Wednesday 20 July 2022

On Blu-ray - David Hare enthuses over Errol Flynn's swashbuckling in THE ADVENTURES OF DON JUAN (Vincent Sherman, USA, 1948)

Mary Stuart, Errol Flynn, The Adventures of Don Juan

Errol Flynn's next-to-last swashbuckler, as Don Juan with Mary Stuart as Catherine. Below the female lead Viveca Lindfors as his compatriot, Queen Margaret of Spain. From the Warner Archive Blu-ray of
 The Adventures of Don Juan from 1948. 

Errol not only looks older but thinner here, although still beautiful. And despite a ten year gap from his heyday in pictures mostly directed by his loathed Curtiz and Walsh, he can still swash the buckle and do his own stunts more than convincingly. There are even moments between the relentless comedy when he looks again like an axiom of the cinema. 


At Errol's insistence producer Jerry Wald didn't engage Curtiz as Warners originally intended but gave him Vincent Sherman as a director more likely to allow far more license than usual for Errol to indulge in pretty broad comedy - for better or worse. Watching his facial tics here including the eye rolling, and big double takes to the camera, he also seems to be giving a backwards looking, semi-referential impersonation of his earlier persona. Despite this the Don Juan screenplay is, like the 1938 The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex set in that regent's age and the sequence of his (and Leporello’s, played by Alan Hale) first entrance to London is re-filmed literally shot for shot in replica of Curtiz' superb near-opening sequence of Essex triumphantly entering Madrid in his 1938 masterpiece. 


Viveca Lindfors

Curtiz also had the luxury of ace DoP Sol Polito who gave him a mind-bendingly beautiful sudden crane swerving to close up onto the first shot of Olivia de Havilland. Sherman now, and the screenplay for Don Juan simply keeps the parade going where it times out almost to the second in parallel with the ten-year prior narrative from the Elizabethan setting. Clearly we're now in a parallel world for Errol and the whole historical tradition in classical movies. 


Maybe it was Errol himself who wanted to recast the sometime somber drama of the Essex screenplay with a lighter comic view. Certainly the 1948 movie doesn't always play so well, nor reach as high as his earlier pictures although Lindfors gives her Margaret a degree of humanity that Bette Davis didn't appear to want to tarnish her character as Elizabeth from the earlier Maxwell Anderson-based screenplay.


So Don Juan may not be a peak Warners' escapade but it's worth it for the last dignified performance from Flynn. Its another title of great interest from Sherman's own underrated work. And not least yet another peak three strip Technicolor title with costumes by Leah Rhodes (for the men) and Travilla (for the women.)

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