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Film / The Private Life of Don Juan

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"Marriage is like a beleaguered city. Those who are out, want to get in; those who are in, want to get out."
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The Private Life of Don Juan is a 1934 film starring Douglas Fairbanks, directed by Alexander Korda, based on the play L'homme à la Rose by Henry Bataille.

Don Juan, well past his prime as The Casanova and now in late middle age, has returned to Seville to retire. But his reputation proceeds him, and he's still sought after by the ladies of Spain. Additionally, his wife Dona Dolores, who continues to insist that he stop his philandering ways and return to her, has bought up his debts and is threatening to have him thrown in debtors' prison if he won't come home.

Meanwhile, a young man named Rodrigo admires Don Juan and envies his success with the ladies, so he has taken up impersonating Don Juan and climbing women's balconies all over town. When Rodrigo is killed by a jealous husband, Don Juan seizes on the chance to anonymously retire, but he doesn't like the quiet life as much as he thought he would.

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This film was conceived as a comeback vehicle for 51-year-old Fairbanks, who'd been one of the biggest stars in the world during the silent era but whose career had gone into a steep decline with talkies. It didn't work. The film was viciously panned by critics and bombed at the box office, and Fairbanks never made another movie, dying of a heart attack in 1939. It's been Vindicated by History, though, and was released on DVD by Criterion as part of an Alexander Korda box set.


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Tropes:

  • All Women Are Lustful: All the women in Seville want to have sex with Don Juan, it seems. When Don Juan goes to his own funeral he is astonished that all these women who never met him are showing up in mourning clothes.
  • Attending Your Own Funeral: Don Juan seizes on the chance to do this. He is somewhat put out by the lack of respect among some of the attendees.
  • The Casanova: Deconstructed, as Don Juan used to be this, but finds out that it's not all it's cracked up to be, especially if you're too old to score with the ladies anymore.
  • Casanova Wannabe: Rodrigo, who wants to be a Don Juan but can't even get over a balcony without tripping. The first time he's challenged to a duel by a jealous husband, he's killed.
  • Cat Fight: Between Antonita (played by the absurdly beautiful Merle Oberon), a dancer who was one of Don Juan's last seduction targets, and Pepita, one of her dancing rivals who was also jealous of her getting Don Juan's attentions.
  • Description Cut: A random person's comment about what a lothario Don Juan is, followed by a cut to Don Juan with his doctor complaining about his aches and pains.
  • Easily Forgiven: All Dolores wants is for Don Juan to come back, and she doesn't even mind that the only reason he's coming back is that he's too old to go around banging chicks.
  • Faking the Dead: Don Juan takes advantage of his impostor's death to disappear.
  • Feeling Their Age: Don Juan certainly is, and his doctor tells him he can't go catting around anymore.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: "Climbing balconies" is a euphemism for sex, with the doctor advising Don Juan to limit how many balconies he climbs. See The Loins Sleep Tonight below for another example.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: Don Juan tells his doctor that "Nowadays when I sit down to a quiet game with a lady, I'm no longer sure of holding the cards."
  • Shout-Out: The name of the movie is a Shout-Out to a previous Alexander Korda film, the hugely successful The Private Life of Henry VIII.
  • Show Within a Show: Don Juan is none too pleased with the stage show about his life, "The Live and Loves of Don Juan".
  • Something Else Also Rises: The opening shot is of a spurting fountain, followed up by a singer singing of Don Juan's romantic accomplishments.
  • Swing Low, Sweet Harriet: Dolores is introduced merrily swinging, as Leporello, Don Juan's valet, asks her to go easy on the whole home-or-prison thing.
  • Title Drop: The Private Life of Don Juan is a highly inaccurate biography sold in Seville after Don Juan is believed to have died.
  • Your Costume Needs Work: When Don Juan looks up Antonita again, she rejects him, insisting that the real Don Juan was taller.
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