Saturday, June 22, 2013

More versions of Les Misérables than there are Frenchmen

TCM is running a night of movies about people with obsessions, or at least half a night since the programming has to end before TCM Underground begins. Anyhow, the final movie is the 1935 version of Les Misérables, overnight at 12:15 AM.

You know the story. Jean Valjean (played here by Fredric March) gets sentenced to four years for stealing a loaf of bread during the French Revolution, and another 15 years for escape attempts. Eventually he does escape and tries to make a life for himself, but he's constantly pursued by the relentless Inspector Javert (Charles Laughton), because, well, the law is the law. In one of Valjean's attempts at living a quite life, he meets Fantine and becomes foster father to her daughter Cosette (Rochelle Hudson). There's a lot more, since the original novel goes on for a thousand pages or so depending on the size of the type the publisher is using. There's no way any movie can get everything in the book in. One thing that's not in this version is the songs, since this was made well before the musical.

It probably shouldn't be a surprise just how many versions of Les Misérables there are. Fox made tonight's version back in 1935, and then remade it in the early 1950s with Michael Rennie as Valjean, Robert Newton as Javert, and Debra Paget as Cosette. The story has famously been turned into the musical, which itself was made as a movie last year. And then there are the French-language versions; after all, the original novel was written in French.

TCM says you can buy Les Misérables from the TCM shop, or at least has the "purchase" icon next to the title in today's schedule. Indeed, the 1935 version has received a DVD release as part of a set with the 1952 version. However, what the TCM shop is offering instead of the 1935 version is a box set of the films of French director Raymond Bernard, which includes his 1934 version of Les Misérables. And I've only scratched the surface of movie versions of this story: anybody up for a 1943 Mexican version?

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