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Reviews & Ratings for
Anthony Adverse More at IMDbPro »

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Greatly Underrated on IMDb

Author: OldFilmLover from Canada
27 March 2016

I just watched the Warner Archive DVD-R of this movie last night. I want to say that it is a good movie and much underrated by the IMDb score of 6.6. It deserves at least a 7.6; I give it an 8.

It is beautifully filmed, the sets are gorgeous, and the cast of actors is stellar and does a good job with the material. Even the players with smaller roles are well-known actors, and they deliver their short moments with just the right emphasis. If you're an old film fan, you can't watch the movie without seeing a score of faces that you know and love.

The two main complaints I see here are that Fredric March is too old to play a convincing lover for De Havilland, and that the movie is somewhat pedestrian and dragging.

On the first point, yes, in some scenes the age difference in visible, but in others, March is made up to look younger than his biological age, and is convincing as a younger man. But the key thing is that March is *good* in the role. If you overlook the physical signs of his age, and concentrate on his characterization, delivery, etc., you can see he is acting thoughtfully, trying to do justice to his complex character. I think it's an excellent performance.

Pedestrian and dragged-out? Well, the film is long, as these epic-type films tend to be. Yet I did not find that my interest flagged. The film deals with years of the lives of these characters, and it needs to be long to get in all the complex background of European history and the changes in the lives of the characters (not to mention the important back-story of Anthony's birth).

One more thing: some commenters thought that Gale Sondergaard did little to earn her Oscar for this one. I thought she was very good. Normally she plays the sinister villainess in a very broad manner that telegraphs how evil and sinister she is; in fact, she was often hired because she was so good at that kind of thing (see her many Universal horror and mystery films). Here, she shows a bit of that sinister character, but underplays it greatly, to very good effect. She would never have earned an Oscar had she played the role in her heavy Universal style. I think it's the subtlest performance I've seen her give.

The sound on the Archives DVD-R is at first a tiny bit harsh, especially the booming orchestra with the grand Korngold score; this I noticed especially near the beginning of the film, and was worried it would spoil the film for me. However, the sound seemed to become a bit gentler about 10 or 15 minutes into the movie -- or maybe I just got used to it. But the volume of characters's speeches was definitely a bit uneven in the first few minutes. That happens, with movies this old. Perfect prints are rare, and DVDs reflect the imperfections. Overall, however, the DVD was quite watchable and the audio was clear and adequate.

I recommend this as a historical epic. Not one the greatest epics, to be sure, but quite a good one, and admirably executed. Maybe not a must-see, but certainly nothing you will regret seeing. I will watch it more than once, I think.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

The most underwhelming epic of all time

Author: MissSimonetta from United States
20 October 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Here is a film to rival most 1950s biblical extravaganzas in terms of sheer dullness. Anthony Adverse (1936) is a slow, stately epic with flat characters and trite melodrama. For all its lavishness and beautiful recreation of the late 18th century, it has no depth whatsoever.

Top notch actors like Frederic March, Olivia de Havilland, and Claude Rains are unable to give great performances due to being saddled with one dimensional figures whom the audience couldn't really care less about. March seems barely awake during most of his scenes. His character goes through what should have been interesting development, but in the finished product it never comes alive. De Havilland tries to make her character (an ingenue turned opera singer mistress to Napoleon) interesting, but the writing holds her back. Rains' hammy villain is fun, as is Gale Sondergaard's (though how that cartoony performance won an Oscar is beyond me), but they're not enough to save the story from being by-the-numbers dreck.

As previously mentioned, the costumes are gorgeous. The sets are large and teeming with detail. You can tell they worked really hard to bring the world of the novel to life, but all that money is for naught when the story is so boring. A definite skip.

