Cyrano de Bergerac (1950) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • The charismatic swordsman-poet helps another woo the woman he loves in this straightforward version of the play.

  • France, 1640: Cyrano, the charismatic swordsman-poet with the absurd nose, hopelessly loves the beauteous Roxane; she, in turn, confesses to Cyrano her love for the handsome but tongue-tied Christian. The chivalrous Cyrano sets up with Christian an innocent deception, with tragic results. Much cut from the play, but dialogue not rewritten.

  • Poet, romantic and sword fighter Cyrano de Bergerac loves the beautiful Roxane, but although he is proud enough of his bulbous proboscis that he regularly duels those who dare mock it, he fears she could never love a man with such an enormous nose. When he learns that she loves the handsome guardsman Christian, Cyrano provides the tongue-tied young man with the words of love and devotion he wishes he could say to Roxanne himself.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • In a Paris theater in 1640, a play begins before a fairly full house. After a few painfully dull lines are delivered by principal actor Montfleury (Arthur Blake), a boisterous heckler in a box disrupts the proceedings. The heckler is Cyrano de Bergerac (José Ferrer), poet and supreme swordsman, who says he cannot endure the actor's bombastic style. He gives Montfleury a slow count of three to disappear before coming at him, and the actor runs away. Eventually Cyrano confronts the playwright and theater manager, insisting that the play be closed. When the manager complains that he can't afford to refund money to the audience, Cyrano throws him a bag of gold coins.

    Watching from another box in the theater are Cyrano's distant cousin, the beautiful Roxane (Mala Powers), with her attendant (Virginia Farmer); the Comte de Guiche (Ralph Clanton), who is Roxane's suitor; and the Vicomte de Valvert (Albert Cavens), an arrogant aristocrat who is so annoyed he insults Cyrano with snide but clichéd comments about his enormous nose. This can only lead to a duel.

    Cyrano first mocks the vicomte's lack of wit, improvising numerous inventive ways in which Valvert might have phrased references to the giant nose, much to the amusement of the audience. Cyrano then announces he will compose a poem and recite it during the duel, which he does -- thus showing off simultaneously his skills as poet and swordsman. With the last line, he stabs his opponent, and the audience leaves.

    Cyrano's friend Le Bret (Morris Carnovsky), captain of the Gascony guards, warns him he has made powerful enemies, but Cyrano is unconcerned.

    When Le Bret presses him as to why he hates Montfleury, Cyrano admits that he became jealous when he saw the actor making advances towards Roxane. He confesses that he is in love with her, but harbors no hope of being loved in return because of his deformity, his huge nose. Le Bret suggests they go out to eat, but Cyrano says he has no money left, as all he had was in the bag he threw at the theater manager -- a costly grand gesture that he does not regret.

    A beautiful fruit seller (Elena Verdugo) overhears Cyrano, offers him food and wine from a buffet prepared for the theater patrons, and mentions her admiration for his poetry and bravery. But he refuses charity food, accepting only a grape, a sip of water and half a macaroon. This is his way of acknowledging her regard while emphasizing his disdain for money.

    Le Bret points out to Cyrano that the girl's admiration indicates he has real possibilities of being loved despite his nose. He also tells him that Roxane watched his duel with an excited fascination that surely was encouraging.

    Roxane's servant reenters to arrange a meeting between Roxane and Cyrano the next morning after church. Cyrano, becoming bold, says he will wait at the pastry shop run by his friend Ragueneau (Lloyd Corrigan).

    At this point, pastry chef and fellow poet Ragueneau approaches Cyrano for help. Ragueneau has been warned that De Guiche, whom Ragueneau has mocked in published poetry, has hired a hundred ruffians to give him a beating that night, and he asks to sleep at Cyrano's. Cyrano scoffs at the threat, promising Ragueneau he will escort him safely home. The mob of ruffians appears as Cyrano walks with Ragueneau on a dark and deserted street and Cyrano alone routs them, wounding many and killing eight.

    The next day at the pastry shop, before he can tell Roxane of his feelings, she informs him that she has fallen in love with a handsome guardsman, Christian de Neuvillette (William Prince). She has never even spoken to Christian, but wants Cyrano to protect him. Cyrano hides his devastation and promises to help.

    At a gathering of the regiment, rookie recruit Christian de Neuvillette is being made fun of by the others. Christian asks the captain how he can establish himself, and the captain answers he must not accept mocking and must somehow demonstrate his valor. Christian is also advised never to mention the word nose or anything related to noses when Cyrano is present, or face the consequences. Moments later, Cyrano arrives to tell about his routing of the hundred ruffians hired to beat up Ragueneau. Christian, from the sidelines, interrupts the telling by adding the word nose whenever he can work it into the story, as in "It was so dark you couldn't see . . . BEYOND YOUR NOSE."

    At the first such interruption, Cyrano stops and menacingly asks who that new face might be, and he is told the young man's name is Christian de Neuvillette. Cyrano reins in his increasing anger through repeated interruptions, finally ordering everyone in the regiment out while he talks to Christian.

    Cyrano reveals that he knows that Christian is in love with Roxane, that he is Roxane's cousin, and that he talks to her often, whereupon Christian profusely apologizes for his recent insults. Cyrano decides to help in Christian's wooing of Roxane after Christian admits that while he is not shy or tongue-tied when talking to men, he becomes hopelessly inept when he tries to talk to Roxane. Cyrano knows words of love and starts to coach Christian systematically.

