a lush Hollywood costume piece and period drama. There are long tedious stretches between some exciting action scenes, in a film that’s not made for the reader of Dumas; it tends to be overlong, a bit boring and filled with too many clichés. It might look good but it doesn’t taste that good after a few bites.
In 1625, the eager-beaver young swordsman D’Artagnan (Gene Kelly) leaves his country village of Gascon, France, and sets out for Paris to be a musketeer. The potential musketeer soon pleases with his deft swordplay the veteran Three Musketeers– Athos (Van Heflin), Porthos (Gig Young) and Aramis (Robert Coote)–who play the role in plumes and with a hardly pleasing carefree burlesque attitude, making them seem more like Hollywood vaudevillians than feared French swordsmen. D’Artagnan, the cadet, joins these great swordsmen in their efforts to protect the weak King Louis XIII (Frank Morgan) from his powerful dark prime minister Richelieu (Vincent Price), who is trying to spark a war with England and has spies everywhere, and to save their beloved Queen Anne (Angela Lansbury) from disgrace when the valuable jewels given her by the prime minister she, in turn, gave to her secret English lover The Duke of Buckingham (John Sutton).
The good ole boys are aided in their efforts by the lovely and loyal Lady Constance (June Allyson), an ordinary next door gal type, their landlord’s daughter who works in the palace, whom D’Artagnan falls in love with at first sight after saving her from kidnappers sent by Richelieu. Keenan Wynn is miscast as D’Artagnan’s loyal servant Planchet, looking as if he wandered onto the wrong set in the MGM lot.
The schoolboy adventure tale is best remembered for the ambitious and wicked Lana parading around like Mae West while dressed in twelve-gallon hats, ostrich plumes, beauty marks and satin dresses. The dueling scenes soon grew repetitive and, the film under the unsure hands of Sidney, never could settle into which direction it wanted to go and as a result is all over the map veering from lame slapstick, disheartening melodrama and in the end reaching for epic action scenes it never quite achieves. It can’t hold a sword to the 1921 silent with Douglas Fairbanks. But it did fantastic at the box office.
REVIEWED ON 3/27/2007 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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