In no other role is Douglas Fairbanks’s boyish vigor as irresistibly engaging than as D’Artagnan in Fred Niblo’s The Three Musketeers. “When Alexandre Dumas sat down at his desk,” wrote Life magazine critic Robert E. Sherwood, “he doubtless had but one object in view: to provide a suitable story for Douglas Fairbanks to act in the movies.”
D’Artagnan is a naïve and ambitious farm boy who yearns to join the Musketeers, the elite regiment of guards under King Louis XIII (Adolphe Menjou). Riding into 1625 Paris on the back of a weathered plowhorse, the young rapscallion quickly wins the respect and friendship of the Musketeers’ most valiant trio in a breathtaking display of acrobatic swordsmanship. When Queen Anne (Mary MacLaren) is maneuvered into a political scandal by the devious Cardinal Richelieu (Nigel De Brulier), D’Artagnan and his bons hommes embark on a treacherous race across France, to England and back to regain a precious brooch that will save the queen’s honor and the future of their nation.
More than a thrilling adventure picture, The Three Musketeers is a handsomely-produced, emotionally sensitive telling of Dumas’s classic novel, buoyed by Fairbanks’s electrifying presence. According to Sherwood, it is “one of the great achievements of the movies.” —Kino International
Fred Niblo directed some of the most legendary stars of the 1920s in some of that decade’s biggest films: Blood and Sand (with Valentino); The Mark of Zorro and The Three Musketeers (Fair-banks); and Ben Hur. He guided Garbo through The Temptress (replacing her mentor, Mauritz Stiller) and The Mysterious Lady. He worked with Lillian Gish, Ronald Colman, Conrad Nagel, Lionel Barrymore, Vilma Banky, and Norma Talmadge. Valentino, Fair-banks, and Garbo first come to mind at the mention of their films with Niblo. The other actors’ best work was done elsewhere, for other more rightfully distinguished filmmakers.
Niblo’s one distinction is his credit on Ben Hur , the cinema’s first real super-spectacle. Ben Hur is the Titanic of its day, a boondoggle that ran way over budget and took two years to complete. It was begun by the Goldwyn Company, and passed along when Goldwyn, Loew’s Metro, and Louis B. Mayer joined together to form Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Ben Hur was initially shot on location… read more
It was done better later. Some glimmers of fun and menace, but the clumsy storytelling doesn't help matters. Fairbanks manages some fine moments of lower keyed magic, but all too much of his performance is based on Big Gestures. A surprise, considering this followed THE MARK OF ZORRO, where it all works so splendidly.