Classic: Douglas Fairbanks Jr. is ‘The Corsican Brothers’

The Corsican Brothers” (Hen’s Tooth), the lively 1941 swashbuckler, stars Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in the dual roles of Lucien and Mario Franchi, twin brothers who were conjoined at birth and separated and raised apart to escape detection by the man who murdered their parents and stole their legacy. The first sound film adaptation of the Alexander Dumas novel, handsomely directed by Gregory Ratoff and described as a “free adaptation of the novel” in the credits, is very much a spirited swashbuckler and dark romance, with Fairbanks playing the gypsy-raised Lucien as a devil-may-care bandit prince and the society-raised Mario as a gentleman rogue with a gift for swards and romance. The twist, of course, is that while separated physically, they are connected by a bond where one feels the pain and emotions of the other, which complicates the otherwise fraternal family reunion when gypsy Lucien falls in love with Mario’s society sweetheart (Ruth Warrick of “Citizen Kane” fame) and his brotherly love turns sour with jealousy.

Fairbanks’ athletic energy and flamboyant performance enlivens the film and excellent photographic effects create a seamless look to the scenes where the brothers interact and Akim Tamiroff is in fine roguish form as the crude Baron Colonna, the villain of the story. This is the third Hen’s Tooth release of Edward Small’s indie-produced literary classics and the quality is improving. Though not restored, it’s a fine looking disc. DVD only, no supplements.

Author: seanax

I write the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website ( I'm a contributing writer for Turner Classic Movies Online, Keyframe, Independent Lens, and Cinephiled, and the editor of Parallax View ( I've written for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Seattle Weekly,, Senses of Cinema, Asian Cult Cinema, and Psychotronic Video, among other publications, and I am a contributing editor to Parallax View. I currently live and work in Seattle, Washington, with my two cats, Hammet and Chandler.

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