Silent Movie Rule #9: When challenged, remember that the gizzard is a vital spot.

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Ah! What would we ever have done without dueling? (Answer: Have a more civilized society, for one thing.) More to the point, what would movies do without dueling? From Errol Flynn to Darth Vader, the movie duel is a longstanding tradition. In Scaramouche, Ramon Novarro plays a master swordsman who is merrily slicing his way through the French National Assembly. Well, I suppose it beats political ads.

And since this is a silent film and silent films tended to be a whole lot darker than the talkies, Mr. Novarro shows no mercy. The gizzard it is! As opposed to the old “defeat the villain, refuse to kill him, villain tries to stab hero in back, hero slays/maims him and then it’s self-defense and we keep our PG-13″ methodology that has taken over modern movies. His real target is Lewis Stone (Lewis Stone?) and the big honkin’ duel is not what he hopes but that is another story. (You can read my review of the movie here.)

(If you have not quite fallen for Ramon Novarro yet, do give Scaramouche a try. It’s one of his very best performances and really shows off his acting skills and charisma.)

Availability: Warner Archive has released a very nice print of the film accompanied by a suitably rousing orchestral score.

Scaramouche (1923) A Silent Film Review

Featuring the famous opening line, “he was born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad,” Scaramouche is the tale of Andre-Louis,  a young lawyer (Ramon Novarro) who seeks to revenge the murder of his best friend at the hands a heartless aristocrat (Lewis Stone). To further his ends, Andre-Louis becomes an actor, a fencing master and, finally, an architect of the French Revolution.
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