Scaramouche (1923)

101 mins | Romance | 30 September 1923

Director:

Rex Ingram

Writer:

Willis Goldbeck

Cinematographer:

John F. Seitz

Editor:

Grant Whytock

Production Company:

Metro Pictures Corp.
Full page view
HISTORY

The film begins with the following inter-title card: “The reign of Louis XVI, King of France, marked the passing of the French Monarchy. Bankrupt, abandoned to the rule of an all-powerful Nobility and an indifferent Clergy, the nation faced starvation—or revolt.”
       The 7 Oct 1922 Exhibitors Trade Review announced that Metro Pictures Corp. had purchased the film rights to Scaramouche, Rafael Sabatini’s 1921 best-selling novel about the French Revolution. Sabatini had already adapted his work into a play scheduled for Broadway in late 1922 by producer Charles L. Wagner.
       ”Scaramouche” is a masked clown character in Italian commedia dell’arte who is often beaten by another stock character, “Harlequin,” because of his boastfulness and cowardice. Since the name was foreign to most Americans, Metro launched a campaign to make it “the best known word” in the country, the 14 Jul 1923 Motion Picture News reported. “Scaramouche” novelties were distributed; Metro’s letterhead, envelopes, press releases, press books, and every other “bit of printed matter” from the studio contained the word in red ink and inch-high letters. Magazine articles touted the elaborate and expensive production, and reminded readers that director Rex Ingram was already famous for such expensive films as The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921, see entry). An eight-page “short story,” written by Gordon Malherbe Hillman from the Scaramouche script, ran in the Dec 1923 Motion Picture Classic, illustrated with still photographs from the production. The 1 Sep 1923 Moving Picture World also reported that publisher Grosset and Dunlap was printing a “photoplay edition” of Rafael Sabatini’s novel.
       Articles in the 1 Sep 1923 ... More Less

