Actually there are four, not three, musketeers in Alexandre Dumas’ classic novel, but poor D’Artagnan always seems to be left out of the total. And if you take into account the number of times this book has been made into film and television versions, well, there have been hundreds of musketeers. Edison made a version way back in 1911, so everything else has to be considered a remake. These came in 1913, 1914, 1921 (the famous Douglas Fairbanks version), 1935 (Paul Lukas), 1939 (Don Ameche and the Ritz Brothers.), this 1948 edition, as well as two back-to-back Richard Lester productions starring Michael York – The Three Musketeers and The Four (yes, count ‘em, four) Musketeers.
Several elements distinguish the 1948 production, such as the lavish sets and use of color; Lana Turner as Lady de Winter; a fine performance by a young Angela Lansbury (of TV’s Murder She Wrote fame); plus June Allyson, Van Heflin, Frank Morgan, Gig Young, Reginald Owen, Vincent Price – the list goes on and on. But the best thing about this film is the actor playing D’Artagnan – the great hoofer, Gene Kelly. Gene really knew how to buckle a swash (or is it swash a buckle?).
Although critics were not in accord about the film’s total merits (most found it uneven or too long), they were unanimous in their praise for Kelly. Said The New York Times: “Not since Douglas Fairbanks swung through the air with magic ease and landed on balconies and beefsteaks has a fellow come along who compares with that robust actor in vitality and grace...what’s more, he looks good in plush costumes”. And Variety agreed: “There are acrobatics by Gene Kelly that would give the late great Douglas Fairbanks pause. His first duel with Richelieu’s cohorts is almost ballet, yet never loses the feeling of swaggering swordplay. It is a masterful mixture of dancing grace, acro-agility and sly horseplay”.
Many of the exteriors were shot on the back lot of MGM. There is a small bridge noticeable in the European village set which was used in dozens of MGM movies. You’ll see this same bridge frequently in MGM television series of the ‘60s and ‘70s, notably Combat and The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
Ian Keith, who plays Rochefort in this film, also portrayed the character in the 1935 version of The Three Musketeers (1935).
Athos: To die among friends. Can a man ask more? Can the world offer less? Who wants to live 'till the last bottle is empty? It's all-for one, d'Artagnan, and one for all.
D'Artagnan: I come from the end of the earth to implore you.
Constance Bonacieux: I thought you said you came from upstairs.
Richelieu: It takes a good man to prevent a catastrophe, Milady, and a great man to make use of one.
Needless to say, Robert Ardrey has put together a script which has about equal portions of gymnastics and pomposity. And George Sidney has directed the former portions with such intensity that the headlong momentum of the fast scenes often runs into the slow. The consequence is a strange hooraw's nest of swashbuckling action and backstairs plots, all mixed up and indeterminate amid a fortune's worth of Hollywood sets. Reviewed by: Bosley Crowther of the New York Times.
If you are looking for a lightweight show where all of the actors have a blast making it, then look no further. This is it. The good guys are never in any real danger, and the bad are not particularly threatening. A great costume romp and high camp too. No one takes his part seriously. Reviewed by: Steve Rhodes of Celebrity Wonder.