The Private Life of Don Juan (1934) – reviewed by George

This is Douglas Fairbanks the elder’s last film, and it must have been personal for him since it deals with a man who has lived past his reputation. Don Juan is a littler thicker around the waist, a little older-looking in the face, and literally nobody will believe him when he tells them who he is. His rep for athleticism and handsomeness, his skill at seduction, live on without him. Of course Fairbanks is still recognizable facially, but he is a little thicker, a little slower, and one stunt appears to have been entrusted to a double, although he does some impressive leaps over fences and stairs (with one hand on a support of some sort).
The movie is based on a story by Henri Bataille, with Story and Dialogue by Frederick Lonsdale and Lajos Biro, and was directed by Alexander Korda himself.
Some of the rest of the cast, as listed in the amusing opening credits:
Antonita, a Dancer of Passionate Temperament = Merle Oberon
Her Manager = Bruce Winston
Pepitta, Another Dancer of Equal Temperament = Gina Malo
Delores, a Lady of Mystery = Benita Hume
A Maid, Pure and Simple = Binnie Barnes
Leporello, Don Juan’s Servant and Co-Conspirator = Melville Cooper
A Middle Aged Lady of Youthful Sentiment = Athene Seyler.
In addition to the credits the script itself is very clever, and the composition of some of the shots is very different and new-looking – despite the fact that the film is 82 years old.
The film begins with people – mostly women – gathered in a square in Seville to hear a troubadour (John Brownlee) sing “The Don Juan Serenade”, written for the film by Michael Spolianski. During the song a shadow tosses roses to appreciative women, all with jealous husbands rushing in to yell, “Who was that man?”
Well, I think it was (as the credits say) Rodrigo, a Man of Romance = Barry Mackay, who is an imitator doing very well with the ladies by claiming to be Don Juan. While he roams Seville tossing roses, Don Juan is telling Leporello, “Nowadays when I sit down to a quiet game with a lady I’m no longer sure of holding the cards.”
I told you the script was clever!
Don Juan has made a serious error in returning to Seville for the first time in about six years, and he compounds that error by being flattered with Rodrigo and his amours. Rodrigo gets himself killed in a duel with a husband, and now Don Juan is dead, and the real dude can never convince anyone – he is too old.
In the meantime his unbelievably patient and loving wife Dolores, the Lady of Mystery, has bought up all his debts and has the power to have him imprisoned (since he now owes her all that money). And the dancer Pepitta, who was kissed by Rodrigo, has become very popular, undeservedly so according to the formerly more popular dancer Antonita, who rejoices when Don Juan (the real one) shows up at her cantina and kisses her and lies to her . She is now the happiest of women – and does not fail to use his visit as publicity.
And two more Don Juan quotes: “Marriage has its disadvantages, but it saves a lot of walking.” And “After all, there comes a time in a man’s life when he needs rest – and don’t wake me until it’s time for my funeral.”
A truly delightful movie, with a good deal of wisdom: 1. Every wife deserves to be courted by her husband, and 2. Accept your age and you will find compensations.

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