The New Adventures of Don Juan (1948)

#1 by Robert Crewdson , Sat Mar 28, 2020 6:14 pm

This Errol Flynn picture was first proposed in 1939 after the success of Flynn as Robin Hood, and the score was to be written by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, who had written the music for some of Flynn's greatest pictures. For reason's unknown, the film was postponed, and Flynn went into making 'The Sea Hawk'.

World War Two saw a decline in elaborate costume dramas, and the studios concentrated on war films and westerns.

The project was reactivated in 1944 with Jerry Wald as producer. In 1945 Raoul Walsh was announced as Director. Filming should have started in May 1945, but was again postponed due to difficulties in sourcing costumes, there was also a strike in the industry which affected the ability to paint and construct sets. In May the decision was made to postpone the film indefinitely.

In January 1946 the film was put back on the schedule. However, filming continued to be delayed.

Warner Brothers reactivated the film after the success of the 1947 re-releases of 'Robin Hood' and 'The Sea Hawk'.

In 1947 Jean Negulesco was announced as Director. Flynn had fallen out with both Walsh and Michael Curtiz. Jean worked with the scriptwriter, and expressed his ideas in a lengthy memo to Jerry Wald. When Flynn read the first draft he immediately dismissed it. After weeks of arguing, Jack Warner summoned Negulesco to his office and told him that Flynn didn't want him as Director. As Flynn was Warner's biggest box office asset, Warner was obliged to fire him and replace him with Vincent Sherman. The only suggestion of Negulesco's which was retained was having Swedish actress Viveca Lindfors as the female lead.

Erich Korngold had retired by this time, so Max Steiner was brought in to compose the score.

Shooting eventually began in October 1947, but was frequently delayed by changes in personel, and Flynn's health problems. He spent 15 days in hospital. It was estimated that Flynn had missed 64 days of shooting. Warner's were worried about the rising cost of production. The film was a huge success in Europe, but less so in the Untited States, causing Warner Brothers to reduce the budget on Flynn's future films.

The film won the Academy Award for Best Costume Design.

Personally I think this film benefitted from being delayed from when it was first proposed in 1939. It would have been a completely different film. Errol Flynn would probably have looked too young to portray a man with such a reputation all over Europe. Each time the project was resurrected, new scriptwriters were brought in, plus the leading lady changed. In 1939 Warner's said Olivia de Havilland would appear. In 1944 the female lead was to be Claudette Colbert; in 1947 red headed Alexis Smith was to be his co-star.

I think Viveca Lindfors was perfect as The Queen of Spain, in her first Hollywood role: we may not have had wonderful Robert Douglas as the Duke de Lorca, Douglas Kennedy, better known for westerns, as Don Rodrigo,, Raymond Burr as Captain Alvarez, and David Leonard as the Innkeeper. Each actor played their part to perfection, and the score by Max Steiner couldn't have been bettered.

I first saw this film on TV early in 1970; when the end credits were rolling, I wanted to see it all over again. It was always special to me. Although I have owned this on both V.H.S. And DVD, it seemed a poor substitute. When a copy, though fading, came up, I grabbed it. The colour is much better than appears in the screenshots. I've only seen two previous prints offered, both in the U.S., and both faded; much worse than my copy.

In the unlikely event that I was ever forced to downsize, this would not be going.

Greg Perry likes this
Robert Crewdson
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