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Author: joseph23006 from United States
12 July 2017

The book by Herve Allen, a Pittsburgher like myself, is an excellent read, and the movie sticks to the narrative closer than most films of the time did to their source material. However (there is always the 'however'), Warner Brothers only filmed 3/4 of the story, maybe 800 pages. Anthony goes to America and eventually dies by his own hand chopping down a tree. Had the whole story been filmed, it would have rivaled GWTW in length and in Academy Awards.

The imagery of a tree is the important element: subtle in the film, more defined in the book. The seed (under the code) is planted, it sprouts, it grows, it blossoms, it matures, then it dies. The constant is the Madonna in the cathedral shaped box.

The Korngold score is one of the greatest ever, operatic, underpinning each important word that is spoken, i.e. 'No father, no mother, no name!', but also communicates what the code at the time did not want movies to show.

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An opera with practically no music.

Author: mark.waltz from United States
26 November 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Everybody expected MGM to release big epic costume dramas, but Warner Brothers, the studio of Bogart, Cagney and EGR? Indeed, the studio who produced "The Petrified Forest" and "Bullets or Ballots" in 1936 also gave movie goers "The Charge of the Light Brigade", " The Story of Louis Pasteur" and a drama with Kay Francis playing Florence Nightingale. Their truly big film was this glorious costume drama that is as luscious looking as any of the big films that both Thalberg and Selznick were producing over at MGM.

Almost a Dickens theme, this epic costume drama takes its young hero from being dropped off as a baby at an orphan asylum to Cuba and Africa, working as a slave trader, and finally into the courts of Napoleon. Fredric March and Olivia de Havilland enter the scene 40 minutes into this nearly 2 1/2 film after a long prologue where Anthony's birth is explored as the son born to lovers Anita Louise and Louis Hayward and left to die after Louise's brutish husband, Claude Rains, kills Hayward. Later on, the 10 year old Anthony is made an apprentice in the household of his maternal grandfather and his birth circumstances become a scheme of intrigue involving the deliciously malevolent housekeeper Gale Sondergaard.

Telling more would spoil the surprises and give away too many important details. What can be said is that other than a few slow patches (mostly the African scenes), this is a fascinating saga that remind me if the novels by modern epic author John Jakes. This swept the Academy Awards with three technical Oscars and a well deserved Supporting performance for Miss Sondergaard. The cat-like Faith is a n opportunist of the most calculating kind, wisely teamed with the older Rains who gets a laugh in much like the invisible man. March and De Havilland are boring in comparison to these two.

Others who offer interesting characterizations include Henry O'Neill, Edmund Gwenn and Eily Malton. Billy Mauch is great as the 10 year old Anthony. Look quickly for Clara Blandick. It might be tempting to fast-forward through the middle section in Africa, but that is important to the story to explain Adverse's genesis as a character.

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Largely Forgotten

Author: utgard14 from USA
4 April 2014

"Epic" story of an orphan named Anthony Adverse who grows up and makes a series of bad choices that ultimately may cost him the woman he loves. Admittedly, that's an oversimplified summary. I haven't read the novel on which this movie is based. It was a huge best-seller during the Great Depression but has since been largely forgotten. If anyone ever needs proof that just because something is popular today doesn't mean it will stand the test of time, point to Anthony Adverse.

On its technical merits, it's a well-made film of its type and era. The score is excellent. The film's strongest asset is a truly exceptional cast. Fredric March and Olivia de Havilland are fine leads with wonderful support from the likes of Edmund Gwenn, Claude Rains, Gale Sondergaard, and many more. This was Sondergaard's film debut and she won the very first Best Supporting Actress Oscar for it. Some of the cast plays to the rafters but if you're a fan of '30s melodramas this probably won't bother you. Others beware. It's an overlong film but I can't say I ever lost interest in it. I do think they could have shortened the first twenty minutes that dealt with Anthony's parents and it wouldn't have hurt the movie any.

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CANDIDE--without the cannibalism . . .

