Posts Tagged ‘Akim Tamiroff’

For the Swashathon: 1941’s The Corsican Brothers

I love a good, action movie.  Sword fights, so much the better!  Not the modern versions of sword fights that show all of the gore(I’m referring to you, 1995 film Rob Roy.) I know that in real life, a sword fight was a bloody battle, but I like the classic films that depict sword fights with the ultimate battle involving the baddie fighting the hero, with little blood flowing.  The baddie usually ends the fight by grasping his fatal wound, eyes shut, staggering backwards, then falling over, dead.

When I found out that my favorite blog dedicated to silent movies was going to host a “Swashathon” dedicated to swashbuckler movies, I jumped right in.  Be sure to visit Movies, Silently and read about all of the swashbuckler films being paid homage to this weekend.


On November 28th, 1941, the film The Corsican Brothers premiered to rave reviews.  Distributed by United Artists, the film was based on French writer Alexandre Dumas’s adventure novel.  Like many of Dumas’s works of fiction, The Corsican Brothers has a rollicking plot with lots of action.

The Corsican Brothers poster 1

Director Gregory Ratoff, working with the screenplay by George Bruce and Howard Estabrook, kept the story flowing fast;never a dull moment in this movie.   To play the main characters, identical twin brothers, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. won the role.  The movie’s main baddie played by a blustery and glowering Akim Tamiroff.  The lovely Ruth Warrick is the love interest and damsel in distress.   The wonderful supporting cast: J. Carrol Naish, H.B. Warner, Henry Wilcoxon, Gloria Holden, Walter Kingsford, and Nana Bryant.

The movie opens on the island of Corsica and we quickly meet two noble families, the good Franchi family and the evil Colonna family.  It is known in the village that Countess Franchi(Gloria Holden) is about to give birth to her first child, and that all of Count Franchi’s(Henry Wilcoxon) relatives have come to his home to await the birth.  Across town, Baron Colonna(Akim Tamiroff) and his minions are eating a meal and when the Baron learns that all of the Franchis are in one spot, he decides to attack them and murder them all! There is a blood feud between the two families, and it’s explained that in 1841 Corsica, when this story takes place, all Corsicans follow the idea of an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.

Baron Colonna announcing Death to all the Franchis!

Baron Colonna announcing Death to all the Franchis!

Countess Franchi bravely labors away in her gorgeous bedroom with the attentive care of Dr. Paoli(H. B. Warner) and a nun/nurse.  Shortly after her twin sons are born, it is known to all that the Countess is dying.  The Count hurries in to see his wife and his sons; he is overjoyed that God has blessed him with two sons!  Dr. Paoli quietly tells him that the twins are conjoined.  The Count is crushed by this news, and he begs the doctor to surgically separate the boys.  Before a surgery can happen, Dr. Paoli manages to sneak the twins out of the mansion, with the help of Franchi family servant Lorenzo(J. Carrol Naish).   Sadly, all of the rest of the Franchis are killed by Baron Colonna and his henchmen.  There’s a touching moment as the nun is helping with the babies escape and she begs her mistress to leave too, but the Countess bravely smiles and tells  the nun to not worry for her, as she’ll face her death with bravery and grace.

Count Franchi and Lorenzo getting ready to defend against Colonna and his henchmen.

Count Franchi and Lorenzo getting ready to defend against Colonna and his henchmen.

Dr. Paoli, back at his home with the babies and Lorenzo, shares his fear that Colonna won’t believe that the babies died in the inferno that engulfed the Franchi home and that he must somehow hide these boys until they are of age.  The surgery has been done and the babies are now separated twins.  With Lorenzo’s suggestion, they contact the Franchi’s good friends, Monsieur and Madame Dupre,(Walter Kingsford and Nana Bryant) who are childless.  After the babies are baptized and christened Mario and Lucien, the Dupre’s take baby Mario back with them to Paris.  Lorenzo agrees to raise Lucien, in the hills of Corsica, near the village of the Franchis.

20 years fly by.  Mario is a cultured and educated young man.  He meets Corsican Countess Isabelle Gravini and it’s love at first sight for him.  At the Paris Opera House, where they meet, he protects her from the attentions of a clod, who later assaults Mario.  When Mario suffers a wound in his shoulder, Lucien awakes with a pain in his shoulder!  Despite being separated, Lucien feels the pains, pangs and passions his twin brother experiences.(Cue the Twilight Zone music!  By the way, I have identical twin daughters, and they have never experienced this “spiritual twin” syndrome, as Dr. Paoli calls it.)  Here’s a clip, courtesy of TCM, of this “spiritual twin” syndrome, and the meeting of Countess Isabelle and Mario.

