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Voltaire (1933)

Writer and philosopher Voltaire, loyal to his king, Louis XV of France, nonetheless writes scathingly of the king's disdain for the rights and needs of his people. Louis admires Voltaire ... See full summary »



(screen play), (screen play) | 2 more credits »

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Complete credited cast:
Mme. Pompadour
Theodore Newton ...
Gordon Westcott ...
The Captain
Dr. Tronchin
Emile - Voltaire's Servant
Doris Lloyd ...
Mme. Clairon - Actress


Writer and philosopher Voltaire, loyal to his king, Louis XV of France, nonetheless writes scathingly of the king's disdain for the rights and needs of his people. Louis admires Voltaire but is increasingly influenced against him by his minister, the Count de Sarnac. Louis's mistress, the courtesan Madame de Pompadour, is Voltaire's protector and advocate, but even she has difficulty preserving his welfare when Voltaire publicly excoriates the king for the wrongful execution of one of his subjects, Calas. Voltaire gives refuge to Calas's daughter and endeavors to show the king the error of his ways. But the Count de Sarnac, with an agenda of intrigue and disloyalty, determines to do away with the troublesome Voltaire. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Beautiful women were pawns in the dangerous game he played with kings and nations! See more »


TV-G | See all certifications »




Release Date:

5 August 1933 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Affairs of Voltaire  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Although the onscreen source of the movie is a novel, it was never published. But modern sources say George Gibbs and E. Lawrence Dudley wrote a play for George Arliss, and it was the source adapted for the movie. The play also was never published or even produced. See more »


Referenced in Upper World (1934) See more »


La Marseillaise
(1792) (uncredited)
Written by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle
Played as part of the score at the end
See more »

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User Reviews

Like most biopics of this era, this one is based loosely on the facts.
11 February 2013 | by (Bradenton, Florida) – See all my reviews

If you are looking for a biography of Voltaire, I suggest you look further for many reasons. First, his philosophies really aren't explained well in this film other than his views on religious tolerance and liberty. Second, it only covers a tiny portion of his later life during the last years of the reign on Louis XV. And, third, the film really isn't intended as a history lesson but, like so many biopics of the era, strays rather far from the facts. Still, George Arliss was a fine actor, and I'd recommend any film in which he appears.

The story is about a tiny portion of Voltaire's life--when he takes up the cause of a specific man who was convicted on scant evidence and who was simply the victim of religious bigotry. And, the film consists of Voltaire scheming, very cleverly, to influence the fat-headed king to intervene and overturn the verdict. First, he writes a play which parodies the situation--changing the facts a bit but making the point which Voltaire wishes to put across to the king. Second, he enlists the help of the king's #1 babe, Madame Pompadour to get the king to offer Voltaire a chance to put on the play at Versailles. But, things backfire--can the wily Voltaire manage to extricate himself? I must let you know that I am generally not a big fan of costume dramas--mostly because they often come off as a bit stilted and stodgy. This one isn't as bad as many but it all the fine costumes and language did seem, at times, a bit stiff. Not bad at all--but it also seemed a bit preachy and unreal--especially Voltaire's crazed speech at 71 minutes into the film. Plus, the film jumped from the early 1760s to 1789 almost instantly--making it look as if Voltaire DIRECTLY initiated the French Revolution!!

By the way, I am not sure if the film would have been made after mid-1934, as the new Production Code cleaned up films--removing anything that might be objectionable. In some ways, this was strongly needed (as ANYTHING seemed to go in films in the early 30s). But, in others it over-sanitized things--and biopics on men of such liberal views on the Church and conventional morality as Voltaire were difficult sells in the new 'cleaner' (at least on the surface) Hollywood.

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