Errol Flynn's farewell to big-budget swashbuckling has him playing the legendary Don Juan, the Spanish lover who fights to save the Queen Margaret and her King from the treacherous machinations of her minister Duke de Lorca.
"THE ADVENTURES OF DON JUAN was intended as something of a 'comeback' film for Warner Bros. resident 'bad boy', combining the heroic elements of 'ROBIN HOOD' and 'THE SEA HAWK' with Flynn's well-established (by 1948) reputation as a hell-raising womanizer. Unfortunately, the color production was not a box office hit, but the comic adventure is today embraced by his many fans as one of his best roles!
It was not an easy film to make; despite Flynn's initial attempts to be punctual and a cooperative, he eventually 'fell off the wagon', and his carousing and frequent disappearances stretched the filming out by months, forcing frequent reshooting. Director Vincent Sherman, cinematographer Elwood Bredell, and editor Alan Crosland often had to 'cut-and-paste' snippets of many takes to achieve a decent performance from the star, and careful lighting had to be used to play down the increasingly obvious effects of the star's hedonistic lifestyle. (The closing scene, featuring then-wife Nora Eddington, was shot nearly a year before the remainder of the film, and the change in the Flynn's physical appearance is clearly evident.) At 38, the star, who always hated being called a 'pretty boy' (to the extent that his home had few mirrors) was aging rapidly, and badly.
All this being said, Flynn tried to give the film his best he could. It had been a landmark film for his friend/mentor John Barrymore, in the first Warners' film with sound, employed for music and special effects only, in 1926 (THE JAZZ SINGER would introduce 'talkies' a year later). It reunited him with friend and frequent costar Alan Hale, who, at 56, was still a popular character actor, and whose son, Alan Jr., was starting to make his mark around town (he would eventually be best known as the Skipper in 'Gilligan's Island'). The script for DON JUAN passed through many hands, including uncredited help by William Faulkner and Robert Florey, with the end result being marvelously funny, tongue-in-cheek, and swashbuckling, to boot! The score, by the legendary Max Steiner, became an instant classic, and would be reused, years later, in George Hamilton's ZORRO, THE GAY BLADE. This was a film which, despite Errol Flynn's self-destructive lifestyle, had enough talent involved to still stand up as one of the better films of the 1940s.
The plot involves roué Don Juan, tossed out of England after breaking up a 'diplomatic' wedding (a VERY funny scene), returning home to Spain to find evil Duke de Lorca (the sublimely nasty Robert Douglas) controlling weak King Phillip, and taxing the population to near starvation, with only the beautiful Queen Margaret standing in his way. Flynn quickly dispatches a de Lorca press gang, earning the Count's hatred, and the Queen's attention...and Don Juan finds himself truly falling in love, for the first time, with the youthful monarch (played by the radiant Viveca Lindfors). Assigned as a fencing master at the Academy, the legendary lover draws the ire of the Queen by stating his feelings for her, then is manipulated into another disastrous diplomatic blunder, involving, of course, another woman. On the run, he discovers de Lorca's ultimate scheme (manipulating the Crown into war), and with the help of the students of the Academy, he must save the King and Queen.
Featuring a great early appearance by Raymond Burr (as a de Lorca henchman), and a stirring final duel between Flynn and Douglas (expanded from the 1926 version, and featuring an astonishing climactic stairway jump, performed by stuntman and future 'Tarzan' Jock Mahoney), THE ADVENTURES OF DON JUAN is a gloriously adventuresome romp. Sadly, it didn't save Flynn's flagging career, but it certainly has earned a place among his classic films!"
Flynn's Last Great Swashbuckler
Benjamin J Burgraff | 12/18/1998
(4 out of 5 stars)
""The Adventures of Don Juan" was Warner Brothers' last big investment in Errol Flynn. Their resident bad boy had long ago used up any goodwill he might have had with the studio -- goodwill based primarily on Flynn's power at the box office. But in the late 1940s, Errol Flynn's star was on the wane, and the studio was beginning to take a hard and skeptical look at their one-time box office bonanza.In an attempt to rekindle some of the old fire, Warner Bros. produced "The Adventures of Don Juan," in which Flynn plays the title role. His Don Juan is world-weary, a man for whom all the loves and swordfights and scandals are beginning to wear him a bit thin. But the most compelling aspect of this Don Juan's character is his sense of humor. Flynn brings a humorous, tongue-in-cheek element to the character that is extraordinarily appealing.The film is lush and well-appointed. There are times when Flynn shows the effects of years of hard drinking and womanizing, but for the most part he is strikingly handsome. Stunt doubles were used extensively for him, particularly in the final duel scene. In the shot where Don Juan leaps down a long staircase and lands on top of the villain, future "Yancey Derringer" star Jock Mahoney performed the leap."Don Juan" did poorly in the United States and fabulously well in Europe. Its cool reception at home convinced Warner Brothers that Flynn was no longer a bankable commodity, and considerably less money was spent on his films in the few years he had left under his contract.But in the intervening years, "The Adventures of Don Juan" has earned a huge following among Errol Flynn admirers and movie buffs as well. It is a grand, humorous and thoroughly enjoyable jaunt with the King of the Swashbucklers, and one that should not be missed."
