This review is a contribution to the MGM Blogathon hosted by Silver Screenings.
The French countryside seethes with talk of revolution, but Andre Moreau (Stewart Granger) has bigger problems on his mind—his father has stopped giving him money, his old flame Lenore (Eleanor Parker) is marrying someone else, and—worst of all—Andre just found out that Aline (Janet Leigh), the beautiful woman he met on the roadside and fell in love with, is his half-sister.
With so much on his mind, Andre brushes off his friend Phillipe’s talk of a coming day of reckoning for the French aristocracy. But when Phillipe is killed by Noel, the Marquis de Maynes (Mel Ferrar), Andre vows revenge. He will stop at nothing to avenge his friend—including joining a travelling theatre troupe and hiding behind the role of ridiculous clown Scaramouche.
Scaramouche is a movie I’ve seen many, many times, and it’s always lots of fun. I’m not much a fan of Andre himself—he’s a little too loose for my tastes (and I feel as though Granger is a bit too smug in the role). But the rest of the cast really shines. Eleanor Parker’s Lenore is fiery and breathtakingly gorgeous, giving as good as she gets and holding her own against Andre’s madcap ways. Parker and Granger’s scenes together are full of chemistry and sparks that almost set the screen on fire.
Janet Leigh also does good work, although Aline’s childish character fades a little into the background when contrasted with Lenore’s sparkling presence. (I do love how the two of them work together to save Andre from dueling Noel on more than one occasion. Female allyships are so great to see!)
My favorite character in Scaramouche, surprisingly enough, is Mel Ferrar’s villainous character Noel, the Marquis de Maynes. Noel and Andre are connected on a much more personal level than either of them suspect. Rewatching the film with knowledge of that connection adds even more depth to Noel’s encounters with Andre.
I’m not ordinarily a fan of Ferrar’s work, but he is, in my opinion, the best piece of casting in the whole film. Noel is proud and cruel toward those who cross him, a brilliant swordsman, and…actually a decent boyfriend? He is in love with the queen herself (Marie Antoinette!), but since that can never go anywhere, he courts Aline after the queen recommends her. The moments of thoughtfulness and care that we see from Noel in regards to Aline really do something to humanize him. (Also, Noel’s respectfulness toward women is such an interesting and marked contrast to Andre’s *cough* problematic treatment of Lenore.)
I’m not saying that Noel is not the villain of the film. He definitely is, remaining cold and calculating and heartless throughout. But I did like his relationship with Aline and how sweet he could be to her.
Anyway! I’m here to review Scaramouche, not write an essay about Noel. XD Besides the cast and characters, Scaramouche also boasts detailed, beautiful sets and costuming in vivid Technicolor. This is France just before the revolution and the costuming and set design reflect that. Bright, opulent excess on the part of the aristocrats, darker shades and tones for the common people (good for sneaking around and plotting).
In addition, Victor Young’s score is amazing: rich, thrilling, sumptuous. One of my favorite movie soundtracks. Here is the theme that plays over opening titles, so you can enjoy a sample of the music. (And really, the whole soundtrack is worth a listen.)
If you’re in the mood for an entertaining swashbuckler, I highly recommend Scaramouche. There are some The Scarlet Pimpernel vibes and some The Vikings (1958) vibes. Overall, it’s a terrific film that I’m sure I’ll enjoy for many years to come.
Have you watched Scaramouche? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments!