The Three Musketeers (1921)

Romance | 28 August 1921

Director:

Fred Niblo

Writer:

Edward Knoblock

Cinematographer:

Arthur Edeson

Editor:

Nellie Mason

Production Designer:

Edward M. Langley

Production Company:

Douglas Fairbanks Pictures Corp.
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HISTORY

An item in the 28 Sep 1920 Wid’s Daily announced that Douglas Fairbanks planned to produce and star in an adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’s novel, The Three Musketeers, to be shot in France during Fairbanks’s upcoming “trip around the world” with Mary Pickford, his then wife and fellow founding member of United Artists. According to an 11 Sep 1920 Motion Picture News article, controversy arose in Paris, France, when the Parisian press expressed concern over Fairbanks’s ability to play the quintessentially French role of “D’Artagnan.”
       On 28 Jan 1921, Var stated that Fairbanks would not travel abroad, as scheduled. The following month, a 26 Feb 1921 Exhibitors Herald brief confirmed that plans to film in France had been scrapped due to time constraints. An item in the 5 Mar 1921 Moving Picture World estimated that shooting in France would have required six months. Instead, arrangements were made for two cameramen to shoot exteriors in France, in addition to still photographs, which would be used in the construction of sets built at the Pickford-Fairbanks Studios lot in Hollywood, CA.
       A 29 Jan 1921 Exhibitors Herald brief reported that Allan Dwan might direct, but Dwan denied any connection to the film in the 5 Feb 1921 Exhibitors Herald, noting that he was too busy completing A Perfect Crime (1921, see entry) for Associated Producers. Fred Niblo was ultimately hired. The 17 Mar 1921 Wid’s Daily reported that the first cast member to join Fairbanks was George Siegmann, who would play “Porthos.” One month later, the 21 Apr 1921 ...

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An item in the 28 Sep 1920 Wid’s Daily announced that Douglas Fairbanks planned to produce and star in an adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’s novel, The Three Musketeers, to be shot in France during Fairbanks’s upcoming “trip around the world” with Mary Pickford, his then wife and fellow founding member of United Artists. According to an 11 Sep 1920 Motion Picture News article, controversy arose in Paris, France, when the Parisian press expressed concern over Fairbanks’s ability to play the quintessentially French role of “D’Artagnan.”
       On 28 Jan 1921, Var stated that Fairbanks would not travel abroad, as scheduled. The following month, a 26 Feb 1921 Exhibitors Herald brief confirmed that plans to film in France had been scrapped due to time constraints. An item in the 5 Mar 1921 Moving Picture World estimated that shooting in France would have required six months. Instead, arrangements were made for two cameramen to shoot exteriors in France, in addition to still photographs, which would be used in the construction of sets built at the Pickford-Fairbanks Studios lot in Hollywood, CA.
       A 29 Jan 1921 Exhibitors Herald brief reported that Allan Dwan might direct, but Dwan denied any connection to the film in the 5 Feb 1921 Exhibitors Herald, noting that he was too busy completing A Perfect Crime (1921, see entry) for Associated Producers. Fred Niblo was ultimately hired. The 17 Mar 1921 Wid’s Daily reported that the first cast member to join Fairbanks was George Siegmann, who would play “Porthos.” One month later, the 21 Apr 1921 Wid’s Daily stated that all roles had been cast, and production was set to begin as soon as costumes were finished. Principal photography was underway the following week, according to a 29 Apr 1921 Var item. Fairbanks originally anticipated a six-week shooting schedule. However, the 24 Jun 1921 Var stated that he now expected to be finished by 15 Jul 1921. The 20 Aug 1921 Motion Picture News reported that principal photography had concluded after ninety days of filming. A total of 894 scenes were captured, for an average of ten scenes per shooting day.
       The film cost $1 million, according to the 25 Jun 1921 Exhibitors Herald, making it Fairbanks’s most expensive production to date. The 150 period costumes were said to cost $100,000; set construction required over $50,000; and weekly payroll for the cast of 116 persons (excluding background actors) was cited as roughly $50,000. An item in the 7 May 1921 Motion Picture News noted that lavish sets included a reproduction of seventeenth-century Calais, France, “a three-hundred-foot interior of the ballroom in the palace of Louis XIII,” a 200-foot wharf, and a 150-foot boat.
       An 11 Jun 1921 Motion Picture News item addressed rumors that the title would be changed to The Three Guardsmen. Fairbanks vehemently denied the reports, stating, “I haven’t the slightest intention of trying to improve upon that famous author’s title.” As of 27 Aug 1921, Fairbanks was “inserting the final titles” for the film, according to a Motion Picture News item of the same date.
       An extensive advertising campaign supported the picture, as noted in the 20 Aug 1921 issue of Motion Picture News, including “elaborate lithographs” of Fairbanks as D’Artagnan; “twenty-four sheets” showing Porthos, “Athos,” and “Aramis,” alongside the well-known phrase from Dumas’s novel, “All for one, and one for all”; and six-sheets highlighting some of the picture’s swordplay.
       The 18 Jun 1921 Exhibitors Herald reported that United Artists’ president, Hiram Abrams, leased New York City’s Lyric Theatre for an extended run of the picture, beginning in the fall. The highest admission price was set at $2.50 per ticket. Joseph Plunkett, managing director for the Mark Strand Theatre in New York City, was hired to “stage a deluxe presentation” at the Lyric. Although The Three Musketeers was initially estimated to be ten reels in length, the final film was 11,700 feet, or twelve reels.
       The 17 Jun 1921 Var listed a planned release date of 14 Aug 1921. However, the film premiered two weeks later, on 28 Aug 1921, as noted in several contemporary sources, including the 10 Sep 1921 Moving Picture World. Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford attended the gala premiere, held at the Lyric Theatre, according to the Nov 1921 issue of Motion Picture Magazine.
       The film was a critical and commercial success. The 4 Sep 1921 Wid’s Daily review called it a “masterpiece” and Douglas Fairbanks’s “finest piece of work.” According to a 19 Nov 1921 Exhibitors Trade Review item, ticket sales simultaneously broke records at the Lyric Theatre and, on the West Coast, at the Mission Theatre in Los Angeles, CA, where it “played to 150,000 persons in 315 performances.” Similarly, the film was so popular in Chicago, IL, that the 700-seat Randolph Theatre added an 8:30 a.m. showing to accommodate crowds, as reported in the 24 Sep 1921 issue of Motion Picture News. A private screening of The Three Musketeers was held for U.S. President Warren G. Harding at his fifty-sixth birthday party hosted by Mrs. E. B. McLean of Washington, D.C., as noted in the 19 Nov 1921 Moving Picture World. Prints were said to be so valuable that P. H. Smith, the Buffalo, NY, United Artists representative, arranged to store them overnight in a bank vault during the duration of the picture’s Buffalo run, according to the 25 Jun 1921 Motion Picture News.
       As stated in an advertisement in the 15 Dec 1921 AmCin, Clune Film Laboratories handled negative prints.
       A sequel titled The Iron Mask was released in 1929 (see entry). For information on other films based on the Alexandre Dumas novel, please consult the entry for the 1948 M-G-M production of The Three Musketeers, directed by George Sidney and starring Gene Kelly and Lana Turner (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50).

