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Zorro and Don Juan - A Great Swashbuckling Double Bill

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The Elgin as you probably know is now the Joyce -- a respected theater for dance programming. I remember, when it was the Elgin, the waiting area was downstairs, and there were old barber chairs to sit in! We used to go to Asia de Cuba across the street, for dinner, sometimes, it was cheap and good. This was the 70s/early 80s, I think. Before the age of video.


About *Zorro*: I showed the film to a group of kids back in the day. What I didn't know, was that the cultural institution I was working for was missing the final reel (it was 16mm). So my colleague and I had to try to remember the ending, so that we could tell it to the kids.

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I hope that the kids at least got to see the duel between Power and Rathbone. I have to admit that what follows is rather anti-climatic, and Bromberg seems to suddenly realize his authority whereas prior to that he was more or less a puppet. A rather abrupt transformation.


But the duo dueling is so well staged that I could not help but notice that the big battle at the end comes off rather weak, certainly not up to what Curtiz would stage, although Pallette's actions indicate that someone had watched ROBIN HOOD for "inspiration."

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Tom, I'd like to reply to this part of your recent posting when you said:


>In Captain Blood his character is bitter, in Robin Hood laughing and ebullient, in The Sea Hawk a reserved courtly gentleman, and in Don Juan a world weary cynic. I think he's outstanding in all four films (surprisingly so in Captain Blood, considering his inexperience as an actor) But I have a very special fondness for Errol Flynn's work as Don Juan. By this stage of the game Flynn had become that cynic you see on the screen but his increase in drinking had been, unfortunately, combined with narcotics. Yes, although Flynn initially thought that no drug could ever rule him, he did become a junkie.


I just wanted to add that I think with your immediate segue to Flynn's personal problem in the above text you might've missed stating another and possibly even more universal "truth" in regard to Flynn's different "types" of heroes portrayed. In this I mean that I think there might be a correlation to the viewers stage of their lives and to the level they might appreciate watching those different personality types.


I guess my point is that while I can't or shouldn't talk for anyone other than myself and my preferences, it seems the older In get, I find that "world weary cynic" type much more fascinating a character to watch on screen than I do those other three types you mentioned.

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World-weary cynics in movies would be a good topic for a thread. Shakespeare had many; two who come to mind immediately are Jaques in As You Like It and Thersites in Troilus and Cressida.


Here, at the risk of straying off-topic, is Jaques most famous monologue (performed in several films of the play) from As You Like It :


All the world's a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances,

And one man in his time plays many parts,

His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,

Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.

Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel

And shining morning face, creeping like snail

Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,

Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad

Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,

Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,

Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,

Seeking the bubble reputation

Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,

In fair round belly with good capon lined,

With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,

Full of wise saws and modern instances;

And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts

Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,

With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;

His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide

For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,

Turning again toward childish treble, pipes

And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,

That ends this strange eventful history,

Is second childishness and mere oblivion,

Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

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> {quote:title=Dargo2 wrote:}{quote}

> I suppose that could be a plausible reason for the box office results of the film, clore, however it seems even the film critics and historians often fail to give Flynn AND the movie itself its proper due.







Sorry that I didn't catch this earlier. I do know that William K. Everson had good words to say about the film. I think one reason that historians give Flynn scant attention is because he wasn't allied with one of the heralded "auteurs" as John Wayne was with Ford or Stewart with Capra, Hitchcock and Mann. Same would go for Cary Grant and Hawks. Flynn was associated with Curtiz and Walsh, and neither of them are given their rightful place because they were journeymen, they took what was given to them. Not that I agree with this underestimation.



Gable was another one who didn't get the respect from the critics that he did from the public. Sure, there's GWTW that kept getting released and keeping him in the public eye, but really, what was there after that 1939 megahit? What director pairing did he have? On the other hand, it took a while, but it wasn't until the auteurist crowd discovered Budd Boetticher that Randolph Scott got much attention, and it's only those films and the one for Peckinpah that get any mention from the critics.

