Cast & Crew
Rowland V. Lee
Newly arrived in Paris, young, eager D'Artagnan of Gascony seeks out his godfather, Captain de Treville, the commander of King Louis XIII's loyal defenders, the Musketeers, and expresses his desire to join their ranks. After cockily challenging Aramis, Athos and Porthos, the infamous Three Musketeers, to separate duels, D'Artagnan is set upon by Cardinal Richelieu's vicious guards and, fighting them off, wins the respect of the Musketeers. With the Three Musketeers' help, D'Artagnan finds first a servant named Planchet and then lodging in the house of the beautiful Constance, lady in waiting to Queen Anne. The aspiring Musketeer becomes entangled in the queen's platonic affair with the Duke of Buckingham, swearing to protect her against the traitorous intrigues of the usurping Duc de Rochefort. When de Rochefort discovers that the queen has given her valuable diamond brooch to Buckingham as a peace token, he suggests to the king that the queen be asked to wear the jewels at the king's anniversary celebration. The Three Musketeers and D'Artagnan undertake to retrieve the brooch in London before the ball, and are almost stopped by de Rochefort and his murderous accomplice, Lady de Winter. After chases, escapes and intense duelling, the brooch is returned to the queen in time to thwart de Rochefort's plot, and D'Artagnan is officially declared a full-fledged Musketeer.
Rowland V. Lee
Nigel De Brulier
John L. Cass
Rowland V. Lee
Van Nest Polglase
The Three Musketeers (1935)
For this first American talkie version in 1935, RKO brought in Walter Abel from the Broadway stage. Abel had made three films previous to this, the last an adaptation of the play Liliom (1930), in which he had a small part. After The Three Musketeers, he got leads in several B releases and supporting roles in many major films. Over the decades, Abel become one of the most familiar character actors in movies and television, up until his last appearance in 1984, three years before his death at age 88. According to The Hollywood Reporter, however, Abel wasn't the first choice for D'Artagnan. The trade paper reported that Francis Lederer was originally assigned the role, although there's no indication of why he didn't appear.
For D'Artagnan's intrepid companions, the titular musketeers, the studio cast three other actors who would become familiar supporting players in hundreds of movies over the course of their long careers: Paul Lukas, Onslow Stevens, and making his motion picture debut, Moroni Olsen. Also in the cast are two actors who had distinctive familiarities with their roles. Ian Keith, appearing here as Rochefort, would play the same character in the 1948 MGM version. Nigel De Brulier was Richelieu in the Fairbanks film and again in The Iron Mask (1929). He donned the evil cardinal's robes once more for James Whale's The Man in the Iron Mask (1939).
For those not well versed in Dumas' tale, it follows the adventures of a young provincial, D'Artagnan, who arrives in Paris in the early 17th century determined to become part of the king's celebrated Musketeers. He's taken under the wing of the three most respected and feared of the troupe and is soon involved in court intrigue engineered by the dastardly Richelieu. Like most of the other cinematic versions (Lester's being a notable exception), this one adapts only the first part of the novel.
Although a far less familiar take on the tale than either the silent Fairbanks or the more recent twists on the story (with director Paul W.S. Anderson's jacked-up 2011 version adding a hefty portion of video game-like CGI and Milla Jovovich's action stunts), this 1935 version of The Three Musketeers has some exciting fights choreographed by Ralph Faulkner, who put Errol Flynn through his swashbuckling paces in Captain Blood (1935) and The Sea Hawk (1940). Faulkner also played an uncredited bit as Jussac in this film. Credits also list Fred Cavens as "fencing arranger," and it's likely this master swordsman, who was responsible for so much of the fencing style and techniques seen in Hollywood pictures of this period, was most responsible for the swordplay we see on screen. He began working in movies during the silent era, training Douglas Fairbanks for The Mark of Zorro (1920) and The Black Pirate (1926). Cavens was also the fencing master on the aforementionedCaptain Blood and The Sea Hawk, Romeo and Juliet (1936), with Flynn again in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), and guiding Tyrone Power in the remake of The Mark of Zorro (1940) and The Black Swan (1942).
The picture's director, Rowland V. Lee, had a good working familiarity with this kind of material, having shepherded Robert Donat through the period adventure The Count of Monte Cristo (1934). He also directed George Arliss as Cardinal Richelieu (1935), a far more sympathetic take on the notorious cleric. Another article in The Hollywood Reporter announced that John Cromwell was originally slated to direct The Three Musketeers, but again there's no mention of why RKO took Cromwell off the film.
Look closely and you may or may not see Lucille Ball as an extra. Ball started in motion pictures in 1933, playing a string of uncredited bits over the next few years. She signed with RKO in 1935, which would make her participation in this picture possible, but it's up to viewers to determine if some sources are correct in placing her here.
Director: Rowland V. Lee
Producer: Cliff Reid
Screenplay: Rowland V. Lee, Dudley Nichols, based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas père
Cinematography: J. Peverell Marley
Editing: George Hively
Art Direction: Van Nest Polglase
Original Music: Max Steiner
Cast: Walter Abel (D'Artagnan), Ian Keith (Count de Rochefort), Margot Grahame (Milady de Winter), Paul Lukas (Athos), Moroni Olsen (Porthos), Onslow Stevens (Aramis)
BW-97m. Closed Captioning.
by Rob Nixon
The Three Musketeers (1935)
This film marked the screen debuts of Walter Abel and Rosamond Pinchot. Pinchot was the daughter of former Pennsylvania governor Gifford Pinchot. According to Hollywood Reporter news items, John Cromwell was first slated to direct the picture, and Francis Lederer was originally assigned to the role of D'Artagnan. Although credited on screen with dancing arrangements, Fred Cavens instructed the actors in fencing, according to various contemporary sources. Hollywood Reporter production charts add Henry Mowbray, Lionel Belmore and Mary McLaren to the cast, but their participation in the final film has not been confirmed. In September 1935, Hollywood Reporter announced that retakes were being filmed at RKO's "40-acre" ranch. The projected budget of the film was $1,000,000; however, according to a Hollywood Reporter news item, the picture was completed under schedule and under budget.
Modern sources state that Lucille Ball appeared as an extra in the production. Among the many other film versions of Dumas' story are the 1914 Film Attractions Co. production, directed by Charles V. Henkel (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20; F1.4457); the 1921 Douglas Fairbanks production, directed by Fred Niblo (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30; F2.5665); M-G-M's 1948 version, directed by George Sidney and starring Gene Kelly; and Richard Lester's 1974 Twentieth Century-Fox production starring Michael York.