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A Masterpiece: Rex Ingram's or Sabatini's

A famous producer of plays recently sold a production of his to the motion pictures. When he read the scenario prepared by them for screen acting his remark was: "May I have the dramatic rights of this scenario? I think it would make an excellent play!" The title was the only thing about his production he recognized. Rafael Sabatini's publishers send us a letter from that modern Dumas. Just what were the misunderstandings within the motion picture industry which gave rise to the naive happenings recorded below, we do not know. It does not really matter. The spectacle of Sabatini's surprise is amazing enough, as he sees the announcement of a novelization of Rex Ingram's famous film, "Scaramouche."

Mr. Sabatini writes:

A year or so ago, in a letter of mine to Mr. Greenslet, dealing with my complete eclipse by Rex Ingram on the Metro posters, I mentioned, more or less jocularly, that in view of the character of the publicity and the strenuous efforts to keep the name of the author secret, it would not be surprising if presently it were assumed that I am the author of a novel based upon "Rex Ingram's masterpiece, 'Scaramouche.'

It is evidently not good to jest about these things. For something even worse has happened.

I refer you to the article in the enclosed page of the "Matin." You will look there in vain for my name, just as you might look for it in vain on the magnificent posters of the "Scaramouche" film outside the Madeleine Cinema in Paris. (I have seen those posters.) That need cause you no surprise. But a flutter of surprise may agitate you when you read the closing paragraph, which may be rendered thus: "As for the arresting and picturesque romance which Jean d'Agraives has written especially for the Baudiniere publications, it is worthy of Rex Ingram's film."

M. Jean d'Agraives has been requested to explain himself. Evidently he regards the request as an impertinence. Not only, he assures us, did he receive permission from the Loew-Metro Corporation to write this book, but he is making it directly from the film itself, without reference to any text, whether of the original book or of the scenario.

I conceive M. Jean d'Agraives at the moment submerged in indignant amazement at my having restrained his publisher from going further in the matter of this "arresting and picturesque romance" which he was so independently founding upon Rex Ingram's Masterpiece. And there we may leave him.

It is like an incident from "Alice in Wonderland." The movies are young; they are seldom really vicious in their blunders. But they are often spectacular in their enchanting absurdity.

From The Bookman 60, no. 5 (January 1925)

This unsigned piece was included in the Bookman's "Point of View" column, and may have been contributed by the journal's associate editor, Grant Overton, who published a piece in the February issue headed "Salute to Sabatini, with a portrait by Bertrand Zadig." (The portrait looks like a block print.)

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Last updated 29 March 2008. Photos from Rex Ingram/Metro Picture Scaramouche. Reprinted without permission. Submitted by Claudia Rex. Any concerns or problems about this site, please contact Rimfire.