This is a rousing, good humored costumer on ribald 18th-century France. Done with a fine sense of parody, full of movement, chase and swordplay, Christian-Jaque’s tongue-in-cheek, slick pacing animates the antics of Fanfan (Gerard Philipe), a roguish, arrogant ladies’ man who joins the king’s army to escape a shotgun wedding. A fake gypsy’s palm reading convinces him he will some day marry the king’s daughter and become one of France’s marshals.
His destiny gets a big boost when he comes across a bunch of bandits holding up a stagecoach containing Madame Pompadour (Genevieve Page) and the king’s daughter (Sylvie Pelayo). After a fiery one-man sabre bout and mass massacre, he gets an appreciative kiss from the great lady. Then he and his sidekicks manage to win the war single-handed and save the sergeant’s daughter, Adeline (Gina Lollobrigida), whom he now loves.
Henri Jeanson’s dialog peppers the script with a fine cynical humor. Philipe’s youth, exuberance and thesp ability obscure his lack of agility and grace and make his Fanfan character a robust and human one. Lollobrigida has beauty, body and acting talent and looks like a Hollywood bet. Noel Roquevert is excellent as the bombastic, martinet sergeant. Production values and trimmings are of the highest order.