Phantom of the Opera (1943 film)
|Phantom of the Opera|
Theatrical re-release poster
|Directed by||Arthur Lubin|
|Produced by||George Waggner|
|Story by||John Jacoby|
|Based on||The Phantom of the Opera|
by Gaston Leroux
|Music by||Edward Ward|
|Edited by||Russell F. Schoengarth|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
Phantom of the Opera is a 1943 American horror film directed by Arthur Lubin, loosely based on Gaston Leroux's 1910 novel The Phantom of the Opera and its 1925 film adaptation starring Lon Chaney. Produced and distributed by Universal Pictures, the film stars Nelson Eddy, Susanna Foster and Claude Rains, and was composed by Edward Ward.
The first adaption of the source material to be filmed in Technicolor, Phantom of the Opera was even more freely adapted than Universal's silent picture. The film reused Universal's elaborate replica of the Opéra Garnier interior, which had originally been created for the 1925 film. Despite mixed critical reviews, the film was a box office success. It is also the only classic Universal horror film to win an Oscar, for Art Direction and Cinematography.
Violinist Erique Claudin is dismissed from the Paris Opera House after revealing that he is losing the use of the fingers of his left hand. Unbeknownst to the conductor, who assumes Claudin is able to support himself, the musician has used all his money to help anonymously fund voice lessons for Christine Dubois, a young soprano with whom he is devoted to. Meanwhile, Christine is pressured by Inspector Raoul Dubert to quit the Opera and marry him. But famed opera baritone Anatole Garron hopes to win Christine's heart. Christine considers them both good friends, but doesn't openly express if she loves them.
In a desperate attempt to earn money, Claudin submits a piano concerto he has written for publication. After weeks of not hearing a response about his concerto, he becomes worried and returns to the publisher, Maurice Pleyel, to ask about it. Pleyel rudely tells him to leave. Claudin hears his concerto being played in the office and is convinced that Pleyel is trying to steal it; unbeknownst to him, a visiting Franz Liszt had been playing and endorsing the concerto. Enraged, Claudin strangles Pleyel. Georgette, the publisher's assistant, throws etching acid in Claudin’s face, horribly scarring him. Now wanted for murder, Claudin flees into the sewers of the Opera, and covers his disfigurement with a prop mask stolen from the Opera house.
During a performance of the opera Amore et Gloire, Claudin drugs a glass of wine which prima donna Mme. Biancarolli drinks, knocking her unconscious. The director puts Christine in her place and she dazzles the audience with her singing. Biancarolli, who suspects that Garron and Christine are responsible for drugging her, orders Raoul to arrest them, but he says he cannot because there is no evidence. Biancarolli says she will forget the whole affair only if Christine's performance is not mentioned in the papers. The following night, Claudin kills Biancarolli and her maid, and 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 (fictional) Russian opera Le prince masqué du Caucase (“The Masked Prince of the Caucasus”) so as to lure Claudin out into the open. Garron plans to have Liszt play Claudin’s concerto after the performance, but Claudin strangles one of Raoul's men and heads to the domed ceiling of the auditorium. He then brings down the large chandelier on the audience, causing chaos. 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.
Raoul, Anatole and the police begin pursuing them underground. Just as Claudin and Christine arrive in his lair they hear Liszt and the orchestra playing Claudin's concerto. Claudin plays along with it on his piano. Christine watches, realizing the concerto was written around the melody of a lullaby she has 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, revealing his disfigured face. 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, while Claudin is seemingly crushed to death by the falling rocks.
Later, Anatole and Raoul demand that Christine choose one of them. She surprises them by choosing to marry neither one of them, instead pursuing her singing career, inspired by Claudin’s devotion to her future. The film ends with Anatole and Raoul going to dinner together.
- Claude Rains as Erique Claudin/The Phantom Of The Opera. A violinist of the Opera House who becomes The Phantom. Secretly devoted to Christine.
- Nelson Eddy as Anatole Garron. A baritone of the Opera who loves Christine and helps her with her career.
- Susanna Foster as Christine DuBois. A soprano of the Opera House. She is unaware that Erique Claudin loves her and was the one who funded all her singing lessons.
- Edgar Barrier as Raoul Dubert. A policeman who wants Christine to quit the Opera and marry him.
- Jane Farrar as Biancarolli. An arrogant, spoiled diva who dislikes being upstaged.
- J. Edward Bromberg as Amiot
- Fritz Feld as Lecours
- Frank Puglia as Villeneuve
- Fritz Leiber as Franz Liszt
- Steven Geray as Vercheres
- Miles Mander as Maurice Pleyel
- Hans Herbert as Marcel
- Hume Cronyn as Gerard
- Hank Mann as Stagehand (uncredited)
Development and production
Universal first announced a remake of The Phantom of the Opera in 1935. Set to be directed by Anatole Litvak, this version would have been set in contemporary 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. However, development lingered as the studio faced financial problems that resulted in the ousting of the original film's producer Carl Laemmle and his son, Carl Laemmle Jr.
