MISERABLES (director: Richard Boleslawski;
screenwriters: from a Victor Hugo novel/W.P. Lipscomb;
cinematographer: Gregg Toland; editor: Barbara McLean;
music: Alfred Newman; cast: Fredric March ( Jean Valjean),
Charles Laughton (Inspector
Javert), Sir Cedric Hardwicke (Bishop Bienvenu),
Rochelle Hudson (Cosette), Florence Eldritch (Fantine),
Frances Drake (Eponine), John Beal (Marius); Runtime:
108; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Darryl Zanuck; Twentieth
Century Fox; 1935)
"Victor Hugo's classic novel is properly presented as a harrowing social conscience period film."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Hugo's classic novel is properly presented as a
harrowing social conscience period film, as directed
Boleslawski ("The Painted Veil"/"Three Godfathers"/"The
Last of Mrs. Cheyney") and written by W.P. Lipscomb. Most critics consider this
the best version filmed on the Hugo novel because of
the great performance by Charles Laughton
and its forceful atmospheric mood.
In 1800, in Favorelles, France,
Jean Valjean (Fredric March) is unjustly sentenced to
ten years as a galley slave for stealing a loaf of
bread to feed his hungry sister and her babies.
film follows the parallel story of Jean's nemesis,
Javert (Charles Laughton), who was born in prison and
wants to rise above his class. The rigid Javert has
made the book of regulations his Bible, and is
appointed a law officer. His first assignment is at
the same galley where Jean is imprisoned.
After serving the full
length of his term, the embittered Jean is released on parole,
with a yellow passport and wearing an unkempt beard.
Refused lodging by
everyone in town but by the kindly Bishop Bienvenue (Sir
Jean pays him back by stealing his silver plates. The
Bishop refuses to press charges when the police catch
Jean with the goods. Years later, Jean now goes by the name of
Madeleine and, as the owner of a successful glass
factory, he's elected mayor. Meanwhile Javert is appointed police
inspector in the same district in which Jean lives.
helps a dying factory worker, Fantine (Florence
her lost child Cosette (Rochelle Hudson), Javert
identifies him as the ex-con Jean Valjean who failed to
report for parole. Jean and Cosette escape to Paris,
where Cosette grows up and becomes romantically
involved with student radical Marius (John Beal).
Things reach an interesting climax with a few twists
when Javert tracks down Marius and faces the now
spiritually awakened Jean again.
REVIEWED ON 8/31/2011 GRADE: B+
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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