When Mario and Lucien turn 21, Dr. Paoli asks for the Dupres to allow Mario to travel to Corsica as it’s time for the boys to meet and learn the truth of their ancestry.  The Dupres comply and Mario and Lucien meet for the first time.  Both brothers vow to avenge their parents death at the hands of Baron Colonna.  Here’s the clip of that scene, also courtesy of TCM.  The rest of the movie deals with the brothers exacting their revenge, with a love “square” getting put into the plot.

One of the many excellent camera shots of Fairbanks, Jr. playing twin brothers, appearing in the same scene.

One of the many excellent camera shots of Fairbanks, Jr. playing twin brothers, appearing in the same scene.

I say love “square” instead of triangle because this plot device involves 4 people.  Countess Isabelle loves Mario,Mario loves Countess Isabelle,  Lucien loves Countess Isabelle(he has some fun getting her to kiss him as she thinks he’s Mario and he’s not about to correct her!), and evil Baron Colonna has seen Countess Isabelle, has asked her father for her hand, and when her father says, “No”, Colonna has him poisoned so that he can pursue the Countess unhindered!!

Lucien(or is it Mario?) introducing Countess Isabelle to the camp.

Lucien(or is it Mario?) introducing Countess Isabelle to the camp.

Baron Colonna makes Countess Isabelle's skin crawl!

Baron Colonna makes Countess Isabelle’s skin crawl!

There is a somewhat sad plot point added to the end of the film, but it also ties the story line up neatly, like a bow.  Fairbanks, Jr. is just fantastic as Mario/Lucien.  He’s athletic, gorgeous, and sincere in his acting the dual roles.  The special effects for this film were well done: scenes where Fairbanks, Jr. plays the twins talking to each other, or in scenes where both twins are with other actors at the same time. One scene where the twins get into a fight with one another, yes another actor/double was used but the fight was so carefully choreographed and shot from afar, that it’s hard to tell the double from Fairbanks, Jr.

Wilcoxon and Holden, the doomed Franchi parents,are noble and brave.  H.B. Warner as Dr. Paoli is tender-hearted and wise.  J. Carrol Naish is great as servant Lorenzo, who raises Lucien to be a defender of the people against the evil Colonna, and Kingsford and Bryant are also warm and wise, as the childless couple who raise Mario as their own. Ruth Warrick is so pretty, and has a natural chemistry with Fairbanks, Jr.  I’d like to think they had a lovely time making this film together.   Tamiroff has a blast playing Colonna and his sword fight scene showdown with Mario is a great scene. They fight in a large room, but with furniture to knock over and wounded bodies to dodge, plus a large mirror is used for good visual effect.  Spoiler in this clip.  If you don’t want to know what it is, then don’t watch this clip! Here it is, courtesy of Youtube.

TCM aired The Corsican Brothers this past July, the first time they had ever aired it.  Check their schedule, especially in 2016 as I am sure they’ll be airing this film again.  It’s available to purchase at Amazon in a dvd or to watch it through their prime instant video.  It’s also available at TCM’s Shop.

For an excellent tale complete with swashbuckling derring do, seek out The Corsican Brothers.


My Classic Movie Pick: The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek

My classic film pick is one of the wackiest, funniest, romance-comedies ever made.  The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek was  First movie poster for TMOMCwritten and directed by Preston Sturges, and released by Paramount Studios in January of  1944.  This movie has  a couple of surprising  plot twists and  when I first watched the film I was surprised that one of those  twists had made it past the censors!

The excellent cast includes:  Betty Hutton, Eddie Bracken, William Demarest, Diana Lynn, with guest cameos by Brian Donlevy and Akim Tamiroff, as well as a myriad of great character actors and actresses who were usually in Preston Sturges’s movies.

