My title refers to my very earliest days as an avid film watcher when a Saturday matinee at the local Bijoux yielded wonderful films of this quality. Douglas Fairbanks Jr. became one of my very earliest cinematic heroes. How very appropriate that he should have become such a major hero in real life, cited for bravery in action during World War II - beginning not long after he finished The Corsican Brothers as a matter of fact. Somehow it seemed appropriate for the Washington Post social editor in later years to report that Fairbanks was a guest at a state dinner held at the White House in Washington for the Queen of England.
In my romantic mind it was easy to imagine that he brought to the gathering all the dashing, suave, graceful manners and behavior he displays in this film, a swashbuckling tale of siamese twins separated by a brilliant surgeon who then sends them off to grow up in different venues. One leads the life of a Parisian gentlemen of his day; the other learns the wiles of a storied bandit living in the mountains of their mutual birthplace, Corsica. The Corsican Brothers was one of the very earliest films of my youth - like another reviewer herein I was no more than five or six - and its impression upon me was enormous. Not only did it follow the Classic Comics story closely, it gave me my in Douglas Fairbanks Jr. my first movie swordsman, wonderful preparation to critically enjoy Errol Flynn and Tyrone Power, other icons of my youthful formation. Yes, I realize many will know that Flynn's classics precede Fairbanks Jr. but I saw The Sea Hawk and Captain Blood, for example, well after The Corsican Brothers.
This film actually engages the mind to some extent, not relying solely upon heroic athleticism. There is some reference in the script to whether the separation of the bodies of the twins will also separate their minds - the way they think, the way they behave. These psychological allusions provoke greater interest in the human aspects of the story. But those who wrote and directed the film do not distract us from our expectation of first-rate action and the whole action-adventure dimension of the story.
Douglas Fairbanks Jr., as he already had as Rupert of Henzau in the splendid Prisoner of Zenda with Ronald Colman, proves himself a worthy successor to his illustrious father, shining brightly in the dual role of the two brothers. The supporting cast is uniformly fine with J. Carroll Naish, H.B. Warner, and Akim Tamiroff providing their customary excellence.
I am grateful to Amazon for making The Corsican Brothers available shortly after its release as a DVD and encourage the company to continue making similar DVDs available to collectors like me who delight in being reminded of a past long gone and fading quickly.