This post is about a series of 21 postcards, produced in 1921 by M. Le Deley, Paris for Pathé. They were meant as publicity postcards for the Pathé serial Les Trois Mousquetaires/The Three Musketeers (1921, Henri Diamant Berger), the second adaptation of the famous adventure novel by Alexandre Dumas père, published in 1844.
Les Trois Mousquetaires/The Three Musketeers was a French twelve-hour film produced in 1921. It was divided into one-hour chapters, designed to be released as a serial in consecutive weeks over a three-month period. This silent super-serial was produced by Pathé Frères. Les Trois Mousquetaires saw well over 20 later film productions, including a rival Hollywood version with Douglas Fairbanks.
The French company Film d'Art had already shot an adaptation of Alexandre Dumas' famous novel Les Trois Mousquetaires/The Three Musketeers in 1913, with André Calmettes as director and Henri Pouctal as co-director. It was Calmettes' last film direction; he returned to theater direction afterwards. Emile Dehelly played D'Artagnan; other actors were Rolla Norman and Edouard de Max.
Edouard de Max would also play in the second adaptation of Les Trois Mousquetaires/The Three Musketeers (1921, Henri Diamant-Berger) as Cardinal Richelieu. He again played Richelieu in Henri Diamant-Berger's sequel to Les trois mousquetaires: Vingts ans après/Five Years Later (1922), followed by roles in Diamant-Berger's films Les mauvais garçons/The Bad Boys (1922) and Milady (1923).
Les Trois Mousquetaires (1921, Henri Diamant-Berger) had the gigantic budget of 2,5 million French francs. It has wonderful performances, great looking sets (partly filmed on locations as the Chenonceau castle, Chartres and the Pérouges citadel), and authentic recreations of 17th century costumes. It has all the characters including minor characters such as Lord de Winter, Duchess de Chevreuse and the Executioner of Lille. It also shows in flashbacks Athos courtship of the beautiful but treacherous woman - the supposed priest's sister who later resurfaces as Milady de Winter. The priest and Milady are both shown in the flashbacks.
Comrades In Arms
The script by Auguste Macquet follows the classic novel by Alexandre Dumas père very faithfully. The novel tells the story of four comrades-in-arms, musketeers at the service of Louis XIII: Athos, who was unsuccessfully married with the evil female protagonist, Milady; Porthos, a kind-hearted gigantic man; Aramis, a mystic mixture of love and courage; and the young D’Artagnan, the hero of the story. “ALL FOR ONE AND ONE FOR ALL!!” is their motto.
The American rival film The Three Musketeers (1921, Fred Niblo) with Douglas Fairbanks was - although entertaining - much more loosely adapted. The Fairbanks version did keep the character of Bernajoux the greatest swordsman of the Cardinal's Guard who went to avenge his fellow Cardinal's guards and ended up being defeated by D'Artagnan.
The three musketeers in the French version were impersonated by Henri Rollan as Athos, Charles Martinelli as Porthos, and Pierre de Guingand as Aramis. The cast also included Claude Mérelle as Milady de Winter, Henri Baudin as Rochefort, and in a small role Albert Préjean. Les Trois Mousquetaires went on to become one of the most profitable films of the decade – quickly accumulating an astounding 17 million francs.
The success of Les Trois Mousquetaires was aided by an arrangement with United Artists that kept Fairbanks’s The Three Musketeers from being distributed in France and much of Europe. When Henri Diamant-Berger wanted to film the story, he had first offered the role of Roland D’Artagnan to Douglas Fairbanks. Fairbanks refused, according to Diamant-Berger because he did not want to work in such a vulgar genre as the serial. The Gascon D'Artagnan was eventually played by Aimé Simon-Girard.
Henri Diamant-Berger received a counter offer to direct Douglas Fairbanks in a two-hour American version of the novel. This time Diamant-Berger refused, he did not want to change his scenario. Diamant-Berger made his own version, and so did Fairbanks, The Three Musketeers (1921, Fred Niblo).
In 1933 Henri Diamant-Berger made a new, sound version of Les Trois Mousquetaires. Aimé Simon-Girard starred again as D' Artagnan, Henri Rollan returned as Athos, and Henri Baudin also reprised his role as Le comte de Rochefort. All copies of the 1921 version were thought to be destroyed by the Nazis during the Second World War, but in 1995 a print of was rediscovered, and remastered into a new version.
Sources: Rudmer Canjels (Beyond the Cliffhanger: distributing silent serials), Richard Abel (French Cinema - The First Wave 1915-1929), Wikipedia, and IMDb.