Adventures of Don Juan (1948): Vincent Sherman’s Oscar Winner, Starring Errol Flynn as Iconic Lover, with Viveca Lindfors

Vincent Sherman’s version of the mythic saga of Don Juan differs from preceding versions in literature, poetry, and music. In this adventure, aging swashbuckler Errol Flynn plays the great lover Don Juan De Marana at the service of his Queen Margaret of seventeenth-century Spain (played by Swedish actress Viveca Lindfors).

Sherman and his credited writers, George Oppenheimer and Harry Kurnitz, basing their scenario on Hebert Dalmas’s “original” story, didn’t want to use the Barrymore storyline, which was more about the great lover and the Borgias in Italy. Final shooting script was also helped by, among others, novelist William Faulkner (uncredited of course).

Much ahead of its time, you could detect some spoofing by Flynn himself of the character and screen image that made him famous in the first place back in the 1930s. In the first satirical and witty chapters, we see Don Juan climbing balconies, wooing women, and encountering irate and jealous husbands.

This turbulent production began shooting in October 1947, but the movie was released, after several interruptions, two years later. Though not as good as Flynn’s earlier pictures, “Robin Hood” and “The Sea Hawk,” the film benefits from lush production values, especially Elwood Bredell’s sumptuous color cinematography, Max Steiner’s magnificent score, and Oscar-winning costume design.

There are some exciting dueling sequences, and one impressive set piece, a huge staircase in the king’s palace, upon which the stirring duel-to-death between Flynn’s Don Juan and arch villain Duke de Lorca (Robert Douglas) takes place.

The film’s last reel, with scenes set in a torture chamber, in the palace halls, and on the grand staircase, are also striking.

Much publicity at the time was given to the stunt work, with ace Jack Mahoney being the only stuntman willing to take such risks in the difficult stunts.

Oscar Alert

Oscar nominations: 2

Art Direction-Set Decoration (color): Edward Carrere; Lyle Reifsnider
Costume Design (color): Leah Rhodes, Travilla, and Marjorie Best

Oscar Awards: 1

Costume Design

Oscar Context

The winner of the Art Direction Oscar was MGM’s remake of “Little Women.”

Cast
Errol Flynn as Don Juan de Maraña
Viveca Lindfors as Margaret of Austria Queen of Spain
Robert Douglas as Duke de Lorca
Alan Hale as Leporello
Romney Brent as King Phillip III of Spain
Ann Rutherford as Dona Elena
Robert Warwick as Don Jose, Count de Polan
Jerry Austin as Don Sebastian
Douglas Kennedy as Don Rodrigo
Jean Shepherd (Jeanne Shepherd) as Donna Carlotta Shepherd
Mary Stuart as Catherine
Helen Westcott as Lady Diana
Fortunio Bonanova as Don Serafino Lopez
Aubrey Mather as Lord Chalmers
Una O’Connor as Duenna
Raymond Burr as Captain Alvarez
Nora Eddington as young woman asking for direction
Tim Huntley as Cecil (Catherine’s husband)
Leon Belasco as Don de Cordoba
David Leonard as Innkeeper
Barbara Bates as Micaela (Innkeeper’s daughter)
Monte Blue as Turnkey
David Bruce as Count de Orsini

Credits:

Directed by Vincent Sherman
Produced by Jerry Wald
Written by Herbert Dalmas, George Oppenheimer, Harry Kurnitz
Music by Max Steiner
Cinematography Elwood Bredell
Edited by Alan Crosland, Jr.
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date: December 24, 1948
Running time: 110 minutes
Budget: about $3 million

Note:

I had a chance to refresh my notes when TCM showed the movie on May 14, 2020.