Cast & Crew
In 1648, in the wake of Cardinal Richelieu's demise and the approaching death of the Queen, France is plunged into political chaos. The Queen's most power-hungry opponent is the Duke de Lavalle, who, as a leading member of the Council of Noblemen, is scheming to marry the Queen's daughter Henriette and kill the young Prince. Because Lavalle has murdered every royal messenger who has tried to deliver pleas for help to the King of Spain, the Queen sends her guards to find the Musketeers, four brave men who aided her when she was young. Unknown to the Queen, all of the Musketeers have either died or are too old to return to service. Three of the Musketeers--D'Artagnan, Aramis and Porthos--have grown sons, however, and the young men eagerly respond to the Queen's summons. The fourth Musketeer, Athos, sends his daughter Claire, an expert swordswoman, who dresses in men's clothing. When they all meet at the same inn at which their fathers used to rendezvous, the three young men assume Claire is a man and prepare to room with her. Terrified at the prospect, Claire suddenly lets down her long hair and orders the men to sleep in the stables. The next morning, some of Lavalle's men enter the inn looking for the Musketeers and, without identifying themselves, the new Musketeers challenge them to a sword fight. Later, at the palace, the Musketeers introduce themselves to the Queen, who is surprised but grateful. The Queen asks the Musketeers to escort Henriette to Spain, so that Spain can safely force the Council of Noblemen to reject Lavalle. The sickly Queen then reveals the location of the monastery at which her son has been hiding. Unknown to the Queen, her daughter's trusted lady-in-waiting, Countess Claudine, is a spy for Lavalle and is aware of the Musketeers' plan to abduct Henriette from Lavalle's men. Ordered by the Queen to return home, Claire pledges her love to D'Artagnan before she and the others head off in opposite directions. The three remaining Musketeers then descend on the carriage on which Henriette is traveling, but are trapped by Lavalle's men. Riding nearby, Claire joins the ensuing fracas and is arrested along with the other Musketeers. In prison, Lavalle tries to torture Porthos, Aramis and D'Artagnan into revealing the Prince's whereabouts, but they, and Claire, remain silent. Desperate to break them, Lavalle orders that the Musketeers be executed one by one, starting with D'Artagnan. Just before he is to die, however, Lavalle offers to spare the Musketeers if the Queen gives him permission to marry Henriette. The Queen accepts Lavalle's terms, and the Musketeers are freed. To Lavalle's shock, a veiled Claire takes Henriette's place at the wedding ceremony, while the other Musketeers whisk Henriette to the inn. There, they hear that the Queen has died. Dressed as a boy, Henriette then leaves with the Musketeers for the monastery, one step ahead of Lavalle's guards. The imprisoned Claire, meanwhile, is befriended by Claudine, who helps her to escape and, after declaring that the other Musketeers are dead, coaxes her into revealing the Prince's location. Before leaving with Claire, Claudine gets word to Lavalle, whose men race to the monastery, arriving ahead of the Musketeers. When Claire sees Porthos guarding the road to the monastery, she deduces Claudine's betrayal and alerts Porthos. Claudine is captured and taken to the inn, where she confesses Lavalle's plan to murder the Prince. To determine where Lavalle has taken the Prince, Claire poses as a seductive barmaid and lures one of Lavalle's guards into a trap. After the man reveals that the Prince is being held at Lavalle's heavily guarded castle, the Musketeers scour the countryside, soliciting aid from the peasantry. While the peasants prepare to storm the castle, the Musketeers convince Claudine that they are surrendering and allow her to deliver them to Lavalle. Moments before the castle is besieged, the Musketeers take Lavalle by surprise, while Claire grabs the Prince. During the ensuing fight, Lavalle takes the Prince hostage, but D'Artagnan outmaneuvers him and kills him in a sword fight. With the crown finally secure, the Musketeers pledge their loyalty to the new King.
Alan Hale Jr.
Philip Van Zandt
Samuel E. Beetley
Jerrold T. Brandt
Albert S. D'agostino
At Sword's Point (1952)
Claire: "I am no lady when I fight!"
Those lines of dialogue from At Sword's Point (1952) just about sum up the enormous appeal of Maureen O'Hara, who had been variously described as the "Queen of Technicolor" (for her stunning looks and gorgeous red hair) and the "Pirate Queen" (for her swashbuckling vitality and her ability to wield a sword or shimmy down a ship's mast as well as any man). O'Hara could be every inch a woman -beautiful, sensual, romantic - and yet completely hold her own in feisty matches with the likes of Errol Flynn and John Wayne (in fact, she was just about the only woman to stand so firmly toe-to-toe with Wayne). Although this unique position did little in the 1940s to earn her the kind of meaty dramatic roles offered her near contemporaries Stanwyck, Davis, and Hepburn, it made her an immensely popular heroine in the type of adventure movies that generally attracted boys (and boys at heart), at once an object of desire and a worthy ally in any fight.
