Under the Red Robe (1937)

 

 

 

Director:     Victor Seastrom

Starring:     Conrad Veidt (Gil),  Raymond Massey (Cardinal Richelieu),  Annabella (Marguerite),  Romney Brent (Marius),  Sophie Stewart (Elise, Duchess of Fiox),  Wyndham Goldie (Edmond, Duke of Fiox),  Lawrence Grant (Father Joseph). 

Country:  British film

Cardinal Richelieu (Raymond Massey) oppresses the Huguenots (French Protestants).

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film.

"The massacre of Saint Bartholemew in 1572 had filled the gutters of Paris with Huguenot blood. 50 years later, diehards in the south were still a thorn in the side of Cardinal Richelieu. It was a period of plot and counter-plot, of reckless gallantry and ruthless oppression -- the time of Dartagnan, of Cyrano de Bergerac, of Gil de Berault, the 'Black Death'."

Cardinal Richelieu comes through the people. The people ask questions like "What happened?" and make comments like "He looked worried". The adventurous Gil de Berault arrives and goes into the court. The people at court refer to him as the "Black Death" and think he should be hanged.

He goes into see the Cardinal, who asks him where did he encounter the Englishman? The answer is that Gil overtook the man 50 miles from Calais. The Cardinal gives Gil his money for the job.

The Cardinal tells Gil that last year some 4,000 noblemen were killed in duels and the Cardinal's own brother was one of them. He is determined to put an end to dueling and now has issued an edict against it. If Gil fights a duel not in the direct defense of France, the Cardinal will have him hanged. Gil leaves.

The Cardinal calls for Captain Rivarolle. The man arrives. The Cardinal tells the captain to arrest the Marquis of Morrelle and the Count. The Captain acknowledges his orders and leaves. Father Joseph, the Cardinal's assistant, looks upset. The Cardinal says Joseph may call him ruthless, but the men will hang. And he may call the Cardinal cruel, and Joseph does. The Cardinal gets angry and says that these men are traitors. They are followers of that arch-traitor, the Duke of Foix. These men are trying to tear down all that the Cardinal has built up over ten years.

In fact, the Duke is across the Spanish border trying to enlist troops for a general uprising in France. Furthermore, the Duke has friends in England trying to raise money for the cause. He tells Joseph: "If I am not cruel, we shall have the south in flames again and (?) war in France."

Captain Rivarolle arrests the Count of Mont de Morney.

Gil is accused of marking the cards in a card game. Despite the edict against dueling, Gil forces the accuser to fight with swords. The other men beg the accuser not to fight because it would be pure suicide to fight Gil. The fellow rejects their requests and fights. Gil relatively quickly stabs the man. The other men call Gil a murderer and the Black Death. The accuser dies. Gil is arrested.

Gil appeals to the Cardinal on the basis of his faithful service to France, but the Cardinal responds: "Hang him."

To be hanged is a long line of men, among them Gil and the Marquis de Morelle and the Count of Mont de Nee. The cardinal closes the doors so as not to here the noises coming from the hangings. He gets bad news. Edmond, Duke of Fiox, has slipped through the fingers of the border guards again and is now in Spain. If he can just get his hands on Fiox, France will be saved. He is he main actor in the entire movement. Without Fiox, the others are like sheep without a shepherd.

The Cardinal frets over the situation and decides that one man might just succeed in stopping Fiox and that man is Gil.

Gil goes up the steps of the gallows, but is called back and spared. Gil goes over to see the Cardinal, who says that his death sentence is suspended. He will serve France, as he has never served her before. This will be a duel, but a duel not of swords, but of wits.

The Cardinal explains that the Duke of Fiox lives in a castle with his wife and sister. Gil's assignment is to get into the castle and win the confidence of the two women. He will arrest the Duke and bring him to Paris. The Cardinal warns Gil that if he fails, he promises to give him a slow death. If he succeeds, he will be free from execution.

