DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
A MODERN MUSKETEER (director/writer: Allan Dwan; screenwriter: from the story "D'Artagnan of Kansas" by Eugene P. Lyle Jr.; cinematographer: Victor Fleming; cast: Douglas Fairbanks (Ned Thacker), Marjorie Daw (Elsie Dodge), Frank Campeau (Chin-de-dah, A Navajo), Eugene Ormonde (Forrest Vandeteer), Tully Marshall (James Brown), Kathleen Kirkham (Mrs. Dodge), Edythe Chapman (Mrs. Thacker); Runtime: 69; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Douglas Fairbanks; Artcraft Pictures; 1917-silent)

 
"Such a hokey "aw shucks!" story might have worked back then, but viewing it today was a different story."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A passe adventure story from the silent days that stars the 34-year-old 'good ole boy' Douglas Fairbanks, who plays a clean-living Horatio Alger-like character who uses his physical agility, pluck and wit to overcome adversity. This came a few years before Fairbanks made his rep as the quintessential swashbuckler. It's based on the Everybody's Magazine article of September, 1912, by Eugene P. Lyle Jr., entitled "D'Artagnan of Kansas." The film was inspired by French novelist Alexandre Dumas' The Three Musketeers. Allan Dwan ("Suez"/"Robin Hood"/"The Iron Mask") is the capable writer and director of this early action film.

It tells of Ned Thacker (Douglas Fairbanks), a native of Kansas, whose mother (Edythe Chapman) reads The Three Musketeers during her pregnancy and the boy is born during a cyclone. Naturally the feisty lad grows up inspiring to be an adventurer like D'Artagnan from Dumas's The Three Musketeers. Trouble is that his acts of chivalry in his Kansas small-town are not appreciated by the modern ladies, finding success only in his dreams. So the lad hops in his car and heads west to the Grand Canyon, where he believes his old-fashioned virtues will be better appreciated. On the road he meets sixteen-year-old cutie-pie Elsie Dodge (Marjorie Daw), who is traveling with her mother (Kathleen Kirkham) in the chauffeur-driven car of Forrest Vandeteer (Eugene Ormonde), a middle-aged millionaire from Yonkers. Ned schemes to take away the girl from Forrest when he learns he had three wives and is an unscrupulous businessman who operates scams. When they reach the El Tovar hotel, along the Colorado River, by the Grand Canyon trail, an evil Indian, Chin-de-dah (Frank Campeau), the leader of a group of outcasts hiding out in the canyon, kidnaps Elsie and plans to force the white woman to marry him Indian style and he also plans to knife Forrest to death and dump his body in the Colorado River. To the rescue comes Ned, as he scales tall mountains and with the help of the bum-looking James Brown (Tully Marshall), a framed fugitive from New York, rescues the girl and gets a reward from Forrest for saving his life. It just so happens that Forrest is the one who screwed the innocent Brown and now signs a confession of his foul deed.

Such a hokey "aw shucks!" story might have worked back then, but viewing it today was a different story. 

The film was missing a few reels but that was eventually rediscovered and the film was restored to its original length by the Danish Film Institute. It was filmed on location in Arizona's Canyon de Chelly.

REVIEWED ON 3/21/2008        GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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