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Partial cast list1
Stewart Granger as Andre Moreau
Eleanor Parker as Lenore
Janet Leigh as Aline de Gavrillac de Bourbon
Mel Ferrer as Noel, Marquis de Maynes
Henry Wilcoxon as Chevalier de Chabrillaine
Nina Foch as Marie Antoinette
Richard Anderson as Philippe de Valmorin (Marcus Brutus)

Scaramouche is an adventure/romance movie adapted from the 1921 Rafael Sabatini novel of the same name. It is set in 18th century France, and follows young Andre Moreau through his progression from country bumpkin to polished swordsman and politician. Early in the film, Andre and his friend have a run-in with the Marquis de Maynes. Andre's friend is killed by the Marquis, who is a superb swordsman, and Andre vows revenge. Andre is forced to hide out with a traveling comedy troupe, where he takes on the persona of Scaramouche2, a masked buffoon. Never forgetting his purpose, Andre takes fencing lessons to improve his swordsmanship, and eventually gains quite a reputation, as well as a seat in the government.

The tone of the movie, despite its theme of vengeance, is light, with plenty of comic moments. There are also shifting romantic alliances and interests, cases of mistaken identity, and surprise revelations about various characters which keep the movie's pace brisk between action shots. Given its relative obscurity, this is a good movie, and a fun watch.

The overall quality of Scaramouche is very good, but I confess that the main reason I like it and repeatedly rent it is for the quality of the fencing scenes. Scaramouche was released in 1952; after Errol Flynn's time, but when people still knew that movie fencing had to be more convincing than two men hacking at one another with tin foil covered sticks. Andre's character progresses from bumbling to exceptionally good in an improbably short amount of time, but the fencing itself is very very well done. The final confrontation between Andre and the Marquis de Maynes is over 6 minutes long, and is the action showpiece of the whole film. This is a movie which will not dramatically impact your life, but is well worth a watch if you're in the mood for something from this genre, or if you are a fan of fencing.

  1. Cast list shamelessly lifted from IMDb.
  2. A "scaramouche" is a type of character in comedic theater who is typically a boasting coward, or bumbling fool.

Scaramouche is but one incarnation of the stock character Il Capitano, one of the many stereotypes of the Commedia dell'Arte, the Italian professional traveling comedy troupes of the 14th and 15th century.

The character is generally a sailor or soldier from a nearby country (in the case of Italy, the nearby country is Spain) who brags and drinks and flirts with ladies (usually to little avail). Contrary to swashbuckling characters of the recent century, despite the character's bold and boastful deportment, when situations of real danger arise (such as a duel), his cowardice shows through.

It is believed that the character was given the name Scaramouche by the player Tiberio Fiorillo who changed the name to adapt to French audiences.

In Italian, the character is sometimes called Scaramuccia

  1. Citation: Articles on the internet which were in turn shamelessly torn from the loving pages of the Encyclopedia Brittanica.

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