There's one other thing. The Cardinal is sending a man named Marius, who, the Cardinal says, will follow Gil like a dog. Gil doesn't like the idea, but the Cardinal insists. Marius is a much smaller man than Gil, but does have some good qualities like the ability of easily picking the pockets of unsuspecting gentlemen.

The weather is terrible outside with strong winds and rain. By the evening, the men stop at a tavern and inn. They get a cold reception from the owner as he says he has no rooms available at this time of night. Gil just tells him to have the horses taken care of. The two men find a table to sit at close to the fireplace.

When the owner brings them some drinks, Gil asks him if one of his men could guide him through the market pass? The owner says they don't like strangers here. Gil asks who would like to earn a couple of crowns? Nobody says anything. Gil tries to intimidate the owner, but realizes he has too many men with him and decides he will have to do without the help of the tavern owner and patrons.

He and Marius brave the weather and reach the castle. Access to the castle, however, is blocked by a quick-flowing river. Gil goes into the water and swims across. Marius has to stay on the other side because he won't be able to make it to the castle side of the river.

As a matter of fact, Gil himself almost drowns in the river. He is brought into the castle and laid down on a bench.

The pretty sister comes down to check on the man. She gives him a drink while a servant holds up Gil's head. He is very taken by the beauty of the woman. He says his name is Raymond. He says he was attacked by someone. He was hit on the head and thrown into the river.

The woman is very formal with her guest and is perhaps a bit suspicious. She gives him a bedroom, food and dry clothes. Her name is Lady Marguerite of Fiox. Her sister-in-law, Elise, the Duchess of Fiox, comes down from upstairs and Marguerite introduces her to Raymond.

Raymond calls Marguerite madam. The Duchess tells her that Raymond thinks she's the Duchess. Marguerite says that he's not a very clever spy.

The servants are really fussing over Gil and Gil doesn't like it. He tells the older man not to touch him again. He then tells the fellow to get out. The old man says nothing to back to Gil, but he does start leaving. Gil asks the younger servant can't the old man talk? Actually, he can't. The elder gentleman was a spy. When the Cardinal's people took New Rochelle [besieged 1627-1628], they spared his life, but cut out his tongue.

Marguerite interviews the tavern owner Leval and finds that Raymond has a man with him. He says he said nothing about the man because he never thought he would make it to the castle. The fellow said he was headed to Spain. Marguerite tells Leval to see what he can find out about this Raymond du Bart.

The servants put Raymond to bed. But Raymond does not go to sleep.

Meanwhile, the two women wonder what they should do about this spy. One things for certain. They are going to keep an eye on him. The women hear Raymond's door open and they quickly extinguish the candle lights downstairs. They then run into another room.

Raymond descends the stairs. He is closely followed by the deaf former spy. He pulls a knife out of its container.

As he and the servant wander around the women come out to confront Raymond. He says that he was looking for some food to eat. Relieved a bit, Marguerite invites him to have supper with the family. At dinner the two women ask Raymond a lot of questions. He says he's from Normandy, but he has been living in Paris lately. And he says he's on his way to Spain. Marguerite asks why is he going to Spain? To see the Duke of Foix. He also says he going to offer him the services of his sword.

Marguerite asks why did he leave Paris? Raymond says the Cardinal wanted to hang him for dueling. She assumes that he is Catholic, but he says he's without religion. She asks how can a man live without anything to believe in? He says he has his honor and his sword.

Marguerite asks him about how was attacked? Raymond say he was outnumbered. Then he mentions that he had a servant with him. At this time Marius comes into the castle and Raymond hurries up to go hug him. He acts like they have known each other forever and have a great deal of mutual respect for the other. Marguerite says they will find a room for Marius, but Raymond says Marius would never take another room. He always sleeps at the foot of the bed in his master's room. They say good night to the ladies and go upstairs.

The women are sure that Raymond is a spy now. Marguerite mentions that the man was so afraid that his servant would betray him by saying the wrong thing.

Two of the Duke of Foix's friend, Count Rossignac and Baron Breteuil, come to the castle.