The film begins with the following inter-title card: “The reign of Louis XVI, King of France, marked the passing of the French Monarchy. Bankrupt, abandoned to the rule of an all-powerful Nobility and an indifferent Clergy, the nation faced starvation—or revolt.”
       The 7 Oct 1922 Exhibitors Trade Review announced that Metro Pictures Corp. had purchased the film rights to Scaramouche, Rafael Sabatini’s 1921 best-selling novel about the French Revolution. Sabatini had already adapted his work into a play scheduled for Broadway in late 1922 by producer Charles L. Wagner.
       ”Scaramouche” is a masked clown character in Italian commedia dell’arte who is often beaten by another stock character, “Harlequin,” because of his boastfulness and cowardice. Since the name was foreign to most Americans, Metro launched a campaign to make it “the best known word” in the country, the 14 Jul 1923 Motion Picture News reported. “Scaramouche” novelties were distributed; Metro’s letterhead, envelopes, press releases, press books, and every other “bit of printed matter” from the studio contained the word in red ink and inch-high letters. Magazine articles touted the elaborate and expensive production, and reminded readers that director Rex Ingram was already famous for such expensive films as The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921, see entry). An eight-page “short story,” written by Gordon Malherbe Hillman from the Scaramouche script, ran in the Dec 1923 Motion Picture Classic, illustrated with still photographs from the production. The 1 Sep 1923 Moving Picture World also reported that publisher Grosset and Dunlap was printing a “photoplay edition” of Rafael Sabatini’s novel.
       Articles in the 1 Sep 1923 issues of Motion Picture News and Exhibitors Trade Review detailed the logistics of creating such an elaborate production. The number of actors, extras, and crew numbered “in the neighborhood of 10,000.” Twenty-two cameramen and their assistants shot the violent mob scenes. Constructing the streets of Gavrillac, Rennes, and Paris required 412 tons of cobblestones hauled twenty-six miles to the Metro Studio on Western Avenue in Hollywood and thirty-six miles to a rural area in Los Angeles’s San Fernando Valley (where Gavrillac was built). Seventy-five plasterers, 630 carpenters, eighty-eight painters and scenic artists, sixty-five electricians, twenty-three property men, and many other craftsmen were employed. They used 610 tons of sand and gravel for cement and 340 tons of plaster. The sixty-acre village of Gavrillac and its surrounding wall were built in two weeks. It included a river built in a natural gulley fed by six 1,200-gallon water tanks refilled by pipes leading from a well located a mile away. The production also built three French stagecoaches, three cabs, a “dainty, glass-encased, two-wheeled cabriolet,” and forty-five wagons of various types. Metro’s costume department used 40,000 yards of muslin; 40,000 yards of lining; 20,000 yards of cloth, satins, brocades and velvets; 300 hides of leather, 10,000 yards of lace, 200,000 buttons, and 300,000 hook-and-eyes. There were 4,000 hats and 4,000 wigs. Planning for this production began six months before filming, using eight researchers and eleven architects and designers.
       Principal photography was set to begin on 19 Mar 1923, St. Patrick’s Day, but Irish-born director Rex Ingram postponed it until the following Monday, the 14 Apr 1923 Moving Picture World noted, in order to celebrate the holiday. The first scenes were shot on the Gavrillac set in the San Fernando Valley. Nearly three months later, and “half way in the production schedule,” Ingram began filming the revolution scenes, beginning with the storming of the Palace of Justice in Rennes at Metro’s Hollywood studio, according to the 7 Jul 1923 Motion Picture News. Late in the production, Ingram used a thousand people and spent ten days filming the meeting of the National Assembly in Paris, the 28 Jul 1923 Motion Picture News noted. The 4 Aug 1923 Motion Picture News announced that filming had ended.
       The 15 Sep 1923 Exhibitors Trade Review reported that the “cost figures” for the recently completed Scaramouche had reached $1,139,014, and the picture was now being edited.
       Rex Ingram and his wife, actress Alice Terry, traveled to New York City with “a completely edited print” for the official premiere of Scaramouche at the Forty-fourth Street Theatre on 21 Sep 1923, according to the 22 Sep 1923 Exhibitors Trade Review. An earlier “benefit premiere” was held 15 Sep 1923 at the Schubert-Belasco Theatre in Washington, D.C., hosted by the local American Red Cross chapter for Japanese Relief, following a devastating earthquake in Japan, the 29 Sep 1923 Moving Picture World reported. Scaramouche opened at the Forty-fourth Street Theatre on 30 Sep 1923 and broke box office records during the next three weeks, the 25 Sep 1923 FD and 24 Nov 1923 Moving Picture World reported.
       A list of reviews in the 13 Oct 1923 Motion Picture News indicated a “glowing” response from New York City newspaper critics. Scaramouche was voted one of the “Top Best Features” of 1923 by the 1929 Film Daily Year Book, as reported in the 7 Feb 1930 FD.
       Rafael Sabatini's novel was also the basis for the 1952 M-G-M film Scaramouche , directed by George Sidney and starring Stewart Granger and Eleanor Parker. In that film, Lewis Stone, who portrayed “The Marquis de la Tour d’Azyr” in the 1923 original, returned as “Georges de Valmorin,” the father of “Philippe,” the character he killed in the role of the marquis. (The last name was altered from Vilmorin to Valmorin.) Another film based on the same source was the 1964 French production The Adventures of Scaramouche (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70.) More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Exhibitors Trade Review
7 Oct 1922
p. 1226d.
Exhibitors Trade Review
1 Sep 1923
p. 592.
Exhibitors Trade Review
15 Sep 1923
p. 710.
Exhibitors Trade Review
22 Sep 1923
p. 750.
Exhibitors Trade Review
13 October 1923
p. 907.
Film Daily
25 Sep 1923
p. 1.
Film Daily
14 Oct 1923
p. 5.
Film Daily
7 Feb 1930
p. 8.
Motion Picture Classic
Dec1923
pp. 28-32, 80-82.
Motion Picture News
7 Jul 1923
p. 106.
Motion Picture News
14 Jul 1923
p. 215.
Motion Picture News
28 Jul 1923
p. 455.
Motion Picture News
4 Aug 1923
p. 564.
Motion Picture News
28 Aug 1923
p 787.
Motion Picture News
1 Sep 1923
p. 1030.
Motion Picture News
13 Oct 1923
p. 1798.
Moving Picture World
14 Apr 1923
p. 768.
Moving Picture World
1 Sep 1923
p. 67.
Moving Picture World
29 Sep 1923
p. 404.
Moving Picture World
24 Nov 1923
p. 410.
New York Times
1 Oct 1923
p. 2.
Variety
20 Sep 1923
p. 23.
Variety
4 Oct 1923
p. 22.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Metro Presents
Rex Ingram's Production of
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTOR
PRODUCERS
Supv
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
FILM EDITOR
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost des
Cost des
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini (Boston, 1921).
DETAILS
Release Date:
30 September 1923
Premiere Information:
New York premiere: 21 September 1923
New York opening: 30 September 1923
Production Date:
began 21 March 1923
Copyright Claimant:
Metro Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
10 October 1923
Copyright Number:
LP19477
Physical Properties:
Silent
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
101
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

