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>
Technically well made and a decent movie--if you like this sort of film
I really appreciate Joseph Harder's review--as I have never read the original book nor do I think it likely I ever will. His insights are helpful in giving background for this film.
ANTHONY ADVERSE is a film that is probably better quality-wise than the 6 I scored the film. For a 1930s epic, it is obvious that the studio spared few expenses and tried very hard to create a sweeping saga. The problem, though, is that despite all the efforts of those involved, this is exactly the sort of costume drama that I dislike. Now this is my personal taste, but I also feel that most modern viewers will also be a bit put off by the style of film. In essence, this film would have played much better back in 1936 than it would today.
The film is the life story of Anthony Adverse--a boy orphaned shortly after birth. How all this came to be as well as his life leading to his eventual move to America is shown in the film. At first Anthony is a likable sort and you care about him--he really got screwed when it came to his childhood. However, later in the film he unexpectedly became a major jerk--devoting many years to the slave trade as well as practically abandoning his new bride! Because of this, no matter how Adverse eventually turns his life around, you can't help but either hate him or at best feel indifference. As a result, it's a very hard sell for everyone involved in the film and it's hard for audiences today to care about the man.
As for the technical merits, the film is directed well, has many lovely performances (including Olivia DeHavilland at her most radiant) and has a fitting musical score. While the film was not made in color, practically none of the films of the day were, so this can be forgiven. It's too bad that the film is a bit dull and the character so unlikable--because of this, some may feel that devoting almost two and a half hours to this film just isn't worth it. Overall, I see it as a well made time-passer and that's about it.
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