The Three Musketeers (1948 film)

The Three Musketeers

Theatrical poster
Directed by George Sidney
Produced by Pandro S. Berman
Written by Alexandre Dumas, père (novel)
Robert Ardrey
Starring Gene Kelly
Van Heflin
June Allyson
Vincent Price
Lana Turner
Angela Lansbury
Music by Herbert Stothart
Cinematography Robert H. Planck
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • October 20, 1948 (1948-10-20)
Running time
125 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $4,474,000[1][2]
Box office $8,412,000[3]

The Three Musketeers (1948) is a Technicolor adventure film adaptation of the classic novel The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, père, written by Robert Ardrey, which starred Gene Kelly and Lana Turner. The film is today best remembered by many movie fans for its outstanding fight choreography in the combat sequences, which has been used as inspiration for movie fight scenes ever since.


D'Artagnan (Gene Kelly), an inexperienced Gascon youth, travels to Paris to join the elite King's Musketeers. On his way, he encounters a mysterious lady at a roadside inn. When he picks a fight with one of her escorts, she becomes suspicious and has him knocked unconscious. His letter of introduction from his father to de Treville (Reginald Owen), the commander of the Musketeers, is burned. When he awakens, he continues on to the city.

In Paris, he nevertheless presents himself to de Treville, who recognizes d'Artagnan's description of one of his assailants and, saying "A man is sometimes known by the enemies he makes," makes him a cadet. The young Gascon spots the very man and in his haste to confront him, annoys three of the most skillful Musketeers: Athos (Van Heflin), Porthos (Gig Young) and Aramis (Robert Coote). Each challenges him to a duel. At the appointed place, the master swordsmen are amused by the newcomer's audacity. Before they can begin however, they are interrupted by Richelieu's men, who try to arrest the Musketeers. Outraged that the three are outnumbered, d'Artagnan joins them in dispatching their foes, displaying his superb swordsmanship in the process. As a result, he is welcomed into their ranks.

Later, d'Artagnan rescues (and falls in love with) Constance Bonacieux (June Allyson), a confidante of Queen Anne (Angela Lansbury). The queen had been given a matched set of diamond studs by her husband, King Louis XIII (Frank Morgan). Foolishly, she gives them to her lover, the Duke of Buckingham (John Sutton), who is also the Prime Minister of Great Britain. Knowing of the queen's indiscretion, Richelieu (Vincent Price) sees a way to persuade the king to go to war with Britain. Richelieu arranges a ball and suggests to Louis that his wife wear the diamonds.

D'Artagnan and his three friends volunteer to travel to Britain to retrieve the jewels, but along the way, they are ambushed by Richelieu's men. One by one, the Musketeers are forced to stay behind to hold off their pursuers. Finally, only d'Artagnan and his servant Planchet (Keenan Wynn) are left to reach the duke. However, Richelieu had already sent the beautiful Milady, Countess de Winter (Lana Turner) to work her wiles on the duke and steal two of the studs. Fortunately, the duke's jeweler is able to make replacements quickly and d'Artagnan races back to France. He arrives just in time to save the queen from disgrace.

Admiring d'Artagnan's resourcefulness, Richelieu has Constance abducted in an attempt to enlist him in his service. He also assigns de Winter to help persuade the young man. D'Artagnan tries to learn where Constance is being held from de Winter, but begins to fall under her spell instead. When Athos discovers that Milady is actually his treacherous wife, he tries to warn d'Artagnan, but is not believed. Then d'Artagnan finds out that Athos was telling the truth; he sees a brand on her shoulder, the mark of a common criminal.

Fighting breaks out between Britain and France. The queen succeeds in freeing Constance and sends her to Buckingham for safety. When the war goes against him, Richelieu gives de Winter a carte blanche and sends her to Britain to assassinate his foe. The Musketeers learn of the plot and send Planchet to warn the duke. Athos confronts De Winter and recovers the carte blanche as proof of Richelieu's treachery. De Winter is imprisoned and placed in the custody of Constance, but when the latter lets down her guard, de Winter kills her, then Buckingham.

