King Louis (Adolphe Menjou) XIII ruled France from 1610 to 1643. Louis is a jealous man. The Prime Minister, Cardinal Richelieu (Nigel De Brulier), is suspicious that the King’s wife, Anne of Austria, Queen of France (Mary MacLaren), is having an affair with the Duke of Buckingham (Thomas Holding). Richelieu needs proof of the affair in order to usurp the Queen’s influence on the King. The Queen’s seamstress, Constance Bonacieux (Marguerite De La Motte) brings the Queen a letter from the Duke. The Queen reads and then burns the letter. She sits and writes a letter herself.
Milady de Winter (Barbara La Marr) is in league with Richelieu and tells Father Joseph (Lon Poff), who in turn tells Richelieu about the letter. Richelieu raises the King’s suspicions. The King races to the Queen and searches through her correspondence. What he ultimately finds is the Queen’s letter, however, the letter she was writing was to her brother, the King of Spain, complaining about Richelieu’s gossip. The King is chastised and gives the Queen a jeweled brooch as an apology.
Into this maelstrom of courtly pettiness comes Gascon D’Artagnan. He has come to Paris to join the King’s Musketeers. First he meets Constance and is smitten. Then he visits Monsieur de Treville, the Captain of the King’s Musketeers (Willis Robards). Treville tells him that he must start as a cadet before he can be a Musketeer. D’Artagnan ends up picking a fight with three of the Musketeers, Porthos (George Siegmann), Aramis (Eugene Pallette), and Athos (Leon Bary).
Interrupted by the Cardinal’s Guards the three Musketeers and D’Artagnan work together and beat the Guards. They become fast friends and confidants. Together the four are entrusted with a special task. The Queen gave Buckingham the brooch that the King gave her as a token of her affection. Richelieu is aware that the Queen no longer has the brooch in her possession. The Musketeers must retrieve the brooch the Queen gave to Buckingham before Richelieu gets his hands on it to use as ammunition against the Queen.
“The Three Musketeers” was released in 1921 and was directed by Fred Niblo. It is an American silent adventure film based on the 1844 novel by Alexandre Dumas. Dumas based his novel on actual people. There was a real King Louis XIII, Anne of Austria, Cardinal Richelieu and even a D’Artagnan.
Richelieu was instrumental in strengthening King Louis’ reign. In 1612 Louis married Anne of Austria. She had several stillborn children before she had Louis Dieudonne in 1638. He would later become King Louis XIV. It is rumored that Louis XIII was actually homosexual. Many point to the fact that he never had any mistresses and it was twenty years before any living children came of the marriage. In addition he had emotional attachments with a few male courtiers. But royal courts are always full of gossip and no definite proof was ever found.
The D’Artagnan character was also based on a real person; however, he served as captain of the musketeers under Louis XIV. He was born Charles de Batz de Castelmore in 1611. Dumas most likely took stories about D’Artagnan and added some embellishment.
In his second extravaganza Douglas Fairbanks is the epitome of the swashbuckler. His grace and astounding gymnastics is like a splash of energy and excitement across the screen. The film starts rather slow and dull while the characters are being introduced but once Fairbanks, as D’Artagnan, reaches Paris is when the film comes alive. His lighthearted humor and animation elevates the film making it an exciting experience. His character is as adorable as a floppy eared puppy. You want to see him on screen all the time.