Gil takes a ride outside of the castle and into the woods. There he meets up with Marius. Marius knows the names of the two men and adds that he also knows that there's a military patrol following after the two men. But the patrol can't get here before midnight, as they are on foot.

Gill tells Marius that he must find an entrance in the forest that goes from the woods and to the castle. Marius says he will find it. And he reminds Marius, that they are both anxious to follow the two friends to Spain.

Marguerite talks to the two friends. The friends are going to take the diamonds from Marguerite and head to Spain. The diamonds will pay for the new recruits for the uprising. She gets up to go get the diamonds. When Raymond returns the diamonds are spread out on the table. Maguerite blocks the view of the diamonds from Raymond as he asks for a short audience with her. She says she will be with him in a moment. He goes upstairs.

One of the friends says that this Raymond must have heard what they were saying and that they should kill the man. Marguerite says they can't kill a man who might be innocent. She decides to go up and find out what this Raymond wants.

Raymond tells her that he wants to leave at once with the two gentlemen heading to Spain. She asks him how he knows about the two gentlemen? He says she underestimates his mental abilities. He wants to go to Spain.

Marguerite says but Raymond said he was so happy here. He responds: "I have been happier here than at any time in my life." Then why does he want to go? He says he better not tell her. She replies that he should tell her and try to be honest.

Raymond says he's guest of this place and she is the wife of the owner of the castle. So don't ask him anything more. Marguerite asks: "Are you in the habit of running away when you fall in love?" He comes over to her, grabs her two hands and pulls her close to him. After a moment, he starts to kiss her, but Marguerite pulls her hands away from him.

Marguerite starts to leave when Raymond grabs her again and tells her: "I would face damnation if the mistress of the house cared for me." She responds: "The mistress of the house? No, I am afraid you have already got the wrong impression of the mistress of the house. (She laughs.) . . . I'm afraid she doesn't care two straws about you."

Marguerite returns down stairs. She tells the friends that Raymond wants to go to Spain. The men says that would be just too dangerous. They will leave tonight with the diamonds just as soon as the moon is up. Marguerite asks where are the diamonds and learns that one of the friends, the baron, has them.

Raymond has rigged up a rope out his bedroom window. He wants to lower himself down one floor and get into the baron's room to get the diamonds. Marius watches him as he lowers himself down the rope. Then he holds out the bag of diamonds and asks his mater if he means these diamonds in his hand? Raymond climbs back up and asks Marius how he got the diamonds. He pick-pocketed them as he squeezed by the baron on the narrow staircase.

The night patrol arrives and they start banging on the door to be let in. The two friends now have to get out of the castle by any another way. They go through a secret passageway under the steps going up to the next floor. The two women sit quietly by the grand table as they wait for a servant to open the door for the patrol.

The commander comes in and says he wants to see the baron. He left not long ago, says Marguerite. Which way did he go? A servant says he went toward the pass. The commander asks by what road? The servants says he thinks it was by the west road. The commander leaves.

Marguerite and Janine are happy because now the patrol will be all night and day looking for their friends and by that time the friends will have crossed the border into Spain.

In the morning the women are in a good mood. Raymond comes outside to sit in what Raymond refers to as the Garden of Eden. A servants calls over to Marguerite to tell her something. He tells her and then Marguerite shouts out for Janine. Then they all go into the castle.

Raymond is left alone in the garden. He starts whistling a tune that will bring Marius to him. Marius show up and says that Count Rossignac has arrived. He know that because the count's horse is here.

Marguerite is beside herself about the loss of the diamonds. They all start looking for the diamonds. Meanwhile, Marius tells Gil that where the count's horse is can't be far from the underground passage to the castle.

From the woods the two men watch as Marguerite says goodbye to the count. She tells him to tell the baron not to despair about the diamonds, for there will be some other way to make their endeavor successful.

The two men bump into each other and by the time they look to where Marguerite was, they find her gone. Did Marguerite hear the little commotion? Raymond decides to see if he can find the secret passageway. As he is felling along a wall he runs right into the waiting Marguerite, who probably did hear the rustling of branches.

