The Iron Mask

The Iron Mask is a 1929 American part-talkie adventure film directed by Allan Dwan. It is an adaptation of the last section of the novel The Vicomte de Bragelonne by Alexandre Dumas, père, which is itself based on the French legend of the Man in the Iron Mask.[2][3]

The Iron Mask
Directed byAllan Dwan
Written byJack Cunningham
Alexandre Dumas (novel)
Douglas Fairbanks
StarringBelle Bennett
Douglas Fairbanks
Marguerite De La Motte
Dorothy Revier
Vera Lewis
Rolfe Sedan
William Bakewell
Music byHugo Riesenfeld
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • February 21, 1929 (1929-02-21)
Running time
95 minutes
CountryUnited States
English intertitles
Box office$1.5 million[1]


Production background

The 1929 part-talkie version, titled The Iron Mask, was the first talking picture starring Douglas Fairbanks, though until recently it was usually shown in a silent version. The film stars Fairbanks as d'Artagnan, Marguerite De La Motte as his beloved Constance (who is killed early in the film to protect the secret that the King has a twin brother), Nigel De Brulier as the scheming Cardinal Richelieu, and Ullrich Haupt as the evil Count De Rochefort. William Bakewell appeared as the royal twins.

Fairbanks lavished resources on his final silent film, with the knowledge he was bidding farewell to his beloved genre. This marks the only time where Fairbanks's character dies at the end of the film, with the closing scene depicting the once-again youthful Musketeers all reunited in death, moving on (as the final title says) to find "greater adventure beyond".

The original 1929 release, though mostly a silent film, actually had a soundtrack: two short speeches delivered by Fairbanks, and a musical score with a few sound effects. In 1952, it was reissued, with the intertitles removed and a narration voiced by Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. added. The original film included a scene in which d'Artagnan tells the young King of an embarrassing adventure involving him and the three musketeers. The story is told in flashback but the 1952 version has it in chronological order with the scene with the King cut out.

In 1999, with the cooperation of the Library of Congress and the Museum of Modern Art, Kino Video released a DVD of the 1929 version. A complete set of Vitaphone disks exists for this picture. However, only a small portion of the original sound from these was synchronized with film footage, namely the two short sequences in which Douglas Fairbanks speaks. The rest of the soundtrack, which contained a Synchronized Score along with sound effects was not used as this would make the DVD public domain. (The copyright has expired on the original 1929 sound version.) For this DVD reissue, therefore, a new score was commissioned from composer Carl Davis. The Kino disc also includes excerpts from the 1952 version, some outtakes from the original filming, and some textual background material from the program for the 1999 premiere showing of the reconstruction. A complete restoration of the original sound version has yet to be released.

Reception and legacy

Fairbanks Biographer Jeffrey Vance has opined, "As a valedictory to the silent screen, The Iron Mask is unsurpassed. In one of his few departures from playing a young man—and with fewer characteristic stunts—Fairbanks conjures up his most multi-dimensional and moving screen portrayal in a film that is perhaps the supreme achievement of its genre."[4]


  1. Balio, Tino (2009). United Artists: The Company Built by the Stars. University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 978-0-299-23004-3. p93
  2. The Iron Mask at
  3. The American Film Institute Catalog Feature Film: 1921–30 by The American Film Institute, c. 1971
  4. Vance, Jeffrey (2008). Douglas Fairbanks. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, pg. 251. ISBN 978-0-520-25667-5.

Further reading

  • Vance, Jeffrey. Douglas Fairbanks. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2008. ISBN 978-0-520-25667-5.
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