Review: ‘The Private Life of Don Juan’

Douglas Fairbanks' prime portrayal is as the antiquated knight who is finally disillusioned as the arch-heartbreaker when he must bow to his years and recognize that his amorous porch-climbing career is finis.

Douglas Fairbanks’ prime portrayal is as the antiquated knight who is finally disillusioned as the arch-heartbreaker when he must bow to his years and recognize that his amorous porch-climbing career is finis.

But the film holds more than that. There are many fine lights and shadings to get over the fact that the susceptible Seville femmes, who were not loath to two-timing their senors, had glorified Don Juan into an almost mythical figure.

Fairbanks is first introduced as a bit weary and slightly ill cavalier. All the faithful illusion is maintained to impress upon the viewer that he is still the potent Don Juan of history, excepting that he happens to have become a bit fatigued. His faithful retainer, his cook, his masseur, all his aides, are shown jealously watching over him.

There’s even planted the premise of Fairbanks being irked with the wife (Benita Hume) whom, he complains, has been too possessive of late; so much so that it’s been cramping his style.

Fairbanks, stacked beside some nifty lookers – Merle Oberon, Binnie Barnes, Joan Gardner, Hume, Patricia Hilliard, Diana Napier, Natalie Lelong (Princess Paley), Betty Hamilton, Toto Koopman, Spencer Trevor, Nancy Jones and Florence Wood – makes for an incongruous impression.

Georges Perinal, Rene Clair’s ace camera-grinder, in this, his first away from French productions, has fashioned some fine stuff.

The Private Life of Don Juan

UK

Production

London/United Artists. Director Alexander Korda; Producer Alexander Korda; Screenplay Frederick Lonsdale, Lajos Biro; Camera Georges Perinal, Robert Krassker; Editor Harold Young, Stephen Harrison; Music Mischa Spoliansky, Arthur Wimperis, Arthur Benjamin; Art Director Vincent Korda

Crew

(B&W) Available on VHS. Extract of a review from 1934. Running time: 89 MIN.

With

Douglas Fairbanks Merle Oberon Binnie Barnes Joan Gardner Benita Hume Barry Mackay
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