The Three Musketeers (1933 serial)

The Three Musketeers (aka Three Musketeers) is a 1933 American Pre-Code film serial directed by Armand Schaeffer and Colbert Clark and produced by Nat Levine for Mascot Pictures.[1] The film serial was loosely based on Alexandre Dumas' novel The Three Musketeers, with the musketeers becoming three soldiers in the French Foreign Legion, and d'Artagnan being reconfigured as Lt. Tom Wayne (played by John Wayne), a pilot in the United States military.[2]

The Three Musketeers
Directed by
Produced byNat Levine
Written by
Music byLee Zahler
Edited byRay Snyder
Distributed byMascot Pictures
Release date
  • April 7, 1933 (1933-04-07)
Running time
12 chapters (210 min), film (96 min)
CountryUnited States

Wayne only received fourth billing behind Raymond Hatton, Francis X. Bushman, Jr. and Jack Mulhall who play the three legionnaires.[3] The subject matter of The Three Musketeers could be considered racially biased by modern-day standards.[4]


In the harsh deserts of Northern Africa, the French Foreign Legion provides a military presence. When Lt. Tom Wayne (John Wayne)) is framed for the murder of Armand Corday (Lon Chaney, Jr., the brother of his fiancé (Ruth Hall). He vows to capture the real killer, a mysterious Arab terrorist known only as El Shaitan.

Tom encounters three bumptious legionnaires: Clancy (Jack Mulhall), an Irishman always spoiling for a fight, Renard (Raymond Hatton}, a wily Frenchman and Schmidt (Francis X. Bushman, Jr.) a German who loves sausages). They are the surviving members of a Foreign Legion unit.

Nicknamed the "Devil of the Desert", El Shaitan remains a shadowy figure, hiding his face and his true identity, as a result of which many people are mistakenly suspected of being the cult leader, while other characters impersonate him for their own ends. At a meeting place called, "The Devil's Circle", El Shaitan commands a fanatic desert cult, a secret society formed to fight against the French authorities. Their raids

When Clancy, Renard and Schmidt are trapped by a horde of Berber tribesmen, using the machine gun mounted on his aircraft, Tom quickly stops the attack. The three legionnaires are in constant danger but Tom comes to their rescue many times, acting as a modern-day d'Artagnan. Eventually the trio, plus their new friend, triumph over their adversaries.

Chapter titles

  1. The Fiery Circle
  2. One for All and All for One
  3. The Master Spy
  4. Pirates of the Desert
  5. Rebel Rifles
  6. Death's Marathon
  7. Naked Steel
  8. The Master Strikes
  9. The Fatal Cave
  10. Trapped
  11. The Measure of a Man
  12. The Glory of Comrades



[N 1]


The Three Musketeers was loosely adapted from the novel The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, père and updated to a contemporary time period. The Three Musketeers are legionnaires in the French Foreign Legion with a multi-cultural group: Clancy (Irish), Renard (French) and Schmidt (German). The d'Artagnan character is Tom Wayne, an American aviator played by John Wayne, who rescues the three from attacking Arabs while flying over the desert.[7]

During the 1930s, after starring in The Big Trail (1930), its subsequent commercial failure meant that Wayne was relegated to minor roles in A-pictures, or starring, with his name over the title, in many low-budget Poverty Row Westerns, mostly at Monogram Pictures and serials for Mascot Pictures Corporation. Wayne would star in two other Mascot serials's The Shadow of the Eagle (1932) and The Hurricane Express (1932).[8][N 2]


Like many other serials, The Three Musketeers was re-edited into a feature film version when it was re-released. In 1946, Favorite Films Corporation edited the serial into a 60-minute feature film called Desert Command. The chapter screen titles were eliminated to create a more continuous flow.[10]

See also



  1. Frazer played both the masked El Shaitan and Major Booth but, once unmasked, El Shaitan's identity turned out to be one of the other suspects. Cline considers this "all quite confusing."[6]
  2. By Wayne's own estimation, he appeared in about 80 horse operas from 1930 to 1939.[9]


  1. Weiss and Goodgold 1973, p. 43.
  2. Rainey 2005, p. 542.
  3. Harmon and Glut 1972, p. 326.
  4. Shaheen 2001, p. 488.
  5. Cline 1984, p. 207.
  6. Cline 1984, p. 143.
  7. Harmon and Glut 1973, p. 325.
  8. Clooney 2002, pp. 195–196.
  9. Clooney 2002, p. 196.
  10. "Profile:'Desert Command' (1946).", 2019. Retrieved: July 8, 2019.


  • Cline, William C. "9. They Who Also Serve (The Citizens)"; "Filmography", In the Nick of Time. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 1984, ISBN 978-0-89950-101-7.
  • Clooney, Nick. The Movies That Changed Us: Reflections on the Screen. New York: Atria Books, 2002. ISBN 978-0-74341-043-4.
  • Harmon, Jim and Donald F. Glut. The Great Movie Serials: Their Sound and Fury. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1972. ISBN 978-0-385-09079-7.
  • Rainey, Buck. Serials and Series: A World Filmography, 1912–1956. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2010. ISBN 978-1-47660-448-0.
  • Shaheen, Jack G. Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People. New York: Olive Branch Press, 2001. ISBN 978-1-56656-388-8.
  • Weiss, Ken and Ed Goodgold. To be Continued ...: A Complete Guide to Motion Picture Serials. New York: Bonanza Books, 1973. ISBN 0-517-166259.

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Preceded by
The Whispering Shadow (1933)
Mascot Serial
The Three Musketeers (1933)
Succeeded by
Fighting with Kit Carson (1933)
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