"He was born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad. And that was all his patrimony. His very paternity was obscure, although the village of Gavrillacs had long since dispelled the cloud of mystery that hung about it."
Scaramouche, Book 1, by Rafael Sabatini
I was looking through Netflix earlier this month to find movies for younger son and I to watch while the dear husband and the older two were visiting relatives. Scaramouche was on the "Swashbucklers" list, but it sounded so good that we waited to watch it with everyone. We weren't disappointed - except that younger son is now disappointed that we don't own it! It also has the longest (6 1/2 minute) sword duel on film (to the right).
Scaramouche takes place in pre-Revolutionary France. Andre-Louis Moreau (Stewart Granger), of unknown parentage, vows revenge against the man (Mel Ferrer) who killed his foster brother. Since he is wanted by the military as a revolutionary, he must hide out in a Commedia Dell'arte actors troupe, playing the part of Scaramouche (who, conveniently, is masked - one type of Scaramouche mask to the right). He throws himself into learning to fence to prepare for his revenge. And, to tell any more would give too much away.
Eleanor Parker and Janet Leigh (to the right) play the two women in his life. Janet Leigh, you, of course, know from Psycho. Eleanor Parker, who is excellent in Scaramouche (and reminds me of Kathryn Grayson playing Lilli Vanessi in Kiss Me Kate), has been in numerous films, most of which I haven't seen. I had seen her in one film, however - she plays Baroness Schraeder in The Sound of Music ("“Darling, haven't you ever heard of a delightful little thing called boarding school?”).
Scaramouche was originally a book (published in 1921) by Rafael Sabatini. It was first made into a movie in 1923. Sabatini wrote prolifically, and two of his other novels, Captain Blood and The Sea Hawk were also made into movies.
I definitely want to read the original Scaramouche, and, although it is available online, I would much rather get it from the library. One of the Amazon reviewers says, "Set against the backdrop of the French Revolution, this swashbuckling novel is exciting throughout, and it presents one of the most dashing heroes in fiction, a man who can fight equally well with his mind, his mouth, his pen, and his sword, a man who stirs up events wherever he goes" - which strongly reminds me of another favorite French story.
[Pictures thanks to La Rubrique Cinéma, which mentions that Laurence Olivier, Ava Gardener, Elizabeth Taylor, Fernando Lamas and Ricardo Montalban were all considered for the movie before the final casting was finished. If you haven't seen the movie, and if you read French, don't read the website, however, because it will give away parts of the plot.]