Don Juan (1926)

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Historically important as the first film to carry a Vitaphone sound track (consisting of music and sound effects, but no dialogue) Don Juan is a first-rate production by any standards, and would have been just as good with or without musical accompaniment. John Barrymore plays the legendary lover Don Juan, raised by his cynical father (also played by Barrymore) to "love 'em and leave 'em", and to never trust any woman. All of this changes when he meets the beautiful Adriana Della Varnese (Mary Astor). When it seems that Adriana has betrayed him in favor of a wealthy marriage to the lecherous Count Donati (Montague Love), Don Juan renounces her and returns to his rakish ways. What he doesn't know is that Adriana is a political pawn, who has been forced into an alliance with Donati by the calculating Borgias (Estelle Taylor and Noah Beery Sr.). By the time Don Juan finds out that his true love is still true, he has been tossed in prison for killing Donati in a spectacular duel. He breaks out, rescues Adriana from the Borgias' torture chamber, and escapes with his beloved to the safety of Spain. The plot is, of course, more complicated than that, but so fascinating is John Barrymore's performance that it's difficult to concentrate on anything else. The film's highlights include the out-sized duel between Barrymore and Montagu Love, capped by Barrymore's spectacular leap from the top of a huge staircase, and the torture chamber sequences, wherein Barrymore sneaks past the Borgia guards by assuming the facial characteristics of fiendish torturer Gustav von Seyfertitz--and this without makeup. "In the know" film historians may read a lot more into the Barrymore/Mary Astor love scenes than is readily apparent, forearmed as they are with the knowledge that John and Mary had once been passionate lovers offscreen. Scenarist Bess Meredyth used the Lord Byron poem Don Juan as a mere stepping stone for this imaginative, exquisitely filmed romantic adventure.
Rating:
NR
Genre:
Action & Adventure , Drama , Musical & Performing Arts , Romance
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
 wide
On DVD:
Runtime:
Studio:
Warner Brothers

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Cast

John Barrymore
as Don Juan
Mary Astor
as Adriona Della Varnese
Willard Louis
as Perdillo
Estelle Taylor
as Lucretia Borgia
Warner Oland
as Cesare Borgia
Myrna Loy
as Mai, Lady in Waiting
Montagu Love
as Count Giano Donati
Helene Costello
as Rena, Adriona's Maid
Jane Winton
as Donna Isobel
John Roche
as Leandro
June Marlowe
as Trusia
Yvonne Day
as Don Juan, at Age 5
Philippe De Lacy
as Don Juan, at Age 10
John George
as Hunchback
Josef Swickard
as Duke Della Vamese
Lionel Braham
as Duke Margoni
Phyllis Haver
as Imperia
Hedda Hopper
as Marquise Rinaldo
Gibson Gowland
as Gentlemen of Rome
Sheldon Lewis
as Gentlemen of Rome
Dick Sutherland
as Gentleman of Rome
Gustav von Seyffertitz
as Neri, the Alchemist
Nigel De Brulier
as Marchese Rinaldo
Emily Fitzroy
as The Dowager
Philippe DeLacy
as Don Juan, at Age 10
Helena D'Algy
as Donna Elvira, Murderess of Jose
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Critic Reviews for Don Juan

All Critics (4)

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | February 19, 2009
Variety
Top Critic

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | March 24, 2006
New York Times
Top Critic

The first in which music and sound effects were integrated into the film action.

Full Review… | August 30, 2006
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

No excerpt available.

June 18, 2005
EmanuelLevy.Com

No excerpt available.

January 14, 2005
Worcester Telegram & Gazette

Excellent silent actioner with synchronized score and the great Barrymore.

November 26, 2003
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

Audience Reviews for Don Juan

½

Cool film, it has nothing to do with the usual Don Juan (no statue coming out of hell, no killing of the father, no vengeance, and the Borgias as guest stars, ho, and a happy ending). The film has its moments some of the girls are cute, the action scenes are a bit dated but still lot of fun, there are a few love triangle moments that are tasty. Unfortunately, it is waaay too long, many scenes are totally useless, the plot starts well but soon loses any form of interest and many things are too over the top to be even fun. The only thing that really makes the film worth it is John Barrymore himself. True, he jumps a bit too much for his own good but he is often wonderful. In particular, at one point he takes the place of a sorcerer and manages somehow to change his own face so much that I could hardly recognize him. After a while he goes back to his normal face, no make up, just the magic of the actor. Paradoxically this type of joyful overacting is somewhat fresh when compared to the constant stone-faced acting we have nowadays.

Ben Gui
Ben Gui

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