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In late 18th century Italy, a beautiful young woman finds herself married to a rich but cruel older man. However, she is in love with another, younger man. When the husband finds out, he kills the lover in a swordfight, and takes his wife on a long trip throughout Europe. Months later, she dies giving birth to a son. The husband leaves the child at a convent, where he is raised until the age of 10; then he is apprenticed to a local merchant, who gives him the name "Anthony Adverse" because of the adversity in his life. But his adversity has only begun, as fate takes him to Cuba, Africa, and Paris. Written by
John Oswalt <email@example.com>
Epic Aspirations Undermined by Uninspired Film-making
I have not read the largely forgotten book on which this movie is based.
My favorite films are from the early 30's to the mid 40's. The cast in this film is stellar, including some of my favorite leads and supporting actors. I love costume dramas and adventures set in exotic places. However, with all of those factors to prejudice me in favor of Anthony Adverse, I was hugely disappointed.
The plot seems okay. The sets and costumes are excellent. The cast, as I already mentioned, is stellar (in the credits!). The score seems appropriate. The expensive production shows throughout. The reason this film is so unsatisfying is rather puzzling. I think it may be one of those times everybody from the director on down was simply going through the motions. Hard to believe, given the cast. But they all seem so - not just two-dimensional, but - lifeless. Perhaps, as one other reviewer suggests, this film would have been better if de Havilland had been teamed with Errol Flynn instead of Frederic March. I don't remember seeing Flynn ever give a less than energetic performance.
Frederic March, one of America's greats, fails to create a character that I could like, sympathize with or root for with any enthusiasm. In fact enthusiasm is what he seems to lack in this role. Olivia de Havilland is somewhat better, but this is one of her least impressive performances. Gale Sondergaard did very little to receive an academy award. The appearances of Louis Heyward and Anita Louise are entirely too short. I like both, and I would have liked more of them and less of March and de Havilland. Perhaps they should have reversed roles...
Edmund Gwenn delivers a typically endearing performance in a typical Edmund Gwenn role. Henry O'Neill is usually very interesting, because he plays both sides of the fence - both good and bad guys. Here, his father Xavier is far more enjoyable than Pedro De Cordoba's Father Francoise.
The only bright spot in this under-achieving ensemble is Claude Rains. He, too, plays both good and bad guys. Here he is an aristocratic charmer and schemer - despicable and deceitful. He is great! In the scene where he laughs demonically, he sends a chill up my spine. Thank you, Mr. Rains, for delivering a great, under-appreciated performance, in an otherwise deservedly forgotten film.
At film's end, I felt like I had read a 1200 page novel - and simultaneously like I had no interest in reading THIS one.
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