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Don Juan

4.4 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Before movies talked, they clacked with swords, gonged with wedding bells and pulsed with perfectly matched orchestral accompaniment. The process that made it happen was Vitaphone, a sound-on-disk system that made its feature-film debut in this lavish 1926 classic. Starring in this swashbuckling tale of the world's most famed lover is the greatest actor of his day: John Barrymore. As Don Juan, he pursues his conquests with rakish abandon. But one glimpse of exquisite Adriana (Mary Astor) and he finds true love. Alas, the poisonous Borgia clan (including Warner Oland and as a handmaid, Myrna Loy) wants her to wed one of its own. So Don Juan duels (in one of the greatest swordfights ever filmed), carries out a daring dungeon escape and rides like the wind to win her. BEFORE THE FEATURE - THE AUGUST 6, 1926 OPENING NIGHT VITAPHONE SHORTS PROGRAM: Will B. Hays Introduction to Vitaphone, Overture to Tannhauser - New York Philharmonic, Mischa Elman - Humoresque and Gavotte, Roy Smeck in His Pastimes, Marion Talley - Caro Nome, Efrem Zimbalist and Harold Bauer - Theme and Variations from The Kreutzer Sonata, Giovanni Martinelli - Vesti La Giubba, Anna Case - La Fiesta

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Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: John Barrymore, Mary Astor, Willard Louis, Estelle Taylor, Warner Oland
  • Directors: Alan Crosland
  • Writers: Bess Meredyth, Lord Byron, Maude Fulton, Walter Anthony
  • Format: NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: WB
  • DVD Release Date: July 8, 2011
  • Run Time: 200 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B004TPJMTW
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #50,834 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Don Juan" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
Besides having two popular stars like John Barrymore and Mary Astor in a lavishly-costumed, entertaining and exciting adventure, this film also features this first 'perfectly matched orchestral accompaniment' recorded on Vitaphone. This was one of the first steps in 1926 towards synchronized sound with moving pictures which led to 'talkies' a few years later. The picture quality on this tape is excellent and is in clear black & white, but at first hearing the original Vitaphone recording sounds a bit muffled; exactly like our parents' old phonograph records - which it is, after all. After a short while, however, I was too engrossed in the film to pay attention to the sound quality and only noticed how well the music and sounds matched the scenes and mood of the pictures.
John Barrymore suits and plays the part of Don Juan perfectly, showing a range of emotions as he moves from playboy to serious lover and hero, as well as engaging in a breath-taking sword fight that would rival the popular Fairbanks Swashbuckler films. "Don Juan" has the perfect balance of humor, drama, excitement and suspense to make it a video well worth while and one that will hopefully appear on DVD before too long as well!
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Format: DVD
Don Juan is the legendary 14th Century Spanish lover immortalized in Moliere's 1665 play, Mozart's 1787 opera, and Byron's 1821 epic poem. This 1926 movie with John Barrymore was the first film version. Don Juan would later be played by Douglas Fairbanks Sr. (1934), Errol Flynn (1949), and Johnny Depp (1994).

John Barrymore (1882-1942) was one of the greatest theatrical performers of the 20th century, but many of his screen performances are not nearly as powerful, and this is particularly true of his work in the talkies. In films like "Romeo and Juliette" (1936) and "Twentieth Century" (1934), which were essentially filmed plays, we get to see what theater goers saw, but in more dynamic vehicles like "Rasputin and the Empress" (1932) and "Dinner at Eight" (1933), much of Barrymore's charm and charisma are missing. But here in this silent film his skills are fully in view.

FWIW - Barrymore set the world's record by slapping 191 kisses on various women during this film.

A very young Mary Astor (1906-1987) plays the innocent girl who attracts Barrymore's attention. Astor is best remembered as Mrs. O'Shaughnessy from "The Maltese Falcon" (1941), although she won the Oscar for her role in "The Great Lie" which appeared the same year and is now mostly forgotten. Astor made more than 100 films from 1921 to 1964 ("Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte") and was a major star in the silent era. Astor does her usual good job.

Myrna Loy (1905-93) plays an aide to Borgia. She started in silent films in the mid 20s, appearing as an uncredited slave girl in "Ben Hur" (1925) and then appeared in more than 50 silent films before transitioning to sound.
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Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
John Barrymore is perfect in the role of Don Juan de Marana, the notorious lover of all women who made a pact with his dying father that he would never let a woman into his heart. He matures into a clever and handsome young man who, with the help of his faithful sidekick Pedrillo, romances and seduces many women simultaneously- even to the point of having three women in his home who each have no clue that they are not alone with the great lover!

His reputation intrigues the fatally beautiful Lucrezia, a member of the villainous Borgia clan, and he accepts her invite to their upcoming gala. Between dodging Lucrezia and instantly seducing an attractive young maid, Don Juan's cold heart is melted by the mere sight of the pure Adriana della Varnese, portrayed by the gorgeous Mary Astor (roughly 20 years before her famous role in "The Maltese Falcon"). Adriana's father, Duke della Varnese, is an enemy of the Borgia and also a guest at the party. When Don Juan realizes that the Duke is about to drink a poisoned glass sent by Lucrezia, he gallantly saves the Duke's life as a gesture of ardour to Adriana. Lucrezia sees that Adriana is a threat and tries to rip away her rival's innocence by trying to marry her to the evil Count Donati, and by giving her to the even more evil alchemist Neri as a guinea pig for his fiendish experiments. Don Juan fights his feelings as long as he can, but ultimately stands up to each challenge with courage and intelligence. There is an excellent fight scene between Don Juan and Count Donati which ranges from swordplay to fists to exhaustion between the two men, and the scenes where Don Juan is imprisoned by the Borgia (and his escape) are amazing.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Any viewer of Singin' in the Rain (Two-Disc Special Edition) has seen something about Don Juan. This is the swashbuckling adventure that the Warner Brothers put a soundtrack to on Vitaphone Discs and pretty much forever changed the moviegoing experience. The music is performed by the New York Philharmonic and is, while scratchy and distorted in certain places, still a powerful score. The camera placement is interesting and Crossland directs this classic with a sympathetic touch.

This disc does contain special features. Along with the film, the premiere audience was treated to a series of short films, including a performance of Wagner by the NY Philharmonic. The audio tracks for these shorts are not restored, but are well-presented. As is customary with all Warner Archive Discs, no restoration is done to the film. That being said, it's a good transfer and holds up well despite its age. It's an interesting study of how 1927 dealt with mysogynists, really. But I'll spare you the film class evaluation and simply say, it's worth seeing over and over.

In fact, fans of Barrymore will recognize his facial contortions from his much earlier Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. As I watched this film for the first time, it was a singular treat to watch his face transform in front of the camera in a way it didn't really do in Dr. Jekyll.

A must-have for any collector of classic film, silent or otherwise. Thanks to the Warner Archive for making this available.
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