This version, from 1939, stars Don Ameche as D'Artagnan and, so help me, the Ritz Brothers as the Musketeers. I don't know if you are familiar with these knuckleheads, but they were quite popular once. Sort of second rate Marx Brothers or Three Stooges. But that's not fair - they are much worse than second rate.
What is wrong with the Ritz Brothers?
- They are silly, but not funny. Silly like skipping around, tossing feathers.
- They are indistinguishable. For a while I thought that one was doing a pompous Barrymore, and another was doing a daffy Ed Wynn, but it was the same guy.
- Not only do they have no distinct personalities, they don't even have one distinct personality. Are they dumb, wily, cowardly, foolhardy, shy, boastful? Whichever is needed for the gag of the moment.
- They can't or won't do slapstick. There is plenty of action in this film, swordfights, etc, and we get a few stale pieces of business and some running around.
The non-Ritz Brothers parts are pretty good. Don Ameche makes a fine swashbuckler, Binnie Barnes is Milady DeWinter, and Lionel Atwill is DeRochefort. The elements of the Dumas story are in place, to the extent that some scenes are even shot the same way as in the Richard Lester film. I doubt that Lester copied this, however.
So, decent swashbuckler spoiled by Ritz Brothers. But wait, there's more! It's a musical, with about four very lame songs.
Next week: The Gene Kelley Three Musketeers, to wash the taste out.