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The Modern Musketeer

1918 Douglas Fairbanks movie in which Rose Wilder Lane was hired as an extra to appear in one scene.

“There are plenty of thrills, a dainty love romance, and other elements of entertaining quality in ‘The Modern Musketeer,’ shown yesterday.” -January 1918 review.

That’s Rose Wilder Lane on the right and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. (1883-1939) in the middle. In 1917, Rose interviewed Fairbanks. On a whim, she asked to be an extra in the movie he was currently starring in – The Modern Musketeer – and, to her amazement, was offered $5 to appear in one scene as a “rough girl.” She was sent to have makeup applied and was soon being filmed under hot lights and in the middle of a supposed bar-room brawl. Rose had earlier watched the brawl itself being filmed (one man had three teeth knocked out by Fairbanks, who also knocked out a professional boxer acting in the scene). In order to have pure fright show up on her face during closeups, the director threw whiskey bottles at the table where Rose and another woman were sitting. One came very close to hitting Rose in the face. Her fright was real.

Unfortunately, you can’t run out and buy a copy of The Modern Musketeer and sit and watch it from start to finish. Only three of its original five reels of film survived, but those are available as part of a video called Fairbanks Fragments. Rose’s scene was part of the last two (missing) reels… or was it?

There are brief snippets of two fight scenes from The Modern Musketeer on Fairbanks Fragments. In one, Fairbanks gets into a fight because a woman was man-handled outside of a bar. The woman (surely the one sitting with Rose in the picture above) is wearing a dark suit with a v-necked blouse; her hat is tipped low over the right side of her face. Fairbanks is wearing a light suit. At one point during the scene, Fairbanks hangs from a gas light fixture, then jumps into a small room and smashes a bottle over a man’s head. Rose wrote that as part of the scene, Fairbanks came over to her table to apologize to the “ladies” that a fight is about to take place. He walks away from them, and they are left to “watch” the fight. After a while, they are to get up and flee the scene.

The Modern Musketeer was directed by Allan Dwan; the story was by Allan Dwan and F.R. Lyle, Jr.; starring Douglas Fairbanks Sr., Marjorie Daw, Frank Campeau, Kathleen Kirkham, Tully Marshall, Eugene Ormonde and Zasu Pitts. Due to his mother’s obsession with French novelist Alexandre Dumas, a Kansas lad is possessed with the spirit of D’Artagnan; he sets out in his Model T across the West to become a modern musketeer who must protect an innocent young girl from a lecherous old millionaire. Some of the movie was filmed at the Grand Canyon. Produced by Fairbanks, Written and Edited by Allan Dwan. Based on the story “The D’Artagnan of Kansas” by F.R. Lyle.

The movie was shown in theaters beginning in December 1917 and through the spring of 1918. Don’t you think that Laura and Almanzo went to see it?!


The Modern Musketeer