Classic Swashbuckling on a Grand Scale
Scott T. Rivers | Los Angeles, CA USA | 01/25/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Adventures of Don Juan" (1948) emerged as Errol Flynn's last memorable swashbuckler before his sad decline. The Warner Bros. production is colorful escapism on a grand scale, with lavish sets, Oscar-winning costumes and a fine Max Steiner score. Flynn's deterioration is somewhat evident, yet seems appropriate for the debauched, world-weary Don Juan. Director Vincent Sherman also rises to the occasion by adding a darker edge to the light-hearted romanticism. Robert Douglas and Raymond Burr are appropriately slimy villains, while Viveca Lindfors' Queen of Spain is not easily won over by Flynn's charm. Admittedly, the film is a bit dialogue-heavy and it's easy to see how Warner saved money through the occasional use of stock footage. However, these flaws are more than compensated by first-rate action sequences and sword duels. Though only a moderate success in American theaters, "Adventures of Don Juan" remains a classic swashbuckler."
The Greatest (Next to Robin Hood)
Anthony Damato | Chicago, IL USA | 05/09/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Errol Flynn's Robin Hood is one of the greatest adventure films ever made. But after you've seen it again and again, you wish you could see the same thing only different. And that's what Don Juan is. We still have the incomparable Flynn at his best, we still have the fights and the swordplay, and a bunch of Flynn's acolytes storming the old castle (this time they're not men in green tights, they're men in black swordsmen tights, but what the hell). It's "almost" a remake of Robin Hood, and that's why it's so terrific. If you loved Robin Hood, you'll like Don Juan. And if you like Don Juan and haven't seen Robin Hood, well, lucky you, you're in for one of filmdom's supreme achievements."
"My friend, there's a little bit of Don Juan in every man, a
H. Bala | Carson - hey, we have an IKEA store! - CA USA | 07/17/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Adventures of Don Juan is the last of Errol Flynn's big budget swashbucker films. He was 39 years old when he made this, and still gallant and audacious, but all the high living and drinking binges had finally taken its toll. Never again would the film industry trust him with a mega budget. Still, this colorful period actioner, detailing the fictional escapades of fabled lover Don Juan de Marana, is a sumptuously entertaining, action-packed celluloid endeavor which lived up to the lavish standards of the classic Errol Flynn extravaganzas. In 1948, when this film was made, the direct heir to Douglas Fairbanks might have been saddled with additional wrinkles, and might have been more grizzled and a tad creakier, but he was STILL, indubitably, dashingly, Errol Flynn.
Don Juan's opening scene has the camera panning to our seducer Juan scaling a trellis to rendezvous with his latest lovely conquest. But her husband inopportunely walks in on them and Don Juan must skedaddle post haste. While fleeing, he and his sidekick Leporello (Alan Hale) trick a passing guard detail into thinking he is a Duke, thus providing themselves safe passage and a guard escort. But yet another misadventure sends Juan and Leporello to incarceration. He is released to the custody of an old friend and is sent packing to Spain, on a mission to help the beautiful but beleaguered Queen Margaret (Viveca Lindfors). Very quickly, Juan draws the enmity of the conniving Duke de Lorca (played with smarmy zest by Robert Douglas), who schemes to become the ruling power of Spain. Very quickly, Juan is embroiled in deadly court intrigue and behind-the-throne conspiracies. Plus, he finds himself falling hard for the virtuous Queen Margaret, who he comes to realize could only be loved from afar.
Warner Brothers spared no expenses with this motion picture. Don Juan contains marvelous acting, exciting sword fights, lush sets, resplendent costumes, sneaky wit and humor, a rousing musical score by Max Steiner - and a truimphant Errol Flynn. Robin Hood, Captain Blood, Don Juan de Marana - these are the roles that Errol Flynn was born to play. He inhabits his heroic characters with such flamboyance and vitality that it's easy why he became a film icon early on in his career. Flynn and longtime friend Alan Hale, Sr. are reunited one last time (Hale died shortly after) and their easy camaraderie is fun to watch. Jerry Austin provides added amusement as the dwarf Don Sebastian.
As a side note, one wonders if there might've been bittersweet feelings raised in Flynn as, no doubt, several scenes and delivered lines serve to draw a parallel between Don Juan's wild carousing and Flynn's real life indiscretions. *Shrug* But whatever the case, for folks who enjoy high adventure done with flair and good spirits, Don Juan is a guaranteed Can't Miss. "