10. The Prince and the Pauper, 1937. Starring Errol Flynn, Claude Rains.
Based on the eponymous novel by Mark Twain. This one takes a while to get going, but there’s more of a story here, no doubt due to the novel it is adapted from (which I haven’t read), than swordplay. Flynn doesn’t even make his appearance until about halfway through. He’s at his best here though, and you can really see the qualities that made him a star shine through.
The story is a case of mistaken identity between the heir of King Henry VIII of England, Edward, and a pauper boy who takes his place after the king dies. Treachery and skull-duggery follow while the true heir, now living the pauper’s life, falls into the care of Flynn’s Miles Hendon, who gradually comes to realise the boy isn’t in fact just a bit touched in the head and may actually be who he claims to be.
It takes a while to get to the good sword fight in this one, partly because Flynn’s character is more of a supporting role. When it arrives though, it’s good, as Flynn takes on multiple opponents in a nighttime fight in a forest (at least i think it’s nighttime, you never can tell with black and whites!). There are even a few slick taunts from Flynn mid-duel, which make the scene for me.
11. The Three Musketeers, 1948. Starring Lana Turner, Gene Kelly.
The Dogtanion and the Three Muskehounds cartoon when I was a kid has always maintained this story as one of my favourites. This version of it is pretty good too, worthy of a higher place on the list. Great costumes, great sets and great fun!
I probably don’t need to outline what happens in this one, it’s pretty well known, and has been done many times although there does tend to be some variation in the story that makes it to the screen on each occasion!
There’s a good sword fight early on just to get things off on the right foot, with plenty of repartee mixed in for good measure; always an important part of Hollywood sword fighting. Happily this swashbuckling pace is well maintained through the movie, with a comically athletic d’Artagnon providing some laughs along the way.
Well worth watching, and it should definitely be higher on the list, but the list is less of a ranking at this point and more of a collection! If you’re planning on a swashbuckling movie session, this might be a good one to start with!
12. The Spanish Main, 1945. Starring Paul Heinreid, Maureen O’Hara.
Maureen O’Hara makes her second appearance on the list. Paul Heinreid was also in Casablanca.
A Dutch sea captain, Heinreid, is captured by the Spanish and after his release becomes a pirate to exact revenge. He captures O’Hara, the intended bride of the Spanish governor who captured him. Romance ensues in the face of opposition from his own pirate comrades.
Quite a nice swashbuckler with eye catching sets and a good story. The best sword fight comes about ten minutes from the end, but I think this movie would have been a better vehicle for Flynn or Power (or even an opportunity for Basil Rathbone to play the good guy in a swashbuckler), although Heinreid did grow on me as the movie progressed.
13. The Three Musketeers/The Four Musketeers, 1973/1974. Starring Michael York, Oliver Reed, Frank Finlay, Richard Chamberlain.
Originally intended to be a single film, but ultimately released in two parts. Being from 1973/1974, it’s not from the Golden Age of Hollywood period and I wasn’t sure whether to include it at all. However, it’s a great version of a quintessential swashbuckler, so I’ve decided to put it in as an honourable mention and leave it at that.
That sums up my list of favourite Golden Age of Hollywood swashbucklers. There is one notable absence from the roster of actors that I have alluded to in a previous part, and that is Douglas Fairbanks (senior). He actually made versions of some of the films mentioned, such as Robin Hood, The Mark of Zorro and The Three Musketeers, but these were all silent films which I don’t tend to watch. I couldn’t make a list like this without mentioning him though!
Finally, I should point out the name format for these posts, ‘My Favourite Swashbucklers’, is something of an homage to the film ‘My Favourite Year’, not a swashbuckler per say, but the main character, played by Peter O’Toole, is loosely based on Errol Flynn.