Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Modern Musketeer (2006 DFI restoration)

US 1917. D: Allan Dwan. Dal racconto D'Artagnan of Kansas di F.R. Lyle Jr. SC: Allan Dwan. DP: Hugh McClung, Harry Thorpe. ED: Billy Shea, Allan Dwan. C: Douglas Fairbanks (Ned Thacker/ D'Artagnan), Marjorie Daw (Elsie Dodge), Kathleen Kirkham (Mrs. Dodge), Frank Campeau (Chin-de-dah), Eugene Ormonde (Forrest Vandeteer), Edythe Chapman (Mrs. Thacker), Tully Marshall (James Brown), ZaSu Pitts (ragazza bionda di Kansas street). P: Douglas Fairbanks per Douglas Fairbanks Pictures. Premiere: 30 dicembre 1917. 35 mm. 1333 m. 73' a 16 f/s. B&w. Da: Det Danske Filminstitut. Accompagnamento al piano di Antonio Coppola. Cinema Jolly (Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna), 30 June 2013

"That whole picture was an accident. Doug was wooing Mary Pickford at the time she was married to Owen Moore, who lost his patience and began making threats of some kind or another. I was coming back from New York to make a picture with Doug, and I got on the train and was rid- ing toward Los Angeles when I got a telegram from him saying, "Imperative. Meet me in Salina, Kansas, and we will return to New York". So I got off at Salina and Doug arrived on the next Chief, and while we rode back to New York, he told me why he had to get away from Los Angeles and that embarrassing situation. But we still had to make a picture, so between Salina and New York, we cooked up the idea of A Modern Musketeer. I asked him if he'd ever been to the Grand Canyon because I thought it'd be an interesting place to work, and he said, "No", so that was one location. And I'd never seen Canyon de Chelley over in the Navajo country near Albuquerque, so we decided to work out there, too. We made up a story of an imaginative young fellow who's very restless in his little Kansas hometown. He dreams of riding out like D'Artagnan on a horse. To show how restless he was we had him run through the town and onto the church and up the steeple. Well, finally, he rides out in a little yellow Model T Ford-that's his steed-and he gets into a series of adventures we invented as we went along. It was a comedy, but with plenty of melodrama. We had our heavy and we had to throw him off a cliff. Whenever I see a cliff, I've got to throw someone off it. [...] We had plenty of suspense, but we were playing from the humorous side. These dangers were all real to him, though, and the audience enjoyed his discomfort. We had a lot of funny things in that one. [...] Fairbanks contributed a lot. He didn't do any directing per se, but he did a lot of creating, a lot of the stories, the movements, the gags. We all did. Vic Fleming was our cameraman and he used to come up with ideas, too. Sometimes we'd invent them on the spur of the moment. It was a team at work, and I always insisted on that, so I can never recall which member of the team was responsible for any definite thing. Everybody contributed." Allan Dwan, in Peter Bogdanovich, Who the Devil Made It: Conversations with Legendary  Film Directors,  Alfred  A.  Knopf, New York 1997

I visited the 2008 screening of this restoration of A Modern Musketeer in Pordenone but was then able to watch the first half only.

"I was born in a cross-fire hurricane" sing The Rolling Stones in "Jumping Jack Flash" and so is Douglas Fairbanks's character ("Kansas had a hunch he was coming"). "Cyclone" is the nickname for the character. This is one of his films that still define action, action comedy, and action fantasy. There is a sense of joy and irrepressible energy. The film is based on the Douglas Fairbanks character, but Allan Dwan was a true soulmate. The direction of action is brilliant, the sense of rhythm is perfect, and there is a lot of visual invention and humour. In Grand Canyon there are extreme long shots in which the characters are so tiny that they border on the invisible. There are striking visual ideas. "May I see the bride?" asks the "sweet, unspoiled Park Avenue flapper" from the rock Indian who turns his knife towards her so that she can see her mirror image on its blade.

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