The Purple Mask


1h 22m 1955

Brief Synopsis

France, 1803: 11 years after the Revolution, a royalist underground is led by a new 'Scarlet Pimpernel', the Purple Mask, who rescues nobles in distress and kidnaps Napoleon's officials for ransom, aided by the spy services of a group of lovely models headed by Laurette (really the Duc de Latour's daughter). But even she doesn't know the Purple Mask's real identity as foppish dancing master Rene...

Film Details

Release Date
Jul 1955
Premiere Information
New York opening: week of 5 Jun 1955; Los Angeles opening: 20 Jul 1955
Production Company
Universal-International Pictures Co., Inc.
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures Co., Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Chico, California, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Le chevalier au masque by Paul Armont and Jean Manoussi (New York, 5 Jan 1920).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 22m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.55 : 1

Synopsis

In France in 1803, Napoleon Bonaparte has overthrown the aristocracy and rules the country as its consulate. In order to trap the Royalist hero The Purple Mask, so called because of the disguise he wears, Rochet, Napoleon's Minister of Police, pretends to have taken the Count de Chauvac prisoner. The Purple Mask, who rescues nobles and kidnaps important individuals to gain ransom money for the Royalist cause, deduces the trick, however, and takes Rochet prisoner. When Napoleon receives the ransom note, he sends for Brisquet, an expert swordsman who has been banished from Paris because of his incessant dueling, and instructs him to find and kill The Purple Mask. Meanwhile, in the Paris clothing shop of a marquis named Majolin, his niece, the beautiful Laurette de Latour, accepts a date with police captain Charles Laverne. That night Laurette, who is secretly part of a ring of Royalist rebels that includes her uncle, Madame Valentine, the Baron de Morleve, and all the shopgirls, charms Laverne into revealing that the next plot to trap The Purple Mask involves the execution of a beloved Royalist prisoner. Realizing that the prisoner can only be her father, the heroic Duc de Latour, Laurette rushes to the fencing school that serves as a front for the offices of Royalist leader Marcel Cadonal. There, she unknowingly attracts the attention of The Purple Mask, who is in disguise as Count Rene de Treviere, a dandy who prefers dancing to swordsmanship. Extracting herself from Rene's grasp, Laurette informs Marcel of the execution scheme, and he devises a plan whereby a fake Purple Mask will allow himself to be captured, thus fooling Napoleon into believing that the hero is no longer a threat. Refusing to let an innocent man die, Laurette instead insists that the false Purple Mask perform acts in the south of France, convincing Napoleon that he is nowhere near Paris. When Rene shows up at the shop and introduces himself as the newly hired fake Purple Mask, however, Laurette, Majolin, Madame Valentine and the Baron are troubled by his foppishness and his lighthearted response to his assignment, to kidnap a governor. Later that night, after Laurette catches Madame Valentine sneaking out with a letter to the police informing them of Rene's whereabouts, Majolin reveals that even the Royalists want Rene to be killed, hoping that this way the real Purple Mask will have more freedom to rescue the duke. When Rene reaches the governor's mansion, he finds it, as he has expected, surrounded by Rochet's men and so purposefully has himself captured. He is brought before Rochet and the governor, whom Rene immediately recognizes as a disguised Brisquet. Under constant guard, he appears to be outmaneuvered until he reveals that the guards are actually Royalists, and takes Brisquet prisoner. Rene brings Brisquet back to Majolin, who is stunned at his victory, and there is warned by Laurette that her conspirators will betray him. Thrilled to realize she cares for him, Rene tells her that he loves her and will stop at nothing to free her father, and they kiss. Soon, Napoleon receives the ransom note for Brisquet, but Rochet refuses to pay it, recalling by sense of smell and touch the ladies' shop to which he was abducted. After Laverne guesses that the shop is Laurette's, they go there and arrest Majolin's group. By nightfall, Rene learns of the arrest and gathers Cadonal's champion fencers, all clandestine Royalists, and reveals to them his own expertise. Acting on a secret plan, Rene offers Brisquet his freedom in exchange for the duke's, and although Brisquet accepts, he then imprisons both Rene and the duke with Majolin's group. In the cell, the duke joyously greets Rene as his old friend, The Purple Mask, and Laurette falls into Rene's arms in shock. While they await their execution, the Royalists infiltrate the prison via the Paris sewers and camouflage themselves as police guards. In the morning, the imprisoned group is lead to the guillotine, but the Royalists attack and Rene easily disarms Rochet. Brisquet jumps into the fray to duel with Rene, and after a long fight, Rene bests the swordsman and offers Brisquet's life to Napoleon in return for allowing the Royalists to leave France. Happy to be rid of the troublemakers, Napoleon agrees, and later Rene and Laurette, arm in arm, prepare to make England their new home.

Film Details

Release Date
Jul 1955
Premiere Information
New York opening: week of 5 Jun 1955; Los Angeles opening: 20 Jul 1955
Production Company
Universal-International Pictures Co., Inc.
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures Co., Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Chico, California, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Le chevalier au masque by Paul Armont and Jean Manoussi (New York, 5 Jan 1920).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 22m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.55 : 1

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

According to an April 1954 Daily Variety item, Universal originally planned to base The Purple Mask on the 1920 Matheson Lang play of the same name, which was an adaptation of Paul Armont and Jean Manoussi's play Le chavalier au masque. The onscreen credits, however, read: "Based on Le chevalier au masque, a play by Paul Armont and Jean Moussi and adaptation thereof by Charles Latour entitled The Purple Mask."
       Although an April 1948 Variety news item stated that Nunnally Johnson was to produce The Purple Mask for Universal, he was not involved in the production. According to a June 1951 Hollywood Citizen-News article, Errol Flynn wanted to play "Rene" but was warned by his doctor not to take the physically demanding role. Daily Variety reported in November 1954 that, for the scenes in the Paris sewer, Universal used a set that had not been seen since the 1925 movie The Phantom of the Opera (see the AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30). Some scenes were shot on location in Chico, CA. A November 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item adds January Arvan to the cast, but his appearance in the final film has not been confirmed.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Summer June 1955

CinemaScope

Released in United States Summer June 1955