Nowhere was this appeal used more fully than in this Three Musketeers tale filmed in 1949 but held back from release until 1952 (typical of the Howard Hughes-run RKO studio of the time). The story concerns the tribulations of the aging Queen Anne, beleaguered by a sinister, plotting duke. As before, she must depend on the Musketeers to help her, but because the original foursome are too old to be of much use, they send their children - three sons named, like their fathers, Athos, Porthos, and D'Artagnan, and Aramis' daughter Claire, who proves to be the men's absolute equal in courage, smarts, and fencing.
Although little seen today and never in the list of landmark American motion pictures, the movie captured the attention of film historian Jeanine Basinger: "The significance of At Sword's Point is that it clearly presents a woman as the equal of men in a man's world," Basinger wrote in A Woman's View (Wesleyan University Press, 1995). "She is, from the very beginning, both a woman and a swordsperson, and she doesn't have to stop being a woman to be good at dueling. No big deal is made of this, and in that fact lies the importance of At Sword's Point, a movie in which the genre is feminized more or less by just turning one character into a woman."
Much of the credit for this can be given to O'Hara, who usually did her own stunts while continuing to look ravishing. It's not surprising that she was John Ford's favorite actress. They made five films together between 1941 and 1957, including two of her most memorable performances, How Green Was My Valley (1941) and The Quiet Man (1952). Three of the Ford films were with John Wayne, and she made two others with the action star, including McLintock! (1963), appropriately a rambunctious comedy Western with strong echoes of Taming of the Shrew.
Some interesting Musketeers trivia around this picture: Alan Hale, Jr. (later seen as the Skipper on Gilligan's Island) plays the son of Porthos here. His actor father, Alan Hale, Sr., played Porthos in The Man in the Iron Mask (1939), and Hale Jr. played that character in The Fifth Musketeer (1979). In that movie, the role of the aging D'Artagnan was played by Cornel Wilde, who plays D'Artagnan's son in this picture. Finally, Moroni Olsen, who plays the aging Porthos in At Sword's Point played the character in his younger days in The Three Musketeers (1935). You get extra points for keeping that straight; after all, there have been more than a dozen versions of the story filmed throughout the last century.
Director: Lewis Allen
Producers: Sid Rogell, Jerrold T. Brandt
Screenplay: Walter Ferris, Joseph Hoffman; story by Jack Pollexfen and Aubrey Wisberg, based on the work of Alexandre Dumas
Cinematography: Ray Rennahan
Editing: Samuel E. Beetley, Robert Golden
Art Direction: Albert S. D'Agostino, Jack Okey
Original Music: Roy Webb
Cast: Maureen O'Hara (Claire), Cornel Wilde (D'Artagnan), Dan O¿erlihy (Aramis), Alan Hale, Jr. (Porthos), Gladys Cooper (Queen Anne).
C-82m. Closed captioning
by Rob Nixon
At Sword's Point (1952)
I will not fight with a lady!- Soldier
I am no lady when I fight!- Claire
I'll not fight with a lady.- Soldier (holding back his attack)
I'm no lady when I fight!- Claire (thrusting her rapier at the soldier)
Alan Hale, Jr. plays the son of Porthos here. His father, 'Hale, Alan' , appeared in The Man In The Iron Mask (1939) as an aging Porthos. When that film was remade as Fifth Musketeer, The (1979), that role was taken by Alan Hale, Jr. In that same movie, the role of an aging D'Artagnan was played by Cornel Wilde, this picture's son of D'Artagnan. Also here, the elderly Porthos is played by Moroni Olsen, who played that character in his younger days in the 1935 film of the original Dumas novel, The Three Musketeers (1935).
The working title of this film was Sons of the Musketeers. According to a September 1946 Hollywood Reporter news item, independent producer-director Walter Colmes purchased Aubrey Wisberg and Jack Pollexfen's screen story for $25,000. In March 1947, Hollywood Reporter announced that Republic, a studio with which Colmes frequently co-produced pictures, had purchased the story. By October 1949, the story had been acquired by Jerrold T. Brandt, according to Hollywood Reporter. Long-time character actor Alan Hale, Sr., father of Alan Hale, Jr., who played "Porthos" in the picture, was borrowed from Warner Bros. for the role of "Porthos, Sr." but died on January 22, 1950 before completing the part. Moroni Olsen, who portrayed "Porthos" in RKO's 1935 film The Three Musketeers (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40), replaced Hale, Sr. In late September 1950, Hollywood Reporter announced that Cornel Wilde was returning from England to star in added scenes. The exact dates of the added scenes have not been determined. According to modern sources, RKO producers Norman Krasna and Jerry Wald oversaw the retakes at the request of RKO head Howard Hughes. For information about other films featuring the "Musketeer" characters, see entry for the 1948 M-G-M picture The Three Musketeers in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50.