Thursday, April 02, 2009

Alexandre Dumas | Inspiration for more than 200 Films has Mulatto Aristocratic Ancestry

TCM marathon of movies inspired me to Wikipedia the author behind so many of my beloved films. Classic and contemporary versions. I never tire of seeing his stories in yet another movie or TV adaption. I can usually feed off the costumes even if a bad screenplay starves me.


France has produced many great writers, none has been as widely read as Alexandre Dumas. His stories have been translated into almost a hundred languages, and have inspired more than 200 motion pictures.
He even warrants an IMDb page. Take look at the extensive list of films dated back to 1898 on
Alexandre Dumas père at the Internet Movie Database

(24 July 1802 – 5 December 1870) was a French writer, best known for his numerous historical novels of high adventure which have made him one of the most widely read French authors in the world. Many of his novels, including The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers, Twenty Years After, and The Vicomte de Bragelonne were serialized. He also wrote plays and magazine articles and was a prolific correspondent.
I'll share some facts beyond what I was taught in high school lit class. Some I was ignorant of until now.
Dumas' paternal grandparents were Marquis Alexandre-Antoine Davy de la Pailleterie, a French nobleman, and Général commissaire in the Artillery in the colony of Saint Domingue, now Haiti, and Marie-Cesette Dumas, an Afro-Caribbean former slave.[2][3] Their son, Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, married Marie-Louise Élisabeth Labouret, the daughter of an innkeeper. Thomas-Alexandre was a general in Napoleon's army, who fell out of favor, rendering his family impoverished. Although Marie-Louise was unable to provide her son with much in the way of education, it did not hinder young Alexandre's love of books; and he read everything he could get his hands on.

Despite Alexandre Dumas' success and aristocratic connections, his being of mixed-race would affect him all his life. In 1843 he wrote a short novel, Georges, that addressed some of the issues of race and the effects of colonialism. He once remarked to a man who insulted him about his mixed-race background:

"My father was a mulatto, my grandfather was a Negro, and my great grandfather a monkey. You see, Sir, my family starts where yours ends."

In 2002 under orders of the French President, Jacques Chirac, his body was exhumed from the cemetery where he had been born, and in a televised ceremony his new coffin, flanked by four Republican Guards (costumed as the Musketeers - Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and D'Artagnan) was transported in a solemn procession to the Panthéon of Paris, the great mausoleum where French luminaries are interred. In his speech President Chirac said:

"With you, we were D'Artagnan, Monte Cristo, or Balsamo, riding along the roads of France, touring battlefields, visiting palaces and castles — with you, we dream."

In that speech President Chirac acknowledged the racism that had existed, saying that a wrong had now been righted, with Alexandre Dumas enshrined alongside fellow authors Victor Hugo and Emile Zola.
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