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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>
Fredric March unsatisfactory in the lead...huge best-seller makes uneven historical romance...
Fredric March, usually such a fine actor, was unable to give more than a wooden performance in the title role of 'Anthony Adverse'. Warner Bros. would have been better off using their up-and-coming new star, Errol Flynn, for this one--giving us the chance to see him paired once again with Olivia de Havilland. There are no sparks between March and de Havilland--he seems too old for the role despite clever make-up attempts to make him look suitable. But aside from the fact that he is miscast, there is a lot to admire about the film itself. For one thing, Claude Rains and Gale Sondergaard make the most memorable pair of villains ever seen in a 1930s movie. The sequence where they cause a coach and driver to go off a cliff is given an extra punch by their dialog. "He was my favorite coachman," says Rains dryly. "The coach was rather handy too," quips Sondergaard. Giving other outstanding performances are Edmund Gwenn, Louis Hayward, Anita Louise, Donald Woods and Akim Tamiroff. Some of the acting styles seem dated, as are the titles that connect the time span. The best-seller was a bulky 1,200 pages from which the scriptwriter trimmed the story down considerably, excluding whole segments of the book and still ending up with a film well over two hours. Strange how the celebrated novel is barely remembered today. The opera scenes with Olivia de Havilland are interesting. She was a radiant young beauty at the time but could have used a better technique in her lip sync to the lyrics. Interesting historical drama of the Napoleonic era with Rains and Sondergaard giving the best performances. I've written articles on both of them for CLASSIC IMAGES, inspired by their performances in this film.
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