    Meantime, De Guiche consults his uncle, Cardinal Richelieu (Edgar Barrier), as to how to punish Cyrano for duels and fighting, which had been forbidden by Richelieu. The cardinal tells him that when a man is as talented as Cyrano with both words and sword, exceptions should be made so his talents can serve the state. De Guiche accepts the advice.

    Cyrano composes love letters to Roxane, which are sent and read as though they were from Christian. She finds them irresistible. Christian talks to Roxane using memorized and practiced phrases supplied by Cyrano, and she falls ever more deeply in love. Cyrano continues his own visits to Roxane, during which they talk mostly about her love for Christian. De Guiche, meantime, has not given up his suit for Roxane's hand, and is much annoyed at meeting Cyrano at Roxane's, although he follows Richelieu's advice and makes no trouble.

    Later, Christian decides he wants no more help and tries to speak to Roxane on his own, in her garden. Roxane rebuffs him in short order and reenters her house. Cyrano, who had been watching from behind some bushes, comes to his rescue, whispering words to him that Christian speaks loudly to her from beneath her window. When she admires his newly found words but is puzzled by how hesitantly he speaks, Cyrano takes over completely, able to pull off the deceit because of the darkness and because he is beneath the balcony. At the point that Roxane is totally won over by Cyrano's eloquence, a friar (Francis Pierlot) arrives bearing a letter from De Guiche for Roxane. De Guiche insists on marrying her that night, as his regiment is ordered to join the siege at Arras and must leave the next morning. He will be arriving soon after the friar.

    Roxane reads the sealed letter aloud but changes its content, telling the friar he is sent to immediately perform a rite marrying her to Christian, and as this is somewhat irregular, one hundred and twenty gold coins will be given to his monastery.

    Cyrano stays in the garden to delay De Guiche until the marriage ceremony is over. Cyrano intercepts de Guiche as he arrives and pretends, in a long conversation with detailed technical explanations, that he has just fallen from the moon. Furious at finding Roxane married, De Guiche, who is Christian's commander, orders him to join his unit immediately for the siege against the Spanish armies. Roxane begs Cyrano to get Christian to write her a letter every day, and he promises.

    The siege becomes complicated, as the besieging French are in turn encircled by Spaniards. It is Cyrano who writes letters to the fair Roxane, but in Christian's name. De Guiche's heroism in battle wins the admiration of Cyrano, who had previously despised him, so the enmity between these two evolves into respect. To send the letters every day, Cyrano must risk his life to cross the no-man's-land between the opposing armies.

    Learning that a convoy will carry food and supplies through the battle zone to the besieged French forces, Roxane in disguise stows away on a wagon and thus arrives to visit her husband in the camp. They embrace joyfully, and she thanks him profusely for the daily letters that she has received from him, telling him that she is now more than ever in love with the great soul she knows from the words he writes.

    Christian did not know about the letters, so he realizes she has fallen in love with Cyrano's words. He pretends to be concerned about what might happen if he were to become seriously wounded in the upcoming battle -- crippled, perhaps; disfigured, maybe. What if he were to become ugly? She radiantly proclaims none of that would make any difference.

    Christian leaves Roxane for a moment and goes to talk with Cyrano, reporting Roxane's proclamations of love despite ugliness or physical disfigurement. He gets his rival to promise to tell Roxane the truth about the words and letters, and let her decide between them.

    Before the opportunity arises, an attack begins, a major battle ensues, Christian volunteers for a dangerous mission and is brought back fatally wounded. Cyrano deceives Roxane, so Roxane tells Christian that she knows everything, and as he dies in her arms, Christian thinks he is the chosen one. Roxane finds a last unsent letter in his pocket and decides to carry it forever in a locket near her heart.

    Fourteen years pass. Roxane has entered a life of seclusion in a convent. Cyrano visits her once a week, at three o'clock on Saturdays, telling her news about the world outside and the gossip of the court, but never mentioning his feelings. De Guiche, who has also continued to visit her, has overheard a courtier plotting against Cyrano because he has continued to write satirical articles mocking the nobility. He warns Roxane that Cyrano's life may be in danger.

    One night, Cyrano is lured into an ambush and run down by a speeding wagon. Near death, acting against the doctor's orders, he hides his injuries and goes the next afternoon to keep his weekly appointment with Roxane.

    As he is received into the courtyard, he banters with Sister Marthe (Virginia Christine). When he gives her permission to pray for him, she says she did not wait for his permission.

    He is injured and weak, stumbling a bit, but he refuses all help, and just sits to visit, first making a few jokes about trivial events at court. He asks Roxane to let him read Christian's last letter, and she hands it to him, apologizing that it is wrinkled and faded and blurred with a few tears. He pretends to read, but he actually recites the letter from memory, as it is a farewell to her from someone who might be dying shortly.

    Listening to his voice and words, she first feels a special thrill at how eloquently he reads, but then recognizes the voice as the one she heard from her balcony many years before. As she turns to look, Roxane realizes that he is reciting from memory a letter that supposedly he has never seen before. It dawns on her it was Cyrano all the time: all the letters, all the words. She says, "It was you!"

    But it is too late. Cyrano slips into delirium and gets up with a last bit of energy. Refusing to die sitting down, he takes his sword in hand for the upcoming battle against Death, challenging Death with his final words, which sum up his life: "my white plume."

    Cyrano falls dead, and Roxane is left to mourn the death of a great love for the second time.

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