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Scaramouche and Star Wars


path40a
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After watching the great Scaramouche (1952) on TCM last night, I was struck by the similarities between it and Star Wars (1977). Similar themes involve swashbuckling, sword fighting, parental heritage questions, using of masks, even the nature of the "love story" itself to name just a few.

 

I know that George Lucas has said he wrote Star Wars as a throwback to some of the old movies and serials like Flash Gordon et al. But I'm wondering if anyone knows whether he has ever mentioned Scaramouche as one of his inspirations.

 

Does anyone know? Or does anyone else find the parallels as strikingly similar as I do?

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  • 1 year later...

SPOILERS!

 

Having just watched this film again, thankfully shown to honor Janet Leigh, I was struck even harder by the overt similarity between its plot and that of the original Star Wars trilogy. It must have had an influence on George Lucas. The differences seem to be in reversals, or nuances, of many of Scaramouche's core themes. Here's why:

 

Stewart Granger's character Andre Moreau is/was obsessed with knowing the identity of his father, which isn't revealed until near the very end of the film. In this sense, Andre is very much like Luke Skywalker. In other ways, though, he is more like Hans Solo. Perhaps Lucas created two characters out of one. Andre is first introduced to us as somewhat of a womanizing rogue, like Hans, until he meets "the" woman (Janet Leigh in Scaramouche; Princess Leia in Star Wars) whom he falls in love with. However, Andre's love is tempered quickly when he finds out she is his sister (only we find out in the end that she really isn't, and he wins her). In Star Wars, Hans & Luke are attracted to Leia (and we find out in the end that she really is Luke's sister, and Hans wins her). The women, however, don't really work in the comparison between the films. Only slightly, and like Luke/Hans, both Eleanor Parker's character and Ms. Leigh's character morph into one (Leia).

 

Andre's evil nemesis, the Marquis de Maynes (Mel Ferrer), is a superior swordsman who almost kills him in such a fight early in the film, before he escapes. Luke is almost killed by the superior Vader early in that series, before he escapes. So, Andre trains with a master (who taught the Marquis) to get better so he can defeat him ... the same way Luke trains with Obi Wan (who taught "Darth Vader") to defeat "him". In the end, Andre is the one with superior skills but can't bring himself to kill the Marquis, who turns out to be his brother. In the end of Star Wars, Luke is better with the light sabre and can't bring himself to kill Vader, who is his father (close enough;- ) Throughout the film, Andre hides his face with a mask though its use is to conceal and make him seem harmless. Lucas reversed this; Vader's mask makes him more intimidating.

 

There's another, weaker connection in that Andre is recruited by the oppressed class to fight the greater foe (the aristocracy), led by the Marquis. And, though he is reluctant, he agrees and has some small duels (successes) which lead to a showdown with the Marquis. In the same way, Luke/Hans is recruited by the oppressed rebels to fight the Evil Empire, led by Vader. Hans is reluctant, but agrees and he (with Luke) have some successful battles which lead to Luke's showdown with Vader. Andre's motivation throughout is to avenge a friend he grew up with that was killed by the Marquis, which he witnessed. Luke's real motivation kicks in when he witnesses Obi Wan killed by Vader.

 

What do you think? Have I put enough "meat on these bones" or have I just tied a lot of common plot devices together to force a similarity?

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Along the same lines I just recently noticed the similarity between Julius Caesar and Jesus Christ Superstar.

 

Both movies were about mythic beloved and hated figures with the same initials who were killed by conspiratorial groups of Romans within a century of each other.

 

And both movies were really about the friend who is tormented by guilt after betraying JC. Brutus and Judas even rhyme.

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