1933 Movie (FR)
Valjean: Harry Baur - Javert: Charles Vanel - Fantine: Florelle
Special Guest Stars: Jean Gervais, Henry Krauss, Émile Genevois, and Lucien Nat
Directed by Raymond Bernard (see below)
Produced by Raymond Borderie
M. Gillenormand: yes
Both Mlle. Baptistine and Mme. Magloire: yes (though Baptistine not named in the film)
ThÃ©nardiers, after the inn: yes
Sister Simplice: yes
Gavroche's brothers: no
Fauchelevant: yes (in the beginning)
Mme. Victurnien: yes (not named)
Petit Gervais: yes (unnamed)
M. Mabeuf: yes
Toussaint: yes (no stutter)
Hugo's original preface used
Valjean is in prison at the beginning
Bishop Myriel remains asleep during the robbery (unknown; all we see is Valjean going out the window)
Fantine and Felix
Fantine sells her teeth (assumed so; her teeth are missing)
Fantine becomes a prostitute
Valjean buries his money (unclear)
Fight at Fantine's Deathbed ?
Valjean meets Cosette at the well
The second incident at Gorbeau House
Valjean and Cosette see the chain gang
Lamarque's funeral is shown or mentioned
Story continues after Javert's suicide
Valjean branded NO
Correct number NO
Works in the galleys NO
The factory makes glass beads YES
The doll, Catherine YES
The garden at Rue Plumet YES
Correct address YES
The Luxembourg Garden YES, after a fashion
The town's name is Montreuil-sur-mer YES
The man Valjean saves in Arras is named Champmathieu YES
Valjean's name becomes Fauchelevant YES, but...
Eponine/Gavroche as ThÃ©nardier's child YES, both
P R O D U C T I O N N O T E S
You know, you do enough of these, you kiss a lot of frogs, and eventually, a prince shows up. I saw a brief glimpse of this film in another film, the 1995 version by Claude Lelouche, starring Jean-Paul Belmondo (one of my favorites films, period) and I finally managed to glom onto a copy. Yes, it's old. Yes, it's B/W. And it is so freaking hard to get ahold of I can't even tell you. Let me just say that the one I have is taped off the television. Shown in Mexico. With Spanish subtitles. Imagine the amount of concentration I had to use to listen to the French language track while Spanish subtitles flashed on the screen. I have a rudimentary understanding of both languages, and the fact they are based on the same root language in no way made my job easier, let me tell you.
Please note that I will not be penalizing the film for this; it's not its fault that this is the only way I could get to see the film at all. It is not available on video. It is not available on DVD. Both of these are a crime against humanity and should be protested in the strongest possible terms. Am I conveying in any way the fact that this is a first rate, kick ass version of Les Misérables that should be required viewing for anyone attempting to remake the thing ever again?
As for the other details of the plot:
C A S T N O T E S
Here's the reason I said "see below" on all those cast notes above:
There are a few other mentions, but they are significant enough to be made below. You'll see why...
T H E B E S T T H I N G S A B O U T T H I S V E R S I O N
Many details are faithful right down to the costumes, which seem to have been designed straight from the original woodcut illustrations. Little Cosette looks like Bayard's classic picture. Javert is the archetypical Javert, no question. And Valjean looks like the round, Rumpole-of-the-Bailey image from early posters, one of which I have as a copy:
Despite the bad way they did his death (see below), there was one great thing about Javert's death... when the Prefect learns of it, he opens his register where all the police are listed and draws a big line through Javert's name. The catch? Everyone but Javert has a first name listed. That's right, Javert, like Cher or Teller, just goes by the one name. Very cool.
The scene where Petit Gervais loses his coin... and Valjean cries... is almost shot for shot the same one in the 1995 version.
I should probably update the other review for this, too, but let's put it here for now: I always wondered, when looking at the 1995 version, why the Jean Valjean character was named Henri Fortin. I got the gist of the last name (fortin=strong) but Henri? I see now that it is yet another homage to Harry (Henri-Marie) Baur, this version's Jean Valjean. Which I think is very, very cool.
T H E W O R S T T H I N G S A B O U T T H I S V E R S I O N
On the other hand, there are a few little things that could have been either improved or removed altogether. For example, most of the film could easily have been labeled "shot on location!" for all its authentic feel and appearance. But there's one little cut scene between when Valjean goes into the sewer with Marius and when he emerges the next morning, it's a really obvious, terrible matte shot of the towers of Notre-Dame as the sun is rising. It was so amateurish and tacky it pulled me out of the movie, very jarring. But, well, on the other hand it was the 30's. It can't all be great. And yeah, if that's the worst I can think of, you're already getting the idea that maybe this is a pretty good version.
Actually, that wasn't the worst. Javert's suicide, itself, is not shown at all. One point you see him walking off muttering to himself, "why didn't you arrest him?", and the next thing you see a brief five second shot of some fairly tame water, and then you see the prefect of police talking about Javert's suicide... Way to transition, there, people!
T H E S I L V E R C A N D L E S T I C K A W A R D S