She asks: "Can I help you?" Raymond asks: "In what way?" She answers: "With your work as a spy." He pretends he knows nothing about that subject. She tells him not to insult her intelligence. He wormed his way into the castle to get information for his dirty master. She goes on like that and Raymond becomes angry. She says if she was only a man, she would . . . . He says if she were a man who would make her eat every word she just said to him.

He says he only followed her so that he might repay her for her hospitality. She asks: pay her with what? He pulls out the diamonds and gives them to her. He says he found the diamonds in the forest along a path. He tells her now to take back the things she said about him and the things she has been thinking about him.

Marius spies on the two women as they talk about Raymond giving the diamonds to her. He then goes back to Gil and tells him that he should have seen Marguerite with tears in her eyes. Marius tells him that the woman is in the palm of his hand. Gil is not so sure of that. Marius is delighted with the turn of events. He thinks that Gil will even come to own the castle and property of Foix.

The night patrol returns. The commander asks Marguerite where is the Duke? She says he's in Spain and he tells her that's a lie. The men start searching the castle for the Duke. They bring down Raymond thinking he's the Duke. Raymond acts protective of the women and soon gets himself challenged to a duel by the commander.

Raymond goes outside, but the commander arrests him instead of dueling with him. The charge is that Raymond was aiding the enemy, a hanging offense. Five men are assigned to watch Raymond. In no time Raymond gets away from them. The guard fire at him trying to kill him but he escapes.

Marguerite is afraid that the guards have killed Raymond. She is very upset. She even calls herself nasty names for not trusting Raymond. Janine tries to calm her, but doesn't have much success. Marguerite says all she wants is to be left alone.

Raymond suddenly appears, pleasantly surprising Marguerite. He has a drink of wine and then tells her good night and goodbye. She tells him that he's not leaving. Marguerite says she knows that now she can trust Raymond. And the Duke is coming back soon.

He tells her that he has been here too long already. Raymond adds that he might bring danger to her household now that the patrol is looking for him. He asks her if she would have him stay and she says yes. So, Raymond will stay. They say good night to each other.

Before she goes all the way up the stairs, she says she has a confession to tell Raymond. She is not the madam of the house. She is the sister of the Duke. That news makes Raymond ecstatic. They embrace. She also says she has come to love Raymond.

Marius come over to Gil to tell him that he has made a mistake in his selection of women. The woman, Marguerite, that he has been wooing is not the Duchess. The single woman he wasn't wooing is actually the Duchess. So what is Gil going to do about this? Gil says he just doesn't know.

Raymond now confesses that his real name is Gil. And Gil was a gambler, a duelist, the Black Death. That's what they called him. "And I'm not fit to lick your shoes." She says she doesn't care what he was called in the past. He belongs to her.

A man walks into the castle one day and asks Raymond what he is going in the castle? Raymond says he happens to be the Duke's guest. And who is he? The mystery man says he's the Duke.

Now the women come into the room and Marguerite kisses her brother. Then the married couple embraces and kiss each other passionately. Then Marguerite tells her brother that she and Raymond love each other.

His wife vouches for Raymond saying that he found and returned the diamonds to them and that Raymond risked his life protecting the women. Raymond tells the Duke to let him to him one more favor. Go back to Spain while it's save. This confuses the Duke and he doesn't know what to say.

The night patrol shows up. A man climbs up an outer wall and shoots the tongue-less servant. He then jumps down into the castle and opens the outer door. Now they just have to get through the inner door. That is going to take longer as the door is more secure from penetration.

The soldiers keep smashing and it won't be long before they gain entrance. So Raymond now puts the Duke under arrest. He tells him that if the Duke gives him his word of honor that he will not run away or escape, but stay at the castle, he will make the command and his patrol go away.