In late-eighteenth-century France, law student André-Louis Moreau returns home to Gavrillac from Paris with divinity student Philippe de Vilmorin. As the two friends arrive by carriage, villagers carry the body of a man shot for poaching on the preserves of the Marquis de la Tour d’Azyr. Philippe pulls a scroll from his jacket, printed by the National Assembly and signed by King Louis XVI, that proclaims the freedom of French citizens from oppression by the nobility. As the marquis appears at the victim’s house, accompanied by the Chevalier de Chabrillane, Philippe slaps him for using his rank to inflict horror on peasants. André tries to mollify the marquis, insisting that Philippe “knows nothing of the sword,” but the aristocrat demands a duel. The marquis pauses to look at the infant of the peasant’s daughter, whose coquettish expression hints that the baby is his, then goes outside and easily dispatches the divinity student. After the marquis and his chevalier leave in their carriage, André takes the scroll from Philippe’s body and vows to support his “gospel of freedom.” He visits his godfather, Quintin de Kercadiou, for advice. Looking out the window of the Kercadiou chateau, he sees that his childhood sweetheart, Aline de Kercadiou, has returned from school at Versailles. However, she is accompanied by the Marquis de la Tour, whom Quintin, Aline’s uncle, has given permission to court. Leaving Gavrillac, André travels all night to Rennes, the capital of Brittany, which has become a center of the freedom movement. In the main square, an orator addresses a crowd from a statue in front of the Palace of Justice. André enters the palace and demands that the king’s lieutenant deliver ... +