Author: Edgar Allan Pooh from The Gutters of Baltimore
11 February 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

. . . and though no one is pigging out on "rump steak" in 1936 Oscars "Best Picture" nominee ANTHONY ADVERSE, it is very hard to understand that the book version of this European-based soap opera could have outsold every previous novel in history, including THE GREAT GATSBY. Other message boarders ask, "When's the remake coming out of ANTHONY ADVERSE?" IMHO, there will the at least two dozen more GATSBY remakes (including some in 4D, 5D, as well as musical and cannibal versions) before there's ever a remake of ANTHONY ADVERSE (in other words, when Hell freezes over). Does this mean ANTHONY ADVERSE is the worse or most boring film ever? Not by a long shot. However, ANTHONY ADVERSE is hopelessly dated now, in a way that GATSBY never will be. GATSBY always will epitomize the American Dream. ANTHONY ADVERSE, on the other hand, is all over the map. One minute the title character just wants to please a father figure, though he never writes him and doesn't realize "pops" has croaked for more than a year. The next minute Anthony's Gung Ho for fortune and power, and will do anything--no matter how vile--to achieve his ends. Moment's later Anthony's a love-sick puppy, but just as quickly he's willing to settle for Bio-descendants and nothing more. In summary, ANTHONY ADVERSE is a weather vane, buffeted by an unattractive amount of ill-wind.

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ANTHONY ADVERSE (Mervyn LeRoy &, uncredited, Michael Curtiz, 1936) ***

Author: MARIO GAUCI ( from Naxxar, Malta
10 February 2014

For several reasons, I had always wanted to check this one out but it took me this long (specifically, the current Oscar season) to get to it: for being an epic from Hollywood's golden age, its winning four Academy Awards (including the first given for Best Supporting Actress), but also for its baffling neglect over the years (it has not even been accorded a "Warner Archives Collection" MOD release, so that I have had to make do with an old VHS-to-DVD-to-DivX transfer!); besides, while Leslie Halliwell rated it just *, Leonard Maltin was far more generous with ***1/2…

Anyway, the plot-heavy film (adapted from the 1,200-page Hervey Allen bestseller) is encased in a beautiful production which, at the time, was the studio's longest and most expensive undertaking; it was even deemed important enough to have a behind-the-scenes documentary (certainly among the very first of its kind), ostentatiously called "The Making Of A Great Motion Picture", attached to it but which, sadly, is not available at this juncture! The cast list reads like a "Who's Who" of international talent, both in star roles and character parts: Fredric March, Olivia De Havilland, Claude Rains, Gale Sondergaard (winning an Oscar in her debut performance!), Edmund Gwenn, Anita Louise, Louis Hayward, Henry O'Neill, Donald Woods, Luis Alberni, Akim Tamiroff, J. Carroll Naish, etc.

While I admit that the narrative is not the most exciting ever conceived and is, unsurprisingly, quite contrived (not least washer-woman De Havilland's – bearing the hilarious surname of Guisseppi {sic} – outrageous fortune in becoming an operatic prima donna and Napoleon's current fling, renamed "Mademoiselle Georges"!), there is no doubt that everyone approaches it with the utmost commitment. The result is thus rendered a good-looking and superbly underscored ride which manages not to slip into tedium throughout; no wonder that all these virtues (courtesy of cinematographer Tony Gaudio, composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold and editor Ralph Dawson) were recognized by the Academy…though the music nod was actually given in Leo F. Forbstein's name, then Warners' Head Of (this) Department! For the record, it was also nominated for Best Picture (losing out to the even more inflated THE GREAT ZIEGFELD), Art Direction (the work of the renowned Anton Grot) and Assistant Direction (in one of only five years where this honour was bestowed).

Incidentally, even if this has the look of a typical Warners epic – especially those directed by Michael Curtiz (who, reportedly, lent a hand at some point during shooting) and starring Errol Flynn – the feel is very different, because it stresses characterization over action: nevertheless, we get a swordfight early on and slave-trading occupies a good part of its middle section! As for the curious presence of General Bonaparte (among those who tested for the part was Humphrey Bogart!), it is worth remembering that he also put in a similarly unlikely 'cameo' in Rafael Sabatini's "Scaramouche" (splendidly filmed twice, in 1923 and 1952)!