Betty portrays Trudy Kockenlocker, a high school graduated working girl.  She works at  Morgan Creek’s music store, helping shoppers listen to the latest records that have come in, and we meet her doing a funny lip-synch to a song sung by an artist with a very low,  bass voice.  A group of soldiers who  have stopped by the store  find Trudy’s lip-synching hilarious and they invite her to attend their farewell dance that night.  She assures them that she’ll be there and that she’ll be ready for all the fun.  As the soldiers leave the store, Norval Jones (Eddie Bracken)arrives.   Norval is a nervous guy, very polite, and it’s obvious that he is in love with Trudy, but she just considers him a good friend.  He asks Trudy to  go to the movies with him that night, but she tells him that she can’t because she has already planned on going to the soldiers’ farewell dance.  Trudy then remembers that her dad, Constable Kockenlocker(a great, grumpy performance by William Demarest), has forbidden her going to anymore of those soldiers’ parties.  Trudy really wants to go to the dance, and as Norval loves her, even though it’s not reciprocated, he agrees to pick her up that night, so that Trudy can tell her dad that she’s on a date with him.  Trudy’s plan is that she will drop  Norval  off at the movies and she’ll drive on to the dance.  When the dance is over, she’ll drive back to the movie theatre  and let Norval drive her home, arriving according to her dad’s curfew.

Norval asking Trudy to go to the movies.

Norval asking Trudy to go to the movies.

Lip-synching for the soldiers.

Lip-synching for the soldiers.

Trudy goes to the dance, and she jitterbugs the night away, but unwisely, she decides to drink a lot of champagne, and during one jitterbug number, she is lifted too high and hits her head on a light fixture!  Time jumps ahead to 8:00 a.m. and  poor Norval has waited patiently for Trudy to arrive at the movie theatre!  Norval takes over the driving duties as he can tell Trudy is slightly hungover and confused as she can’t recall why she didn’t pick Norval up as planned.  When they arrive at Trudy’s house they are  greeted by a rampaging dad who races out the front door.  Constable Kockenlocker wants to throttle Norval for keeping his daughter out all night.  Trudy tries to calm her dad and tells him that they were at the movies, which doesn’t help as he knows the movie theater closes before midnight.  As he tries to grab Norval and beat him to a pulp, Trudy and her kid sister Emmy(Diana Lynn) grab their dad, and force him to the ground and pin him by sitting on him so Norval can escape!

Trudy enjoying herself at the soldiers' party!

Trudy enjoying herself at the soldiers’ party!

Officer Kockenlocker trying to get at Norval!

Officer Kockenlocker trying to get at Norval!

Later that day, Trudy starts to recall to Emmy bits and pieces about her fuzzy evening experiences.  Trudy recalls a wedding ceremony in front of a Justice of the Peace, but that she didn’t use her real name and she can’t recall who the groom was, just that he was a soldier!  There is also a wedding ring on the third finger of her left hand.  A few more weeks go by and Trudy discovers that she is expecting a baby!!  Norval comes to the rescue, not knowing that Trudy is expecting another man’s child, but as Trudy decides that she will need a husband, she encourages Norval’s love for her.  Then, she actually does fall in love with Norval, but she doesn’t want him to marry her when her first marriage is still legally binding, so the two of them hatch a crazy plan.  Trudy thinks the soldier she married had the last name of Ratzkiwatzki.  Norval, who is 4F, agrees to wear a relative’s old World War I uniform and then he and Trudy will drive 25 miles away to the Honeymoon Hotel and have the Justice of the Peace marry them.  After a week or two, Trudy can file for divorce from “Ratzkiwatzki”, and then she and Norval can have a proper wedding ceremony.   Simple plan, right? Wrong!  Norval messes up when signing the wedding license and writes his real name, not “Ratzkiwatzki” and the Justice of the Peace catches the mistake.  Police are called, Trudy has to fess up to her father about the soldiers’ party, the marriage, the baby on the way, that she really loves Norval who wants to marry her.  I won’t reveal the solutions to this crazy situation or even what the “miracle” is but if you do find this movie and watch it, I guarantee you’ll have an enjoyable time!

A publicity shot for The Miracle of Morgan's Creek.

A publicity shot for The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek.

2nd movie poster for TMOMC

Trudy and Norval at the Justice of the Peace's home.

Trudy and Norval at the Justice of the Peace’s home.

The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek cost Paramount Studios $775,000 to make and earned them a nice box office profit of $9 million.  Audiences loved this nutty film and Sturges was nominated in 1945 for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.   In 2001, the movie was selected to be preserved in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress and it was #54 on the American Film Institute’s List of Top 100 Comedic Films.    It was put on dvd in 2001 so one can purchase it via Amazon or Turner Classic Movies Shop TCM which is on their online site, and it is available to view through Netflix.  Turner Classic Movies also airs it so check their schedule, also on their online site.  Lastly, a kind soul put up some clips from the movie on Youtube.


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