Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Rathbone the Fencer
If you watch closely, Rathbone is doing all the hard work. Seriously, he's hell on wheels. Flynn isn't bad, mind you, but all the tricky moves go to Basil. In fact, Bright Lights Film Journal says that Rathbone was "an expert fencer, and in his highly choreographed duels with Flynn he made the latter look good, just like Astaire did Rogers (something Rathbone bitched about good-naturedly in later life)." That corresponds with what I've read elsewhere, and, frankly, with what the films show.
Here's the other great example, The Adventures of Robin Hood:
As a poor-to-mediocre (at best) fencer, you can see it in the footwork, and in the attacks. Most of what they're doing is basic parry-riposte. Flynn messes one up a trifle (they're both swinging side, and telegraphing their blows, to make sure nobody gets hurt), Rathbone modulates to cover it.
One last--here is Rathbone against Tyrone Power. Some very nice bladework on both sides, with Rathbone enjoying a bit of flash. The same article quoted above quotes Rathbone as saying that "Power was the most agile man with a sword I’ve ever faced before a camera. Tyrone could have fenced Errol Flynn into a cocked hat."
Alas, poor Rathbone was required to lose by the exigencies of the plot. But it's a treat to see him at work.