The patrol breaks through the door. As the commander starts approaching the Duke, Gil tells the commander the prisoner belongs to him. He is under his arrest and custody as per his assignment by Cardinal Richelieu himself. The commander demands to see his orders and Murius gets them out of his boot. Of course, Marguerite is shocked at hearing the full truth for the first time. The commander says that Gil is a scoundrel, but he's on the right side. He and his men leave.

The Duke asks Gil when will they leave? Tomorrow morning. The Duke and his wife go upstairs. Marguerite grabs his brother's whip and strikes Gil across the face with it. She rushes up the stairs. Marius tries to cheer up his master, but that won't be possible.

Gill tells Marius to saddle up his horse and go to Cardinal Richelieu.

Marius goes in to see the Cardinal. He says they got their man. The Cardinal says Marius means that Gil sent him ahead with the news and the others will be coming later. That takes the wind out of Marius' party balloons.

The Duke, Marguerite and Gil are on their way to Paris. Gil asks to speak in private with Marguerite. The Duke says no, but Marguerite says she will go with him but she won't listen to what he has to say.

She starts talking to Gil saying that she wants to buy her brother's life from Gil. She says she can pay better than Cardinal Richelieu. She wants him to take the diamonds. He says that she misjudges him. He won't take the diamonds.

So Marguerite pulls out a pistol, but quickly drops it and starts crying. He begs her to listen to him for a moment: "I came out from under the gallows to arrest an outlaw. If I had not arrested him, the soldier's would have done it." But there is on course open to him. One of the roads here leads to Bordeaux. That road if her and her brother's. Following the road will lead them to a ship and they may go wherever her brother pleases. His road, however, is straight ahead to Paris. Marguerite that will mean his death. But Gil says this way he will pay the penalty and redeem his honor.

Gil gets on his horse, says goodbye and rides away. Marguerite and her brother are free.

The Cardinal is furious. He tells Joseph that the man just set the Duke and his sister free. He must have had a reason, but why? Why? There's a knock on the door. It's Lady Marguerite of Foix.

The Cardinal takes one look at her and says: "He had a reason!" Joseph leaves the man and woman alone. The Cardinal says she has courage to come here. She says she has not come for herself, but for Gil. The Cardinal calls kill a traitor to the hand that paid him. Marguerite says a traitor to the man who was going to hang him. They go back and forth on this until Marguerite gets to the real point. Why is the Cardinal so afraid of the French Protestants. They only want to resist a tyranny where they cannot have freedom of thought and worship.

She tells the Cardinal that if Gil had not betrayed the Cardinal's trust, then he would have had to betray the trust of her, Marguerite. She says Gil did his job, but only better, without bloodshed. There will be no rebellion. The Duke of Foix is on his way to Bordeaux. The Cardinal already knows that the Duke is on a ship on his way to England.

And now Richelieu tells Marguerite that she came at her own risk. He calls for the Captain of the Guard. It looks as though he might have her arrested and thrown into jail.

Gil talks to a tavern owner, who tells him the Richelieu is going down. The man no longer has the confidence of the monarch, King Louis XIII. He won't be hanging any more blokes. Marius comes into the tavern and sits down by Gil. Gil tells him that he set the Duke free. Marius asks why? "He touched my honor."

Marius is worried if he is going to be hanged because of Gil. Gil says Marius is in the clear, but Gil himself wants to go to the gallows and pay the price for his honor. Marius urges him not to do it. Gil leaves the tavern.

Marius follows after Gil. He says he knows a place where Gil can hide without the fear of being caught. Gil won't do it.

The King writes a glowing commendation for Cardinal Richelieu. He said the Cardinal in getting the Duke of Foix to flee France and prevent any bloodshed from a possible uprising. His Majesty will come to the Cardinal to express his gratitude in person.

Now Gil goes to talk to Richelieu. The Cardinal calls him some nasty names. Now he sends for Marguerite. He sets the two lovers free to stay at Foix until the King's pleasure is known. The two people smile and each other and then they laugh at their sudden change of fortunes.

Now the King comes in to see the Cardinal.

 

 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

 


Historical Background:

 

See Cardinal Richelieu (1935).

 

 

 

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