Phantom of the Opera (1943 film)

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Phantom of the Opera
Phantom of the Opera (1943 film).jpg
Theatrical re-release poster
Directed by Arthur Lubin
Produced by George Waggner
Written by Gaston Leroux (novel)
John Jacoby (adaptation)
Samuel Hoffenstein (screenplay)
Eric Taylor (screenplay)
Hans Jacoby (screenplay)
Based on The Phantom of the Opera 
by Gaston Leroux
Starring Nelson Eddy
Susanna Foster
Claude Rains
Edgar Barrier
Leo Carrillo
Jane Farrar
J. Edward Bromberg
Fritz Feld
Hume Cronyn
Music by Edward Ward
Cinematography W. Howard Greene
Hal Mohr
Edited by Russell F. Schoengarth
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s)
  • August 27, 1943 (1943-08-27)
Running time 92 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1,750,000[1]

Phantom of the Opera is a 1943 Universal musical horror film starring Nelson Eddy, Susanna Foster and Claude Rains, directed by Arthur Lubin, and filmed in Technicolor. The original music score was composed by Edward Ward, loosely based on the novel The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux. The movie is a remake of the 1925 film starring Lon Chaney.

The auditorium set, a replica of the Opéra Garnier interior, created for the 1925 film The Phantom of the Opera was reused. Other than the sets, this remake had little in common with the earlier film. The original storyline was completely revised and there was no attempt to film the masked ball sequence, although the famous falling of the chandelier was re-enacted on an epic scale, using elaborate camera set-ups. The cinematographers were Hal Mohr and W. Howard Greene. It is also the only Universal Monster movie to win an Oscar. Rains's portrayal of the Phantom, although overshadowed by Chaney's Phantom, is now considered to be one of the main Universal Monsters and is often listed with the likes of Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Wolf Man and Gill Man.

Plot[edit]

Erique Claudin (Rains) / The Phantom has been a violinist at the Paris Opera House for twenty years. Recently however, he has been losing the use of the fingers of his left hand, which affects his violin-playing. He is dismissed because of this, the conductor of the opera house assuming that he has enough money to support himself. This is not the case however, for Claudin has spent it all by anonymously funding the music lessons of Christine Dubois (Foster), a young soprano with whom Christine's music teacher assumes Claudin has secretly fallen in love. In a desperate attempt to gain money, Claudin tries to get a concerto he has written published. After submitting it and not hearing a response, he becomes worried and returns to the publishers, Maurice Pleyel & Georgette Desjardins, to ask about it. No one there knows what happened to it, and do not seem to care. Claudin persists, but Pleyel rudely tells him to leave and goes back to the etchings he was working on.

Finally giving up, Claudin stands there for a moment and hangs his head sadly. Someone begins to play music in the next room, and he looks up in shock when he hears it. It is his concerto that is merely being endorsed and praised by Franz Liszt. Convinced that Pleyel is trying to steal his concerto, Claudin leaps up and begins to strangle him. Just as he tosses the body of Pleyel to the floor, Georgette, the publisher's assistant, throws etching acid at Claudin. Screeching and wailing, he dashes out the door clutching his face. Now being hunted down by the police for murder, he flees to the sewers of the Opera.

Claude Rains as Erique Claudin, the Phantom, with Susanna Foster as Christine DuBois in Universal's 1943 version of Phantom of the Opera.

Claudin steals a prop mask from the costume department to cover his now-disfigured face and becomes obsessed with Christine. Meanwhile, Inspector Raoul D’Aubert (Edgar Barrier) wants Christine to quit the Opera and marry him. But famed opera baritone Anatole Garron (Nelson Eddy) hopes to win Christine away from Raoul.

Now Christine is the understudy for the Opera’s female diva Mme. Biancarolli (Jane Farrar), who will do anything to stay in the limelight. But during a performance of the opera Amore et Gloire, Biancarolli drinks a glass of wine and is drugged. The director then puts Christine on in her place and she dazzles the audience. Secretly unknown to Mme. Biancarolli, who suspects that Garron and Christine are guilty, Erique drugged Biancarolli’s wine in disguise.

