Bardelys the Magnificent is a 1926 American romantic silent film directed by King Vidor and starring John Gilbert and Eleanor Boardman. The film is based on a novel by Rafael Sabatini.
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The film, Bardelys the Magnificent was considered a lost film for many years, with only the trailer and a brief excerpt in Vidor’s Show People (1928) surviving. According to Robert Osborne on Turner Classic Movies, MGM signed a contract with Sabatini in 1926, giving MGM the rights to his novel for 10 years. In 1936, MGM chose not to renew the rights, and destroyed the negative and all known prints per the terms of the contract.
In 2006, a nearly complete print of the film was found in France, missing only reel three. It was restored, using production stills and footage from the film trailer to stand in for the missing section, and made available in 2008 for U. S. theatrical and DVD release.
The cast includes:
- John Gilbert as Bardelys
- Eleanor Boardman as Roxalanne de Lavedan
- Roy D’Arcy as Châtellerault
- Lionel Belmore as Vicomte de Lavedan
- Emily Fitzroy as Vicomtesse de Lavedan
- George K. Arthur as Sainte-Eustache
- Arthur Lubin as King Louis XIII
- Theodore von Eltz as Lesperon
- Karl Dane as Rodenard
- Edward Connelly as Cardinal Richelieu
It was the second film of the 19-year-old John Wayne, who had a minor role.
The film is set during the reign of King Louis XIII. When Châtellerault (Roy D’Arcy) fails to win the heart of the icy Roxalanne de Lavedan (Eleanor Boardman), a courier, Bardelys (John Gilbert) wages that he will capture the girl within three months and Châtellerault wagers his estate against him implying that he can’t win her either.
On the way to the Lavedan estate, Bardelys stumbles upon a wounded and dying man, Lesperon, who asks Bardelys to say farewell to his beloved but dies before telling him her name. Bardelys takes his papers and assumes his identity, only to find that Lesperon is a traitor to the king.
Bardelys, as Lesperon, encounters the king’s soldiers who are hunting Lesperon, fights them, and escapes, badly wounded, to the castle of Lavedan. Roxalanne hides him from the king’s soldiers and tends to his wounds.
She nurses him to health and pledges her love, but when the guilt-ridden Bardelys refuses to marry her, and in the belief that he is betrothed to another lady, she angrily turns him over to the king’s men. Bardelys, still believed to be Lesperon, is brought to trial for treason—where Châtellerault is the judge. Châtellerault refuses to admit his identity and condemns him to death.
Roxalanne finds Bardelys in prison, confesses her love, and agrees to marry Châtellerault in a desperate effort to save Bardelys’ life. Bardelys escapes from the gallows just as the King arrives to confirm his identity.
In a fabulous scene showing Gilbert’s skills as a swashbuckler, Bardelys escapes from the gallows just as the King arrives to confirm his identity.
Châtellerault commits suicide rather than be executed by Louis’ men. Roxalanne learns of the wager and, mortally insulted, refuses to believe Bardelys when he protests his love. He offers to save the life of her father, who is indicted for treason, if she agrees to marry him. She agrees. He fulfills his part of the bargain but tells her he will not require her promise of her. She confesses her love and begs him not to leave.
Ben Mankowicz intro to the film
From the recently restored film directed by King Vidor and starring Gilbert and Eleanor Boardman. This dreamy sequence, photographed by the legendary William Daniels, represents the art of silent cinema at its very best.
I’m so glad that this film was found so that we could enjoy yet more Gilbert. Also with such a cast and King Vidor as director, how could you go wrong. Gilbert was great, IMHO as a swashbuckler. He was never more handsome than in this film earning his pay as the glorious Bardelys. He surely gave Douglas Fairbanks a lot of competition in his role.
It was lucky that TCM chose to show Bardeley’s The Magnificent this month on Silent Sunday Night, so I could see the fully restored film in all it’s beauty. I really enjoyed this light-hearted comedic swashbuckler.
In addition to being able to show off his swashbuckling skills, this film helps Gilbert to clinch his “great lover” reputation. The scene in the boat with Gilbert and Boardman was swoon worthy for sure and I can just imagine how it played to 1926 audiences; the ladies must have been all a flutter…..!
Gilbert and King Vidor as a team always made a great films together, and this is no exception to that rule. Vidor had just directed Gilbert in his two earlier films, La Bohème and The Big Parade, which Julie reviewed earlier this month and won Gilbert much praise. It simply breaks my heart knowing that Gilbert would be finished in films and dead just a few years later. Gilbert was a fine actor that, in my opinion, deserves to be remembered rather than forgotten.
I enjoyed this film a lot and I am so glad that the lost print was found so more audiences, like me, could enjoy it.
Some photos courtesy of “DoctorMacro”