Swashbuckler film  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Swashbuckler films are an action-adventure subgenre often characterised by swordfighting and adventurous heroic characters, often set in Renaissance Western Europe with appropriately lavish costumes. Morality is often clear-cut, heroic characters are clearly heroic and even villains tend to have a code of honour (although this is not always the case). There is often a damsel in distress and a romantic element.

Right from the advent of cinema, the silent era was packed with Swashbucklers. The most famous of those were the films of Douglas Fairbanks, which defined the genre. The stories came from romantic costume novels, particularly those of Alexandre Dumas, père and Rafael Sabatini. Last but not least, triumphant, thrilling music was an important part of the formula.

There were three great cycles of swashbuckler films. The Douglas Fairbanks period of 1920-1929, the Errol Flynn period of 1935-1941 and the a period in the 1950s heralded by films such as Ivanhoe, The Master of Ballantrae and the popularity of the British TV series The Adventures of Robin Hood.



The term Swashbuckler originates from boisterous fighters who carried a sword and buckler (a buckler being a small shield). "Swashbuckler" was a putdown, used to indicate a poor swordsman who covered his lack of skill with noise, bragging, and clamour. Novels, and then Hollywood, altered the word's connotation to make "swashbuckler" mean a loudmouthed but good braggart, and the hero of the plotline.


Fencing was always a mainstay of this genre, and a dramatic duel was often a pivotal part of the storyline. Nowhere else is swordplay more apparent than in the swashbuckler film. Famous fencing instructors included Henry Uyttenhove, Fred Cavens, Jean Heremans, and Ralph Faulkner. They all had additional long careers in sport fencing.

Swashbuckling TV

The British TV series The Adventures of Robin Hood had produced 143 episodes by 1959 and became an outstanding success both in Britain and America. UK TV production in the genre was prolific, and included The Buccaneers (1956-57), The Adventures of Sir Lancelot (1956-57), The Adventures of the Scarlet Pimpernel (ITV, 1956), ITC's The Count of Monte Cristo (ITV, 1956) and George King's Gay Cavalier (ITV, 1957), and the Sharpe (ITV, 1993 - present)

Notable swashbuckler films

Notable actors and actresses

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Swashbuckler film" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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