There is no point in going through its episodic structure, since it is so vast, or even its flaws: with respect to the latter, suffice to say that, while March (it takes him some time to find his feet here, but eventually settles down and rises to the occasion when required) and De Havilland's characters are supposed to be of comparable age, the stars' 19-year discrepancy does not come in the way of their on screen relationship (still, it does not lead to a happy ending!). Even better suited, however, are the two delightful villains of the piece i.e. Rains (who, upon learning that he has been left in charge of the illegitimate child of his deceased wife, gives the distinctive laugh that had stood him in good stead under the bandages of THE INVISIBLE MAN {1933} a thorough workout!) and Sondergaard; interestingly, too, neither gets a comeuppance here!

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Under-rated Epic, not Well-known

Author: scott-dix from United States
19 January 2013

Fredric March was quite a versatile actor, comedy, screwball comedy, epic drama, courtroom drama, period drama, great literature. The story is reminiscent of Les Miserables, the movie version in which he also played the lead role. I find it surprising that this film has not been remade, considering the countless renditions of Les Miserables there have been over the years. It is a sordid tale for the young, so would not recommend for children. The characters could use a bit more depth, but at 2 hours and 20 minutes, there is still a lot of ground to cover, in a 1300 page novel. It would be nice to see what was cut that did not make the final version.

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4 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Relic for Cinema's Treasure Chest

Author: harry-76 from Cleveland, Ohio USA
11 August 2001

Hervey Allen (1889-1949) spun quite an elaborate, sweeping 18th-19th century yarn in the form of a gigantic novel, published in 1933, called "Anthony Adverse." It became a best-seller, and three years later Warner Bros. brought it to the screen, directed by Mervyn LeRoy.

The film was very long, comprehensive, and romanitc, in Allen's quasi-Dumas-Dickens-Tolstoy style.

Heading the cast were four of the screen's finest actors, leading players Fredric March and Olivia de Havilland; and supporting character players Claude Rains and Gale Sondergaard.

Providing the musical score was the legendary Eric Wolfgang Korngold (with orchestrations by Hugo Friedhofer) and classic masque and operatic excerpts by Monteverdi and Francetti.

The 141-minute film today seems much longer than it is, as we follow Anthony's detailed "adventures" in Europe, Cuba, and Africa, with America targeted as a final future destination. The whole production, which was considered of blockbuster size in 1933 (and still looks impressive), emerges more like a historic relic that is occasionally pulled from a treasure cabinet, to observe and ponder.

The whole feel of the film now seems dated and out-of-fashion, but then that's what most memorabilia is. It's merely dusted it off, polished, felt for the moment, then replaced along side other treasured pieces from the past.

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5 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Hollywood politics as usual

Author: cstotlar from Milwaukee, WI
1 August 2007

I rented a tape of Anthony Adverse mainly to see what kind of performance the Academy was looking for in the first-awarded "best supporting actress" category. Gale Sondergaard's time on camera was actually quite brief and her villainous role required a strictly one-dimensional reading. There were no subtleties whatsoever, nor was there any need in the film for them. Ordinarily, it might seem surprising that her part would receive any attention at all, not to mention a prestigious award, but keeping in mind that Oscars in those days were to a large extent self-congratulatory spectacles passed around from studio to studio year by year, it really isn't surprising.

The film was long and episodic, as was the novel, and not particularly good at that. There was the glitz we've come to expect of course with the duels and chases thrown in for good measure. I kept wondering if the novel was written with Hollywood in mind. It's hardly readable nowadays. As far as directorial touches are concerned, it's no wonder that Mervyn LeRoy has long disappeared from anyone's pantheon. The kiddie-car version of France must have excited the Depression audiences. The film is very long and very expensive so perhaps there's something to say about that.

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