When Biancarolli refuses to let Christine sing again, Erique enters her dressing room and kills her and her maid Yvette. After some time, D'Aubert comes up with a plan: not let Christine sing during a performance of the opera La Prince Masque du Caucasus while Garron plans to have Liszt play the concerto after the performance. But Erique strangles one of D'Aubert's men and heads to the domed ceiling of the auditorium.

He then brings down the large chandelier on the audience and cause chaos to spread. As the audience and the crew flee, Erique takes Christine down to his lair, pursued by the police. He hears Liszt playing his concerto, and he plays along with it on his piano.

He urges Christine to sing, and as she does, the police get nearer to finding Claudin. Christine pulls off his mask and sees what has happened to Erique. At that moment, Raoul and Anatole break in, and fire at their 'Phantom'. The shot misses, and causes the entire lair to cave in, as the two men and Christine escape. Anatole then tells Christine that she and Erique had come from the same town district which she responds with by saying while Erique had seemed a bit like a stranger to her she had somehow "always felt drawn to him". Back at the Phantom's lair, in memory, one of the final scenes shows Erique's mask propped against his violin.

Later, Anatole and Raoul demand that Christine finally choose between them, but she surprises them both by choosing to marry neither and pursue her singing career instead. She leaves to join her adoring fans, and the two snubbed men go off to commiserate together.

Cast[edit]

The film featured some of the most popular stars of its time, such as Nelson Eddy, Susanna Foster, Claude Rains, and Edgar Barrier.

Newcomer Susanna Foster plays Christine Dubois, a soprano at the Paris Opera House.

Nelson Eddy plays Anatole Garron, a baritone and instructor of the Paris Opera. He is one of Christine's two suitors, tossing wit and sarcasm at the rather starched Raoul D'Aubert, Christine's other suitor.

Broderick Crawford was considered for role of Claudin, the Phantom, before it was given to Rains. A subplot which made Rains's character Christine's father was jettisoned because it gave the romantic elements of their relationship incestuous overtones.[2]

Edgar Barrier played Raoul, taking little more than the name from Gaston Leroux's original story.

Also of note in the cast were J. Edward Bromberg, Hume Cronyn and Fritz Leiber as composer Franz Liszt.

During the same year that the film was released, Phantom of the Opera was adapted into an audio presentation for the Lux Radio Theater. Nelson Eddy, Susanna Foster and Edgar Barrier reprised their roles, but instead of Claude Rains, Basil Rathbone played Erique Claudin. This presentation was produced and hosted by Cecil B. DeMille.

Score[edit]

Stage 28, also known as The Phantom of the Opera Stage, was originally built for the 1925 film, and reused in the 1943 version.

Edward Ward wrote the score. The film has many elements of a musical, with lengthy opera sequences, and has been criticized for being more musical than horrific. For the opera sequences, Ward adapted music from Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4 as well as using themes by Chopin. He also composed an original theme, Lullaby of the Bells, which was heard in the film as the Phantom's piano concerto. Rotten Tomatoes gave to this version of Phantom of the Opera an average score of 72%, based on 18 reviews from critics.[3]

Cancelled sequel[edit]

Following the success of Phantom of the Opera, Universal announced that a sequel would be made, titled The Climax.[2] Nelson Eddy and Susanna Foster were to return, along with Claude Rains as the Phantom, most likely meaning that his character did indeed survive the cave in at the finale of the first film; indeed, in the final shot of the mask and violin atop the rubble, there is a sound of moving rock. The sequel, however, was later cancelled due to story troubles and problems concerning the availability of Claude Rains. The Climax was indeed released the year after Phantom of the Opera, but it was not a continuation of the previous film and featured completely new characters.

Awards[edit]

The film was nominated for four Academy Awards, winning in two categories:[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Michael Brunas, John Brunas & Tom Weaver, Universal Horrors: The Studios Classic Films, 1931-46, McFarland, 1990 p361
  2. ^ a b Scott McQueen, audio-commentary on Phantom of the Opera DVD (Universal)
  3. ^ http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1016241-phantom_of_the_opera/ Rotten Tomatoes: Phantom of the Opera (1943)
  4. ^ "The 16th Academy Awards (1944) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-08-14. 

External links[edit]