Critical Evaluation

Although Rafael Sabatini had been steadily publishing novels, short stories, and biographies for twenty years, it was the publication of Scaramouche in 1921 that finally brought him literary fame. The novel, which had been rejected by seven publishers, became an instant international bestseller, prompting his American publisher, Houghton Mifflin, to reissue Sabatini’s earlier works. To capitalize on Scaramouche’s sudden popularity, Sabatini quickly adapted the novel for the theater, and the first stage production opened in New York in 1922. A prolific writer, Sabatini continued to publish historical romances, including the very popular Captain Blood (1922) and its sequels, and throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s his fiction was consistently at the top of the best-seller lists.

Sabatini’s stories of romantic adventures, gallant heroes, and spirited heroines provided escape from the ravages of World War I. In 1931, Sabatini published a sequel, Scaramouche: The Kingmaker, which was poorly received by critics and the public. Scaramouche and other major works by Sabatini have been periodically reissued, including new editions with scholarly introductions published by Norton in 2002.

Sabatini’s historical romances, with their high adventure, ingenious plot twists, surprise endings, and melodrama, made them ideal for motion picture adaptations. The success of his novels on the screen increased Sabatini’s popularity with the public. In 1923, Metro Pictures released a silent-film adaptation of Scaramouche starring Ramon Novarro, and in 1952 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) issued a lushly colored remake featuring Stewart Granger. The MGM version only loosely followed the plot of the novel, but it is considered one of the finest fencing pictures ever made. The film contains seven duels and the longest uncut sword fight (six and one-half minutes) in cinematic history.


(The entire section is 799 words.)