Plans for the remake finally surfaced again in November 1941, when Henry Koster became attached to direct. Koster discarded the previous screenplay, and envisioned a new version of the story in which the Phantom was Christine's father. Under Koster, the initial casting included Boris Karloff as The Phantom, Allan Jones as Raoul, and Deanna Durbin as Christine. Eddy was cast after leaving MGM for a two-picture deal with Universal. This led to Durbin refusing the role, not wanting to be compared to Eddy's frequent film Jeanette MacDonald, who Durbin admired. Karloff also became unavailable, and Koster also considered Cesar Romero, Feodor Chaliapin, Charles Laughton and Broderick Crawford for the Phantom. However, producer George Waggner eventually fired Koster from the project.
After Koster's firing, Arthur Lubin was brought on to direct. Under Lubin, Koster's subplot about the Phantom being Christine's father was jettisoned, because it gave the romantic elements of their relationship incestuous overtones; however, the Phantom's obsession with Christine is not completely stated within the film. Lubin cast Rains in the film almost immediately, saying he was his "only choice" for the role. Foster, who had just left Paramount Pictures, was cast after meeting Lubin through a mutual friend, and auditioning for Waggner. Filming began on January 21, 1943.
Lux Radio Theater presented a radio adaption of the film on September 13, 1943. Nelson Eddy, Susanna Foster and Edgar Barrier reprised their roles from the film; Basil Rathbone replaced Rains as Erique Claudin. This presentation was produced and hosted by Cecil B. DeMille.
The score was written by Edward Ward. 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.
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." Variety called it "a vivid, elaborate, and, within its original story limitations, an effective production geared for substantial grosses." Harrison's Reports called it "a good entertainment, the sort that will direct an appeal to all types of audiences." 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." A review in the Monthly Film Bulletin stated that "rarely has a story so novelettish had such conscientious technical excellence lavished upon it" specifically noting that "it ranks among the screen's highest achievements in sound." The review continued that "The same careful effort-if not the same dazzling success-is apparent in casting, camera work, costuming and the numerous sets."
In modern times, the film has received more positive reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gave this version of Phantom of the Opera an average score of 76%, based on 21 reviews from critics; the audience score the film at 77%. The sites consensus states: "Though it lives beneath the 1925 version, Claude Rains plays title character well in this landmark color version of the classic tragedy." Diabolique magazine said "the story was reconfigured as a musical more than a horror saga... Once you accept that, this works well on its own terms and Lubin’s touch is assured; it looks splendid."  However, many horror fans — especially those of the classic Universal monster films — have criticized the film for focusing on more on the musical aspects of the film, and downplaying or eliminating the horror elements that were found in the original film.
Lon Chaney, Jr. was reportedly unhappy that the studio never seriously considered him to play the role made famous by his father, even though he was under contract to them. Chaney reportedly also resented Rains for his portrayal.
Following the success of Phantom of the Opera, Universal announced that a sequel would be made, titled The Climax. Nelson Eddy and Susanna Foster were to return, along with Claude Rains as the Phantom, most likely meaning that his character survived the cave-in at the finale of the first film. The sequel, however, was later cancelled due to story troubles and problems concerning the availability of Claude Rains. Universal reworked the film completely, so it is not related to Phantom of the Opera; Foster stars in the film, alongside the original choice for the Phantom, Boris Karloff.
- Art Direction (Color) (John B. Goodman, Alexander Golitzen, Russell A. Gausman and Ira S. Webb) (Won)
- Cinematography (Color) (Hal Mohr and W. Howard Greene) (Won)
- Music (Scoring of a Musical Picture) (Edward Ward) (Nominated)
- Sound Recording (Bernard B. Brown) (Nominated)
- Michael Brunas, John Brunas & Tom Weaver, Universal Horrors: The Studios Classic Films, 1931-46, McFarland, 1990 p361
- "Top Grossers of the Season", Variety, 5 January 1944 p 54
- French box office in 1945 at Box office story
- "Phantom of the Opera (Universal 1943)". Classic Monsters. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
- Martinfield, Sean. "Deanna Durbin – Femme Fatal: An interview with film historian, Dale Kuntz". Fabulous Film Songs. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
- "The Opera Ghost: A Phantom Unmasked". [Special Feature on DVD release of Phantom of the Opera]. Universal Studios, 2000.
- Scott McQueen, audio-commentary on Phantom of the Opera DVD (Universal)
- Rich, Sharon (January 19, 2009). "Susanna Foster on Phantom of the Opera, Nelson Eddy, Jeanette MacDonald and Judy Garland". Jeanette MacDonald | Nelson Eddy. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
- Crowther, Bosley (October 15, 1943). "Movie Review - Phantom of the Opera". The New York Times. Retrieved February 21, 2016.
- "Film Reviews". Variety. New York: Variety, Inc.: 10 August 18, 1943.
- "'The Phantom of the Opera' with Nelson Eddy, Claude Rains and Susanna Foster". Harrison's Reports: 136. August 21, 1943.
- Lardner, David (October 16, 1943). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker. New York: F-R Publishing Corp.: 53.
- "Phantom of the Opera". Monthly Film Bulletin. Vol. 11 no. 112. January 31, 1944. p. 5.
- Rotten Tomatoes: Phantom of the Opera (1943)
- Vagg, Stephen (14 September 2019). "The Cinema of Arthur Lubin". Diabolique Magazine.
- "The 16th Academy Awards (1944) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-08-14.
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- Phantom of the Opera at the American Film Institute Catalog
- Phantom of the Opera at Box Office Mojo
- Phantom of the Opera on Lux Radio Theater: September 13, 1943