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In my quest for the lyrics to "El Sombrero Blanco," I came across a forum of Zorro enthusiasts, and have stolen an informative post from someone named Don Firth, who I hope will not mind my reprinting it for some other admirers of the genre. If it isn't cricket to do this, forgive my ignorance.


"One of the finest swashbuckers ever made and the best duel scene in any movie, by far. Both Tyrone Power and Basil Rathbone were excellent fencers, and although Fred Cavins is listed as the fight director, Power and Rathbone choreographed the duel in the alcalde's study themselves. The only quibble would be that their fencing was the modern Hungarian-Italian style of saber-play and they used modern competition fencing sabers. But I don't mind a little anachronism when I can watch fencing that good."


I watched the movie tonight with my Tuesday-night movie buddy. Marvelous.


Nobody seems to agree on the lyrics to "El Sombrero Blanco," or its origin, though there are several replies. However it began, the dance serves as a terrific high point in the romance between Diego and Lolita.

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I think that's a great point about how the "rankings" of films and their lead actors in those various films are often predicated upon who the directors were and where their status as directors lay.


And, because as you imply, Vincent Sherman isn't often considered in the same league with the likes of Curtiz and Ford, and even though I personally have never caught a "flaw" in any of his directorial efforts in "Don Juan", I suppose this could've contributed to where this film seems to "rank"


Tom brought up sort of a "caveat" in his initial posting in his thread which might also explain why this film in particular seems to rank slightly lower in Fylnn's filmography, and that was his mentioning something to the effect that "Robert Douglas as the villian may not be Basil Rathbone, but he's very good in it". And while I would agree with Tom's statement, and have always thought Douglas very good in these sorts of roles, I have to wonder if this issue might also play upon the minds of those who "rank" films.

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*Dargo wrote: I mean that I think there might be a correlation to the viewers stage of their lives and to the level they might appreciate watching those different personality types.*


*I guess my point is that while I can't or shouldn't talk for anyone other than myself and my preferences, it seems the older In get, I find that "world weary cynic" type much more fascinating a character to watch on screen than I do those other three types you mentioned.*




Your theory makes a lot of sense to me, Dargo. I guess that means, in turn, that any younger viewer looking at the key Flynn swashbucklers would make more of a connection with Robin Hood as a character than Don Juan.



Certainly Flynn remains best remembered as Robin Hood, and undoubtedly that will always be the case. But I find it interesting that it was a Flynn past his prime, yet capable of bringing a cynical harder edge and subtle nuances to his performance as Don Juan that created, for me, at least, a far greater characterization as the Spanish lover than he had in his more legendary role as the Sherwood Forest rogue.



Flynn had seen a lot of life, both good and bad, by the time he played Don Juan and I think his lifetime experiences enrich the performance. Plus, as you say, add into the equation the fact that Don Juan's cynicism strikes more of an identification cord for me in my later years than does the virtuous idealism of Robin Hood.



To be honest, though, years before I turned into an old crock, I already had a higher opinion of his Don Juan performance. By the way this is NOT a knock on his Robin Hood performance because I really appreciate him in that film, as well. I have long gained greater satisfaction out of watching him as Don Juan, though, if only because that film provided him with the opportunity to demonstrate his deft handling of tongue-in-cheek humour on screen.



If Flynn had played Don Juan in 1939, as was originally envisioned, rather than 1947-8, it would have been an entirely different performance. He would have been able to do more in the action scenes, of course, and he would have looked like a million bucks as the legendary lover. But the world weariness that we have in his '48 performance would have been missing, And that would have been a loss. And that, in turn, Dargo, old boy, means that you probably wouldn't have been able to connect with him quite as well today.






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clore, we're back into dealing with with the auteurists again, and you may well have a valid point. This actually goes back to my Michael Curtiz thread and the fact that, as a "house director," he never got much respect. The same is true of Raoul Walsh.


The Curtiz-Flynn films just don't get the same excitement from critics as do the Ford-Wayne films. That has always been the case. As for Don Juan, well, heck, it doesn't even have Curtiz or Walsh as director, so another knock on the film, even though Vincent Sherman does a very admirable mixture in my opinion of the dramatic with the humorous.


