Les Miserables
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FAQ Contents

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

Ex-convict Jean Valjean (Michael Rennie), released from prison after 10 years serving in the galleys for stealing a loaf of bread to feed the five starving children of his friend's family, is given 44 francs, a yellow passport, and sent out into a society that will have no part of him. While searching for food and a place to sleep, he chances upon a kindly bishop who inspires him to 'give...not take.' Valjean decides to break his parole and create a new life, raising himself from unwanted convict to the mayor of Montreuil, distinguished by his charitable works, e.g., his attempts to re-unite the dying Fantine (Sylvia Sidney) with her young daughter Cosette (Debra Paget). Unfortunately, police inspector Etienne Javert (Robert Newton) learns of his whereabouts and vows to relentlessly track him down for his parole violation and return him to the galleys for the rest of his life.

This film is a remake of Les Misérables (1935), both of which are based on the novel Les Misrables (1862) by French writer Victor Hugo. The book is considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th century, such that it has inspired a long-running stage musical and at least a dozen films. The screenplay for this movie was written by American screenwriter Richard Murphy..

The film opens in 1800 as Valjean is being sentenced to the galleys. It spans the time period from 1800 to 1832.

No cause is given, not even in the novel. Based on the symptoms and time period, it might be presumed to have been tuberculosis. Another possibility is pneumonia.

The movie depicts what has been called the June Rebellion aka the 'Uprising of 1832,' when a large group of Parisian Republicans consisting mostly of working class and students staged an insurgency against the French monarchy, which was then headed by Louis Philippe I. Protesting against poor working conditions and bad economic conditions, they barricaded the streets and held out for two days (June 5-6) until the national guard and thousands of soldiers broke through the barricades, killed hundreds of the insurgents, and effectively ended the uprising.

Jean risks his life to carry the wounded Marius (Cameron Mitchell) through the Paris sewers back to Cosette. Unfortunately, Javert follows him and vows to take Jean into custody but does agree to allow him a few moments to call for a doctor and to say goodbye to Cosette. However, when Jean goes out to submit to Javert. he finds that Javert has left the house and is walking down the street. Jean follows him and is horrified to see Javert jump into the Seine and drown himself.

Earlier in the movie, Javert vowed to uphold the laws of France but also admitted that, were he to search for evil where none exists, he would be guilty of a personal immorality. Consequently, most viewers conclude that Javert, driven by the belief that the law was always correct, could not reconcile this belief with the compassion he felt for Jean's love and sacrifice for Cosette and Marius and that, believing he had committed the ultimate betrayal to his code of ethics, had no choice but to kill himself.


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