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 John Jacoby (adaptation)
Screenplay by Samuel Hoffenstein
Eric Taylor
Hans Jacoby
Based on The Phantom of the Opera 
by Gaston Leroux
Starring Nelson Eddy
Susanna Foster
Claude Rains
Music by Edward Ward
Cinematography W. Howard Greene
Hal Mohr
Edited by Russell F. Schoengarth
Production
company
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • August 12, 1943 (1943-08-12) ((LA))[1]
  • August 27, 1943 (1943-08-27) ((US))
Running time
92 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1,750,000[2]
Box office $1.6 million (US rentals)[3]
2,316,416 admissions (France, 1945)[4]

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. The film included choreography by Lester Horton.

Plot[edit]

Erique Claudin (Claude Rains) had been a violinist at the Paris Opera House for twenty years. 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 (Susanna Foster), a young soprano whom Claudin has secretly fallen in love with. 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. Claudin steals a prop mask from the costume department to cover his now-disfigured face and becomes obsessed with Christine.

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

Meanwhile, Inspector Raoul Dubert (Edgar Barrier) wants Christine to quit the Opera and marry him. But famed opera baritone Anatole Garron (Nelson Eddy) hopes to win Christine's heart. Christine considers them both good friends but doesn't openly express if she loves them. 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, Claudin drugs a glass of wine which Biancarolli drinks and makes her collapse and unable to perform. The director puts Christine in her place and she dazzles both the audience and everyone else. But Mme. Biancarolli who suspects that Garron and Christine are guilty. She orders Raoul to arrest them but he says he can't because there is no evidence to prove that her statement true. So Biancarolli sets a condition. She will forget the whole affair only if Christine's performance is not mentioned in the papers. And that it will be forgotten about completely by everyone. Her conditions are reluctantly accepted, much to Christine and Anatole's dismay. The next night Claudin enters Biancarolli's dressing room and kills her and her maid. The opera is subsequently closed.

After some time, the opera's owners receive a note demanding that Christine replace Biancarolli. To catch Claudin, Raoul comes up with a plan: not let Christine sing during a performance of the (fictive) Russian opera Le prince masqué du Caucase (“The Masked Prince of the Caucasus”) so as to lure Claudin out into the open, while Garron plans to have Liszt play the concerto after the performance. But Claudin strangles one of Dubert'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, Claudin takes Christine down underground. He tells Christine that he loves her and that she will now sing all she wants, but only for him. And that they will remain together. But Christine doesn't recognize Claudin and is afraid of him.

Raoul, Anatole and the police begin pursuing them underground. Just as Claudin and Christine arrive in his lair they hear Liszt and the whole orchestra playing Claudin's concerto. Claudin plays along with it on his Piano as Christine watches, realizing the concerto was written around the melody of a lullaby she had known since childhood. Raoul and Anatole hear Claudin playing and follow the sound. Overjoyed, Claudin urges Christine to sing, which she does. While Claudin is distracted by the music, Christine sneaks up and pulls off his mask and sees his burnt disfigured face caused by the acid. At that same moment Raoul and Anatole break in. Claudin grabs a sword to fight them with. Raoul fires his gun at Claudin, but Anatole knocks Raoul's arm and the shot hits the ceiling causing a cave in. Anatole and Raoul escape with Christine but Claudin gets crushed to death by the falling rocks. Anatole then tells Christine that she and Claudin had come from the same town district, which explains why they both knew the lullaby. She responds by saying while Claudin had seemed a bit like a stranger to her she had somehow "always felt drawn to him". Anatole finishes by saying that Claudin's suffering will be forgotten and his concerto will live on. Back at the Phantom's lair, in memory, one of the final scenes shows Claudin's mask propped up against his violin.

Later, Anatole and Raoul demand that Christine finally chooses between the two men. She surprises them by choosing to marry neither one of them and pursue her singing career, because she now understands how much Claudin loved her and how much he was devoted to her singing career. She leaves the room and joins her adoring fans outside. The film ends with Anatole and Raoul go off to commiserate together.

Cast[edit]

Susanna Foster and Nelson Eddy

Development[edit]

Universal first announced a remake of The Phantom of the Opera in 1935. This version would have been set in then-modern-day Paris, and would have portrayed the Phantom as a psychologically wounded World War I veteran who was physically unharmed, but imagined that he was disfigured. The screenplay lingered in development until 1941, when Henry Koster was brought on board to direct. Koster discarded the previous screenplay, and envisioned a new version of the story in which the Phantom was Christine's father. Producer George Waggner ultimately fired Koster from the project and replaced him with Arthur Lubin.[5]

Production[edit]

Cesar Romero, Boris Karloff, Feodor Chaliapin, Charles Laughton and Broderick Crawford were all considered for the role of the Phantom at various points during production, before the role was given to Rains.[5] Koster's subplot about the Phantom being Christine's father was jettisoned because it gave the romantic elements of their relationship incestuous overtones.[6] 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.

Reception[edit]

Contemporary reviews were mixed. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times panned the film for being "watered down" from the original, calling the opening sequence "the only one in the film in which the potential excitement of the story is realized," while otherwise the "richness of décor and music is precisely what gets in the way of the tale."[7] Variety called it "a vivid, elaborate, and, within its original story limitations, an effective production geared for substantial grosses."[8] Harrison's Reports called it "a good entertainment, the sort that will direct an appeal to all types of audiences."[9] David Lardner's review in The New Yorker dismissed the film, calling it "by no means a sample of the march of progress in the film world. The old version had Lon Chaney, who scared you plenty, and the new one has Claude Rains, who somehow doesn't."[10]

Rotten Tomatoes gave this version of Phantom of the Opera an average score of 75%, based on 20 reviews from critics.[11]

Cancelled sequel[edit]

Following the success of Phantom of the Opera, Universal announced that a sequel would be made, titled The Climax.[6] 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:[12]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Phantom of the Opera". American Film Institute. Retrieved February 21, 2016. 
  2. ^ Michael Brunas, John Brunas & Tom Weaver, Universal Horrors: The Studios Classic Films, 1931-46, McFarland, 1990 p361
  3. ^ "Top Grossers of the Season", Variety, 5 January 1944 p 54
  4. ^ French box office in 1945 at Box office story
  5. ^ a b "The Opera Ghost: A Phantom Unmasked". [Special Feature on DVD release of Phantom of the Opera]. Universal Studios, 2000.
  6. ^ a b Scott McQueen, audio-commentary on Phantom of the Opera DVD (Universal)
  7. ^ Crowther, Bosley (October 15, 1943). "Movie Review - Phantom of the Opera". The New York Times. Retrieved February 21, 2016. 
  8. ^ "Film Reviews". Variety. New York: Variety, Inc.: p. 10 August 18, 1943. 
  9. ^ "'The Phantom of the Opera' with Nelson Eddy, Claude Rains and Susanna Foster". Harrison's Reports: p. 136. August 21, 1943. 
  10. ^ Lardner, David (October 16, 1943). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker. New York: F-R Publishing Corp.: p. 53. 
  11. ^ http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1016241-phantom_of_the_opera/ Rotten Tomatoes: Phantom of the Opera (1943)
  12. ^ "The 16th Academy Awards (1944) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-08-14. 

External links[edit]