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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
15 Dec 1921
p. 13
Exhibitors Herald
1 Jan 1921
p. 49
Exhibitors Herald
29 Jan 1921
p. 39
Exhibitors Herald
5 Feb 1921
p. 45
Exhibitors Herald
26 Feb 1921
---
Exhibitors Herald
12 Mar 1921
p. 46
Exhibitors Herald
18 Jun 1921
---
Exhibitors Herald
25 Jun 1921
---
Exhibitors Trade Review
19 Nov 1921
---
Film Daily
4 Sep 1921
p. 2
Motion Picture Magazine
Nov 1921
p. 72
Motion Picture News
11 Sep 1920
---
Motion Picture News
7 May 1921
---
Motion Picture News
11 Jun 1921
---
Motion Picture News
18 Jun 1921
---
Motion Picture News
25 Jun 1921
---
Motion Picture News
20 Aug 1921
---
Motion Picture News
27 Aug 1921
---
Motion Picture News
24 Sep 1921
---
Moving Picture World
5 Mar 1921
---
Moving Picture World
10 Sep 1921
---
Moving Picture World
19 Nov 1921
---
New York Times
29 Aug 1921
p. 14
Photoplay
Nov 1921
p. 60
Variety
28 Jan 1921
---
Variety
29 Apr 1921
---
Variety
17 Jun 1921
---
Variety
24 Jun 1921
---
Variety
2 Sep 1921
p. 61
Wid's Daily
28 Sep 1920
p. 1
Wid's Daily
17 Mar 1921
---
Wid's Daily
21 Apr 1921
---
Wid's Daily
29 Apr 1921
---
Wid's Daily
4 Sep 1921
p. 2
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Scenario ed
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Tech dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
COSTUMES
Master of cost
MUSIC
PRODUCTION MISC
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Les trois mousquetaires by Alexandre Dumas, père (Paris, 1844).
LITERARY SOURCE AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
28 August 1921
Premiere Information:
New York premiere: 28 Aug 1921
Production Date:
late Apr--Jul or early Aug 1921
Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
Douglas Fairbanks Pictures Corp.
13 September 1921
LP16959
Physical Properties:
Silent
Black and White
Length(in feet):
11,700
Length(in reels):
12
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

Cardinal Richelieu, engaged in intrigue at the court of Louis XIII, attempts to rule by threatening the queen, who is secretly in love with the Duke of Buckingham. From Gascony comes D'Artagnan to join the King's Musketeers in his quest for adventure. He wins the right to membership by proving his prowess with the sword and forms an eternal alliance with Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, the Three Musketeers. After many adventures, he embarks on a dangerous mission to England to recover a diamond brooch, a gift of the king, which the queen has given to Buckingham as a token of affection. He recovers it and returns in time to save the queen from the wrath of Louis, defeat the cardinal's intrigue, and win Constance, the queen's ...

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Cardinal Richelieu, engaged in intrigue at the court of Louis XIII, attempts to rule by threatening the queen, who is secretly in love with the Duke of Buckingham. From Gascony comes D'Artagnan to join the King's Musketeers in his quest for adventure. He wins the right to membership by proving his prowess with the sword and forms an eternal alliance with Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, the Three Musketeers. After many adventures, he embarks on a dangerous mission to England to recover a diamond brooch, a gift of the king, which the queen has given to Buckingham as a token of affection. He recovers it and returns in time to save the queen from the wrath of Louis, defeat the cardinal's intrigue, and win Constance, the queen's seamstress.

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

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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.