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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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Hervey Allen's great blockbuster novel Anthony Adverse, a major seller during the Depression Years provided both its leads, Fredric March and Olivia DeHavilland with some choice roles in their respective careers. The book turned out to be a one hit wonder for its author, but it certainly allowed him to live comfortably. Something like that other blockbuster novel Gone With the Wind did for its author which also gave Olivia DeHavilland an even bigger role in her career.
Imagine if you will a Charles Dickens hero like Pip or David Copperfield born in very humble circumstances, but escaping to lead a life of high adventure away from the Dickensian settings of Victorian Great Britain and you've got Anthony Adverse. The supporting characters in the book and film could have also come from Dickens.
Young Anthony is the product of an affair between a young officer, Louis Hayward, and the wife of a Spanish diplomat, Anita Louise. Husband Claude Rains kills Hayward in a duel and when his wife dies in childbirth, leaves the infant at a convent. The nuns give him the name of Anthony Adverse as the boy arrives on St. Anthony's Day and is a child of adversity if there ever was one.
The grown up Anthony, played by Fredric March is apprenticed to his maternal grandfather Edmund Gwenn who does not know it as doesn't March at first. A sly and cunning housekeeper, Gale Sondergaard in her screen debut, puts the puzzle together, but she's got an agenda of her own which later meshes with the dissipated and dissolute Rains.
March also falls for young Olivia DeHavilland who is an aspiring opera singer who also wants some of the finer things in life. Though they marry and have a son, both take different paths on a quest for material security and comfort.
Anthony Adverse was a good follow up role for Olivia DeHavilland after Captain Blood. In both she's a crinolined heroine which she was destined to be cast as in her career at Warner Brothers. Still this part has a lot more to it than most of those she was doing at that time in her career.
March was 39 when he made Anthony Adverse, still he's a good enough player to gradually age into the part. The story does take place over a long period of years, right into the Napoleonic era from 1773 when Anthony is born.
Edmund Gwenn's character is pure Dickens, the Scot's merchant John Bonnyfeather (even the name) could easily have been Fezziwick from A Christmas Carol. Gale Sondergaard as the housekeeper could have been the bloodless Jane Murdstone combined with the vengeful Madame DeFarge.
Sondergaard won the first Best Supporting Actress Oscar given out for her performance. It set a pattern of villainous female roles which she played until she got blacklist troubles in the late Forties.
The novel was a lengthy one and Warner Brothers should have had something as long as Gone With the Wind in order to be really faithful to the book. Jack Warner didn't want to take a chance, but he did get a product that caught all the main points the author was trying to make.
Even today with it's magnificent Erich Wolfgang Korngold score which also won an Oscar and its photography by Tony Gaudio, also a winner Anthony Adverse holds up very well for today's audience. Fans of March and DeHavilland should love it as will others.
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