Pollyanna Savors a Musketeer or Three

Lyda here.

Ya’ll know I love Gene Kelly (see why here and here – my friend Laura’s favorite bit for obvious reasons – and here and…). When I saw that he’d made a movie version of “The Three Musketeers” by Alexander Dumas, pere, I decide to use the book and Kelly’s movie for Pollyanna’s Reading in Wonderland Challenge, to complete challenge # 6 : 

‘Why is a raven like a writing-desk?’:  Find a book that has been made into a movie. Read the book. See the movie. In whatever order works for you.

SPOILER ALERT: The plot of both the book and the movie are revealed below and in the links. But I’m assuming that ya’ll have all seen one or another version of the movie, even if you haven’t read the book. It’s not like telling you what “rosebud” means  – although that would be okay too, I mean, ya’ll have seen “Citizen Kane“, haven’t you? If you haven’t, be warned, those links do tell you what “rosebud” means.

I digress with spoilers now. Oh, deary deary me.

Hard as it was to wait, I saved the movie until I could re-read the book. I first read this classic when I was 12, and I was shocked that my branch library did not have a copy – I had to get a transfer from another library.

I read  the recent translation by Richard Pevear (published in 2006). This translation is more faithful to the original than the version I read as a girl. Here’s an excellent review of this translation  in Slate. Here’s another excellent review in the New York Times.

For one thing, D’Artagnan’s liasons with the different women in the book are more obviously sexual. I’m sure that wasn’t in the versions I’ve read before. Not that Dumas was explicit, but there are sex scenes. Our young swordsman’s blade seems to have seldom been at rest. If you know what I mean.

Plenty of the other kind of swordplay, of course, and court intrigue, and musketeers being rascals. If you haven’t read this book in a while – or ever – pick up this translation rather than another. 

Once I finished the book (and returned it to the library late – oops!) – I treated myself to the movie.

An awesome cast:  Gene Kelly as D’Artagnan. Lana Turner – who got top billing – as the seductive and evil Milady. June Allison as sweet Constance, D’Artagnan’s amour. Angela Landsbury as the young and beautiful Queen Anne. Frank Morgan as King Louis XIII. John Sutton (career here, picture here) as the Duke of Buckingham.

The three musketeers are played by Van Heflin (Athos, who drinks to forget his tragic past), Gig Young (Portos, who is larger than life and loves wine, women and song), and Robert Coote (Aramis, who claims to want the religious life yet cannot quite give up the women).

Vincent Price as Richelieu gives a complex performance, likable and intelligent, yet chilling and calculating. A powerful actor playing a powerful man.

Although billed as telling the whole story of the book, there were changes due to 1948 sensibilities. Kelly kisses the other women, but nothing else – we never doubt where his heart lies. In the movie, D’Artagnan’s true love is the goddaughter of D’Artagnan’s landlord and he marries her. In the book, the character is the landlord’s wife who was having an affair with D’Artagnan.

The Queen in the movie is virtuous and reluctant to be in love with the Duke of Buckingham, while Dumas intimates something different. Some of the movie characters are played for laughs, and Milady is not as evil in the movie as she is in the book. When I described her to my son (from the book), he said, “So basically, she just walked around randomly seducing, stabbing, or poisoning everyone she met.” Pretty much. And she did it for the power, for the money, but also just for evil fun of it.

Watching the movie, we never doubt that our dashing young hero and the musketeers will triumph over Richelieu and the evil Milady. Reading the book, there is a darker undertone, and the outcome is never certain.

But who cares? The movie is light-hearted and fun. It isn’t a musical, but Kelly’s swordfights are practically dances. Check out the first sword fight. That gives you a good flavor of the movie.

Do I recommend it? Of course!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go get some musketeers of my own.

Delicious in a different way than Gene Kelly…


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