O. M. G! How great was the series finale of "Lost" last night?! I laughed, I cried...I thought it was a nice ending, even if things still weren't answered. When Jack finally... Oh right, wrong topic. Haha! Ah well, on to life without that show. So how about for today, a movie that also has lots of secrets, adventure, an ultimate duel, and most importantly, love - "Scaramouche."
This 1952 swashbuckler romance stars the yummy Stewart Granger, as well as Eleanor Parker, Janet Leigh and Mel Ferrer. The story takes place during the French Revolution. Granger plays Andre Moreau, a gentleman who falls in love with a young lady (Leigh) whom he meets along the road one day. However, the Queen has insisted she marry the Marquis de Maynes (Ferrer), and when the Marquis kills Andre's best friend, Andre vows revenge. He hides out with a traveling group of actors (that includes Parker) as he learns to become a master swordsman, plotting his revenge and pining over the love that cannot be.
As I mentioned earlier this year when I talked about "Young Bess," I love Stewart Granger! Such a huge crush on him as a kid and still swoon over his films to this day. And "Scaramouche" is definitely one of his best. He plays a romantic, smooth-talking, cheeky guy, truly British in every way. (I think he might be the reason I love all things British.) How can anyone not love to listen to him talk too? His voice...mmmmm, especially with the accent. And, AND you get to see him in tights! Perfect!
When Granger came to Hollywood in 1949, he was already a star in the UK. He came out to make "King Solomon's Mines" when the film's other star Deborah Kerr referred him to MGM for the lead role. "Mines" was a huge success, and solidified him as a star in America too. Dorothy Kilgallen of the New York Journal said of Granger's appeal, "I have never seen anything like the way ladies with high boiling points and high intelligence are falling to pieces over Mr. Granger...He's divine...makes me sick to my stomach...I've dreamed about him every night for six weeks." The success of "Mines" also prompted MGM to sign Granger to a seven-year contract. After much negotiation (Granger wasn't so sure about being tied to the studio for that long, but he had some major debt in the UK that needed to paid off), he finally signed. But, as one of his contract stipulations, he was given the lead to "Scaramouche."
Granger had heard that MGM was planning to remake the 1923 version of "Scaramouche" as a musical for Gene Kelly. As a kid, that film had been one of his favorites, starring one of his heroes Ramon Novarro, so he jumped at the chance to put the remake in his contract. He would star, but it would not be a musical. It would be a thrilling swashbuckling romance to excite new fans, just like the older version did. However, when producer Cary Wilson came on board trying to make it a comedy without the Revolution part of the story, Granger backed out of the production. When he needed a loan from MGM to buy a house for his new bride Jean Simmons, though, he agreed to stick with the film.
Directed by George Sidney, the film had many accidents from the start. Granger almost sliced open a stuntman's eye; Granger himself almost got his eye sliced open as well later. Two of the biggest accidents, though, were during fight scenes between Ferrer and Granger. Granger, having taken fencing lessons and being better at it than his double, did most of his own stunts. One shot involved a giant iron chandelier being cut down, about to crush Granger, but stopping right above his face. Sidney wanted to get the shot in one take, before the rigging had even been tested. He insisted that it was safe, that Granger had nothing to worry about. The stunt rigger was the best in the business. Granger refused, demanding a test. So, the rigger dropped the chandelier. The safety rope snapped instantly and the chandelier went crashing into the floor.
The other big accident occurred during the grand finale fencing duel. The longest uncut fencing duel ever filmed (six and a half minutes long) takes place all over a huge theater, from the balcony to the stage. There were balcony falls and such but the biggest accident occurred when Granger chased Ferrer over the backs of the theater seats. The set designer had used modern fold-up seats for the audience, so there was a small gab between the back and the seat. Granger had been warned about it, but with the adrenaline pumping during the actual shoot, he slipped. His knee twisted, popped off the hinged seat, and his back crashed hard to the floor, hurting even more his already-sore shoulder from a balcony fall earlier. As he lay semi-conscious, scraped up and in pain, thinking he was dead, Sidney uttered, "What the hell are we going to do? The film's only half finished." Only in Hollywood. Luckily all that pain was not for nothing. The film was a huge success, another American victory for Granger.
So, if you're in the mood for a good old-fashioned swashbuckler that is true Hollywood fun through and through (as well as a gorgeous leading man, teehee), check out "Scaramouche." You're sure to enjoy it. 'Til Friday.
(Post-tidbit: "Scaramouche" is evidently Senator John Kerry's favorite film. He even named his yacht after the title.)