Milady & The Young Girl In The Red DressSaturday, November 19, 2011
It takes a good man to prevent a catastrophe, Milady, and a great man to make use of one. You and I, my dear, are rare new creatures in this ancient world of impulsive men. We have intellect. We think. And when we think, our impulsive enemies are helpless.
Vincent Price (Cardinal Richelieu) to Lana Turner (Milady)
When she was a 14-year-old nun she ran away from a convent with a young monk. To finance their escape they stole a communion plate from the vestry. But they were caught and the local enforcer branded them as punishment. Before they could be jailed they managed to escape. Under the cover of being brother (he a priest) and sister they arrived at a town where the son of the local big wig fell in love with the beautiful young girl. Even though his parents objected to his planned wedding, she was a commoner, the son married her. Not much later while riding in a forest she fell and her husband noticed her tattoo on her shoulder. He now knew she was a felon and in rage strung her up and hanged her from a tree.
Meanwhile the “priest” was found and was executed by that local enforcer who happened to be his brother.
The young girl, who had somehow survived the hanging, married again but poisoned her husband and was responsible for the death of several other men and at least one woman.
The woman she poisoned, Constance Bonacieux, happened to be the wife of a famous French swordsman by the name of d’Artagnan. The poisoner was Anne de Breul, Comtesse de la Fere, Clarice, Lady de Winter.
For those who have read Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers or seen any of the many films made, she is simply known as Milady.
To most that may have a passing interest in villains, the villain-of-them-all might be Judge Holden in Cormac McCarthy’s 1985 novel Blood Meridian. The man has no redeeming qualities.
To me he pales in comparison to Milady. If you happen to read again (or for the first time) The Three Musketeers you will notice that of all the protagonists of the novel (most of which came from real life) Malady is the only real literary manufacture by Dumas. There are some who think that she is the focus of the novel and that the plot revolves around her evil machinations.
Today we watched George Sidney’s 1948 The Three Musketeers with Gene Kelly, Vincent Price, Angela Lansbury, Van Heflin, Keenan Wynn and June Allyson. My two granddaughters, Rebecca and Lauren, their mother Hilary and my wife Rosemary sat in the den after a meal of paprika chicken. I had several thoughts. Some of them had to do with the fact that I had taken portraits of Lauren, wearing a beautiful red dress, earlier in the day where she had looked at my camera with a seriousness that went beyond her age.
One of them was that I had been Lauren’s exact age,9, when I had first seen this film. I had been scared to death by the trial and execution scene of Milady at the end of the film. I was even more afraid in earlier scenes when Turner, whose face was exquisitely scary, without a hint of makeup, was lit by lightning inside the Duke of Buckingham’s castle. She leaves the castle (you do not see her face) later and you see blood in her hand. It is scary, so scary and no special effects can serve as a distraction.
Turner’s performance as Milady is for me a tour de force that was never matched even by Faye Dunaway in later films. Many might complain of her over-the-top costumes but to me she was the beauty of death personified. While Dumas’s characterization is far nastier than that of Sidney’s film Turner is superb in carrying out the idea of all the men who self destruct or lead a life of drink (Athos) for having met her.
I watched Lauren as she watched the TV screen. I wonder what she thinks of this woman who is as evil as evil can be? Lauren’s expression was most serious and at one point she sat on the floor leaning on her mother’s leg. Was this for comfort?
|A Musketeer in the Time of |
by J.L.E. Meissonier
All I can hope for is that someday she might borrow my Penguin Classic and read for herself why The Three Musketeers endures and why Lana Turner’s role in the 1948 film may have been her best ever.
As for me I am reading The Three Musketeers, yet again.
De Capa y Espada