Caught once again by the Musketeers at the ancestral home of Athos, she begs for mercy, but finds none, even though her husband still loves her despite her many crimes. Seeing this, she calms herself and walks with dignity to her execution. The Musketeers are ambushed by Richelieu's men and captured, but as he is about to have them sentenced to death by the king, d'Artagnan produces the carte blanche, and Richelieu is compelled to grant the Musketeers a comfortable retirement and d'Artagnan a commission as a Musketeer.



In mid-1947, it was announced Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was set to produce a film adaptation of The Three Musketeers.[5] Initially, Louis Hayward showed interest in playing d'Artagnan in a film adaptation by Edward Small, but he withdrew when he found out The Three Musketeers was already being produced by MGM.[5]

Despite rumors Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. was set to star, Gene Kelly was announced as the film's lead in June 1947, with production slated to begin in September.[6] A week later, Keenan Wynn was confirmed to play a co-starring role.[7] Shortly after, Van Heflin and William Powell were revealed to be in negotiations for the title roles.[8] In October, Kelly broke his ankle, forcing him to give up the leading role in Easter Parade (1948), and delaying the start of filming. Though Kelly's ankle had mended sufficiently to begin shooting in January, 1948, his elaborate fencing scenes required more healing time, and were pushed back to the end of filming.[9]

To appear as Lady de Winter, Lana Turner had to relinquish her role in an unfinished project called Bedeviled.[10] In January 1948, news items reported Turner withdrew from The Three Musketeers. Initially, she had permission to withdraw from Louis B. Mayer, because she had been very busy shooting the films Green Dolphin Street (1947), Cass Timberlane (1947), and Homecoming (1948).[11] However, she was later put on suspension and Alida Valli was considered as her replacement.[12] Eventually, she agreed to make the film, and it sparked her first film in color.

Before June Allyson was cast in the remaining female lead, Deborah Kerr was offered the role in November 1947.[13]

While the work was in the public domain in the US and Britain there was some doubt whether this was the case in some European countries, causing MGM much concern.[14]

Footage from the film was used in the film Singin' in the Rain. It was used as part of the Lockwood/Lamont film The Royal Rascal.


The film was very successful, earning MGM's second highest gross of the 1940s, even though its large production budget minimised profits.[1] According to MGM accounts it made $4,124,000 in the US and Canada and $4,288,000 elsewhere, recording a profit of $1,828,000.[3] It was one of the most popular films of 1948.[15]


The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:


  1. 1 2 H. Mark Glancy, 'MGM Film Grosses, 1924-28: The Eddie Mannix Ledger', Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol 12 No. 2 1992 p127-144 at p140
  2. Another account sats $4 million [ Variety 18 February 1948 p 14
  3. 1 2 The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  4. "The Three Musketeers Plot Synopsis". Allmovie. Retrieved 2008-04-25.
  5. 1 2 "In Hollywood" by Bob Thomas, The Brownsville Herald, August 22, 1947, p. 5
  6. "Gene Kelly Gets Dumas Lead" by Louella O. Parsons, San Antonio Light, June 5, 1947, p. 10-A
  7. "Louella Parsons", Lowell Sun, June 11, 1947, p. 22
  8. "Hollywood Column" by Erskine Johnson, The Bakersfield Californian, June 18, 1947, p. 22
  9. Cadman, Sue. "Gene Kelly, Creative Genius". Retrieved October 13, 2014.
  10. "Independents Seek Shelter Of Major Studios for Cold Winter" by Bob Thomas, Denton Record-Chronicle, December 5, 1947, p. 4
  11. "Hollywood" by Louella Parsons, Middletown Times Herald, January 15, 1948, p. 12
  12. Basinger, J., Lana Turner, 1976, p. 80
  13. "In Hollywood" by Erskine Johnson, Altoona Mirror, November 21, 1947, p. 31
  14. HOLLYWOOD DEALS: Prospects Brighten for United Artists -Budget Runs Wild and Other Matters By THOMAS F. BRADYHOLLYWOOD.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 01 Feb 1948: X5.
  15. "Top Grossers of 1948", Variety 5 January 1949 p 46
  16. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-06.

Further reading

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