Monday, October 17, 2016

Phantom of the Opera (1943)

Claudin (Claude) is a veteran violinist infatuated with a hot young starlet. He pays for her singing lessons without her knowledge. But when he is dismissed from the orchestra he tries to sell his concerto. Believing his work is being stolen, he goes on a murderous rampage and has acid thrown in his face. Thus he becomes The Phantom!

I love The Phantom of the Opera. That is, the 1925 Lon Chaney silent horror film. I don’t know from the source material, but a key element for me is the fear and mystery of the Phantom character. He is both menacing and heroic. In Claude Rains’ version, however, there is little mystery (the authorities know who he is and are just searching for him), and he comes off as something of a weenie. He just likes Christine so much but can’t bring himself to tell her.

Eighteen year old Susanna Foster played Christine, the love interest and object of the Phantom’s obsession. Her career would last barely a year longer when she quit to take care of her siblings. I would think Hollywood money would be invaluable in that end, but I’ll withhold judgement until I see her True Hollywood Story episode. Later in life she was discovered living in a car. Maybe it was a nice car, who knows.

Hume Cronyn (Lifeboat) had a small roll and I totally missed him in it. Had he affected a terrible cockney accent maybe I would have spotted him. Nelson Eddy was one of the dashing men vying for Christine’s affection. Some twenty five or so years later the Rhode Island local would die of a stroke during a concert performance. And so it goes.

Phantom of the Opera (no The on this one) is a well made and very good looking film. As much of the action takes place during performances, music lovers have that. However I prefer Chaney’s menacingly iconic villain over Rains’ mousy nice guy who just snaps. AMRU 3.

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