Actually, if Don Juan had been directed by Curtiz instead I suspect that the melodramatic flourishes would have been greater, but at the sacrifice of the film's scenes of humour. The existing film has a lovely balance of both, I feel.


And Dargo raised an interesting point, too, by the fact that Don Juan's status is possibly impacted by the fact that a relatively unknown actor played the chief villain, rather than Basil Rathbone (even though Robert Douglas is quite good in the part).


The fact remains, though, that even at Warner Brothers the Flynn vehicles were always regarded as light enterrtainment that made money but weren't going to bring in the Oscar nominations like a Bette Davis or Paul Muni film. Flynn's films never had status at his own studio, possibly as a result of critical reaction to them (great popcorn entertainment, folks, but these ain't exactly works of art-that has always been the response to them). Flynn knew it, smiling on the surface as he collected his big pay cheques but within him he chaffed about it.

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I think by the time of Don Juan (1948), the heyday and style of the great Sea Hawk/Captain Blood style of swashbuckler had changed. Just as late '40s musicals are SO different from the '30s musicals. Regarding directors, I was watching The Roaring Twenties again the other day and thought, what a great artist Raoul Walsh was. And Curtiz could do anything. Regarding the greatest of the greats, John Ford, I actually think his best work was in his films WITHOUT John Wayne.



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Wow, wouldbestar, I really appreciate your lovely posting.


I'm glad you enjoyed the two films, and I understand your mixed feelings about watching Don Juan, because you know what lay ahead for its star in the coming years. But I tend, as you can see by this thread, to celebrate the film, and celebrate Flynn's performance in it. The critics never gave Errol Flynn his proper due as a performer. I'm glad to see that others, such as yourself, do appreciate his work, even if only in this film.


That documentary to which you made reference, The Cruise of the Zaca, was largely filmed in 1946, but not released for another six years. Flynn was quite proud of it. In his autobiography he devoted two and a half pages to it while, ironically, he made passing reference to Adventures of Don Juan exactly ONCE in the book.


Here's a little of what Flynn wrote about that documentary:


The Cruise of the Zaca was a thoughtful little picture. People still talk about this film. They don't ask me about Robin Hood, they ask about The Cruise of the Zaca. It had tremendous public interest. I sold it to Warners, idiot that I was, for practically nothing. This film, in color, is still playing. There was one heartbreaking incident in connection with it. There was a 1/200,000th inch aperture in the camera that took some beautiful underwater shots, and it destroyed about five thousand feet of film. That minute disorder became magnified so that on the screen a diagonal yellow streak three feet wide ran through the film.


It's interesting and a little sad that Flynn wrote, assuming he's not exaggerating, that people didn't ask him about Robin Hood, his most famous film. I guess that at the end his glory days really were very much a thing of the past for him. But I also know that Flynn had a large 16mm collection of many of his old films and apparently watched them quite often. You wonder, though, how many of those viewings were through vodka-soaked vision.

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>Regarding the greatest of the greats, John Ford, I actually think his best work was in his films WITHOUT John Wayne.


Yep Swithin. I've heard, and as you've probably also heard, that one of Ford's own personal favorites was 1950's Wagon Master.

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I think that Vincent Sherman really rose to the occasion with *Don Juan* - and this is coming from someone who considers the man little more than a hack who rarely brought anything extra to the table. The WB answer to Richard Thorpe at MGM. What notoriety that Sherman has now is that he outlived his stars and seems intent on having us believe that he bedded all of the female ones.


But he has a top script in this one, some sumptuous sets and glorious costuming, all in gorgeous Technicolor and I believe it was his first to contain hues. If I recall properly, he didn't get to work in color again until the dismal *Ice Palace*, perhaps the worst Edna Ferber adaptation.


So, for me, Don Juan is Sherman's most accomplished film with enough within it to distinguish it from the Curtiz trio, yet also containing enough to come damn near their greatness.

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Adventures of Don Juan, as many of us know, was a highly tumultuous production. I found it fascinating, though, to read the following passage from the Errol and Olivia blog by Robert Matzen. Matzen wrote two books on Flynn, Errol Flynn Slept Here and Errol and Olivia, and he also studied the Warners production notes on the making of Don Juan.