In late-eighteenth-century France, law student André-Louis Moreau returns home to Gavrillac from Paris with divinity student Philippe de Vilmorin. As the two friends arrive by carriage, villagers carry the body of a man shot for poaching on the preserves of the Marquis de la Tour d’Azyr. Philippe pulls a scroll from his jacket, printed by the National Assembly and signed by King Louis XVI, that proclaims the freedom of French citizens from oppression by the nobility. As the marquis appears at the victim’s house, accompanied by the Chevalier de Chabrillane, Philippe slaps him for using his rank to inflict horror on peasants. André tries to mollify the marquis, insisting that Philippe “knows nothing of the sword,” but the aristocrat demands a duel. The marquis pauses to look at the infant of the peasant’s daughter, whose coquettish expression hints that the baby is his, then goes outside and easily dispatches the divinity student. After the marquis and his chevalier leave in their carriage, André takes the scroll from Philippe’s body and vows to support his “gospel of freedom.” He visits his godfather, Quintin de Kercadiou, for advice. Looking out the window of the Kercadiou chateau, he sees that his childhood sweetheart, Aline de Kercadiou, has returned from school at Versailles. However, she is accompanied by the Marquis de la Tour, whom Quintin, Aline’s uncle, has given permission to court. Leaving Gavrillac, André travels all night to Rennes, the capital of Brittany, which has become a center of the freedom movement. In the main square, an orator addresses a crowd from a statue in front of the Palace of Justice. André enters the palace and demands that the king’s lieutenant deliver justice for Philippe’s murder, but when he discloses the rank of the murderer, the official orders one of his men to arrest André. The young lawyer knocks the sentry down and rushes outside to join the crowd. In the square, a soldier shoots the speaker, and André climbs on the statue in his stead and displays the National Assembly’s decree. He shouts that although the scroll “abolishes the right of Nobility to rule by force,” the traitor in the Palace of Justice has defied it. Suddenly, dragoons on horseback ride into the square and disperse the crowd. A student named Chapelier compliments André on his courage, and gives him a pistol for protection. Returning to Gavrillac, André finds Aline entertaining the marquis at Quintin de Kercadiou’s chateau. Aline slips away from her suitor to hide André, just as dragoons arrive to arrest him for sedition, a crime punishable by death. The marquis tells the captain where the fugitive is hiding, but André has already fled. Awakening the next day in a barn, André joins a traveling troupe of actors, led by Challefau Binet, and catches the eye of Challefau’s daughter, Climène. Assuming the name “Monsieur X,” André learns theatrical skills over the next few months and helps Challefau write plays, including Figaro-Scaramouche, in which he portrays the masked clown “Scaramouche.” He shapes the motley troupe into a company of first-rate actors and arranges for them to perform at a major theater in Paris. Meanwhile, the Countess Thérèse de Plougastel invites Aline to Paris, where she has a season box at the theater. Aline joins the countess, and the Marquis de la Tour follows. During the curtain call after a performance, André, having removed his mask, sees Aline sitting with the marquis and quickly slips away, but Aline recognizes him. Backstage, the despondent André allows himself to succumb to Climène Binet’s advances. When Aline secretly visits André the following day, she admits that she endures the marquis only because he will make her “a great lady.” When André responds that he is going to marry Climène because she would never sell herself for a title, Aline walks out. However, André later discovers that Climène has gone out with the marquis in his carriage. Upon her return, he challenges her, and Climène declares that she would never “give up a great gentleman for a nameless clown.” Later, Countess de Plougastel informs the marquis that Aline saw him in his carriage with the theater girl, Climène, and has called off their courtship. Meanwhile, Chapelier informs André that the people of Rennes, who witnessed his speech from the statue, want him to represent them as a deputy in the National Assembly. That night, as André goes onstage as Scaramouche, he sees that the Marquis de la Tour has returned to the countess’s box seat. Stopping the performance, he removes his mask and denounces the aristocrat for murdering his friend. The marquis is forced to flee from angry theatergoers. During the following months, the National Assembly becomes a battlefield, as citizens demand that “People” have an equal voice with “Nobility.” Chapelier is now the assembly president, and rabble-rouser Georges Jacques Danton has become a powerful orator for freedom. Unable to challenge the eloquent arguments of Danton and other deputies, the Marquis de la Tour and other noblemen provoke duels, hoping to eliminate the riff raff with their swords, but Danton refuses to acknowledge their insults. However, he visits the Paris fencing academy on the Rue de Hazard, where André is secretly an instructor under the name André-Louis, and takes him to speak at the Assembly under his last name, Moreau. The marquis’s aging henchman, the Chevalier de Chabrillane, challenges André to a duel the following morning, and the younger man easily dispatches him. In the following days, other noblemen challenge him, and André badly wounds each one. When André is exposed as a fencing master, the Countess de Plougastel offers him an opportunity to save himself by joining the King’s service as an officer, but he declines. The countess apologizes for her interest, but intimates, as she leaves, that she knew his mother. Later, when Aline hears that André has accepted a challenge from the Marquis de la Tour, she hurries to the marquis and offers to marry him if he will retract, but the aristocrat refuses. She warns André, claiming that she loves him, but he is determined to fight. On the morning of the duel, André wounds the marquis, but spares his life. As Aline arrives with the countess to intercede, she sees the marquis leaving and, thinking he has killed André, swoons in his arms. Seeing this, André thinks Aline has betrayed him. Desperate to leave Paris, he accepts a mission in the provinces for the Commune. Months later, on 10 August 1792, the revolution against the aristocracy explodes and citizens rush into the streets, forming mobs. They overpower the Tuileries Palace and capture the city gates in order to prevent anyone from leaving Paris. Raging citizens go from house to house, killing aristocrats. Meanwhile, Quintin summons André to his chateau and begs him to rescue his niece Aline and the countess from Paris. André agrees to save Aline, but cannot spare the countess because she is the wife of a conspirator. Quintin informs him he must, because the countess is his mother. Shocked by this revelation, André rides to Paris and, at the gate, shows his pass, signed by Danton, and tells the guards that he will return in less than an hour with a carriage. He hurries to the countess’s home, but finds that she and Aline are protecting the wounded Marquis de la Tour, who survived the Tuileries Palace slaughter. When André orders the marquis to leave, the Countess de Plougastel reveals to both of them that they are father and son. She explains to the marquis that since he had abandoned her, she kept the birth secret to avoid disgrace. The marquis apologizes to both of them, and André surrenders his sword to allow his father to defend himself. André leaves with the two ladies in the carriage, and the marquis rushes with his sword into an approaching mob in order to die a nobleman’s death. At the city gate, the citizens want to kill the two aristocrats, but as a favor to the patriot they know as Moreau, they let him lead “my mother and my betrothed” to freedom. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.