Here is a new insight into Vincent Sherman and Errol Flynn on the making of that film that I had never seen before. I really appreciate Robert Matzen for providing film historians with this information:


When interviewed for a video documentary about Errol Flynn in the 1980s, Warner Bros. director Vincent Sherman said that Flynn started Adventures of Don Juan, and after a couple of weeks he got a bad review for another picture and went in the tank, which caused Don Juan to become a production nightmare. Sounds good, but it’s not true. Sherman was a charismatic guy and talented storyteller, and I took his story of Don Juan at face value because he was there and should know. But he was telling this story 40 years after the fact and the production records at Warner Bros.—raw data captured day by day—explain what really happened: Flynn was a model citizen on Don Juan for not two weeks but many weeks, and complaints from the producer and unit manager focused solely on Vincent Sherman for not running a taut ship or knowing how to stage the complex action outlined in the script. Due to the director, Don Juan was already weeks behind schedule when Flynn went in the tank in response to bad reviews for Escape Me Never.


Sherman, who lived to be 100, threw his buddy Flynn under the bus on that occasion for whatever reason. Maybe he genuinely remembered the story that way, or was feeding back to the filmmaker what was needed for the biopic. Who can say. But it entered the historical record and remains there today, and frankly this story casts Flynn in a bad light as a performer uncaring of his work. In reality, Flynn knew how important Don Juan was to his career and he embraced the concept. He cared very much about this picture and about his performance in it—he cared so much about his work that only when that work was vilified in reviews for another picture did he fold.



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I think we need to be careful that we are not trying to salvage Flynn's reputation at Sherman's expense. Flynn was said to cause a lot of trouble on the set of SILVER RIVER. The only production where I have read that he was well-behaved was SAN ANTONIO.

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TB, this new information about the difficulties during the making of Don Juan is based, as I said in my posting, on an examination of the actual Warners production notes of the film. This is not just repeating, as others have, what director Sherman said was the case. The production notes tell a different story than did Sherman.


As Robert Matzen said, it may be that Sherman simply, after all those years, had a bad memory. Then, again, it may have been by design on his part to make himself look better and put the blame on a dead man. Who can say?


In any event, the production notes place early blame for production delays on the shoulders of the director, not star. There's no question that Flynn's breakdown, if that is what it was, caused huge headaches for the film but it was triggered by negative film reviews and it happened when the production was well underway, not after a mere two weeks, as Sherman would have had historians believe was the case.


And it's great, that after all these years, Matzen looked at the Don Juan notes in order to make this discovery.

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Those same studio records show how unprofessional Errol was on SILVER RIVER. He had a history of causing trouble on sets. Probably ESCAPE ME NEVER was not as good as it could have been because he did not give his best effort to it. So in all likelihood, he brought those negative reviews upon himself.


As for Sherman, personally I get sick of his describing himself as a Casanova with the actresses he directed. I am sure his character is not unimpeachable either.


Going back to an earlier post in the thread, DON JUAN is a remarkable achievement for both men, considering how unsavory their reputations and work habits may have been.

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By the way, I have decided that I will launch the Lady Swashbucklers thread in late March on the same day that TCM is airing its slate of 'Girls with Guns' pictures. I think it would be the perfect tie-in. I am going to call it 'Girls with Swords,' and I will be featuring gals from Maureen O'Hara to Geena Davis. I am also going to try to find examples in foreign films of lady swashbucklers. More to come...

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*TB wrote:* {font:arial, helvetica, sans-serif}*Going back to an earlier post in the thread, DON JUAN is a remarkable achievement for both men, considering how unsavory their reputations and work habits may have been.*


Well, that's probably as back handed a compliment as either Flynn or Sherman ever received. {font}

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You're practicing bad manners again. I posted that as a follow-up so you would know that there is no need to post pictures of Maureen O'Hara here since I will be launching the new thread, provided I can research it and execute it properly. Why not be happy there is a resolution to our recent conflicts instead of throwing new fuel on to the fire with snarky remarks? Again, I am a guest in your 'house.' LOL

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