Monsieur Verdoux (1947) - Rotten Tomatoes

Monsieur Verdoux (1947)

Monsieur Verdoux



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Movie Info

"Von Clausewitz said that war is the logical extension of diplomacy; Monsieur Verdoux feels that murder is the logical extension of business." With his controversial "comedy of murders" Monsieur Verdoux, Charles Chaplin makes his final, definitive break with the Little Tramp character that had brought him fame and fortune. Verdoux (Chaplin), a mild-mannered family man of pre-war France, has hit upon a novel method of supporting his loved ones. He periodically heads out of town, assumes an alias, marries a foolish, wealthy woman, then murders her for the insurance money. He does this thirteen times with success, but wife #14, brassy Martha Raye, proves impossible to kill (nor does she ever suspect what Verdoux has in mind for her). A subplot develops when Verdoux, planning to test a new poison, chooses streetwalker Marilyn Nash as his guinea pig. She tells him so sad a life story that Verdoux takes pity on her, gives her some money, and sends her on her way. Years later, the widowed and impoverished Verdoux meets Nash once more; now she is the mistress of a munitions magnate. This ironic twist sets the stage for the finale, when Verdoux, finally arrested for his crimes and on trial for his life, gently argues in his own defense that he is an "amateur" by comparison to those profiteers who build weapons for war. "It's all business. One murder makes a villain. Millions, a hero. Numbers sanctify..." Sentenced to death, Verdoux remains calmly philosophical to the end. As the condemned man walks to the guillotine, a priest prays for God to have mercy on Verdoux's soul. "Why not?" replies Verdoux jauntily. "After all, it belongs to him." The original idea of Monsieur Verdoux originated with Orson Welles, who'd wanted to make a picture about notorious modern "Bluebeard" Landru. Welles wanted to cast Chaplin in the lead; Chaplin liked the idea, but preferred to direct himself, as he'd been doing since 1914. It is possible that Chaplin might have gotten away with the audacious notion of presenting a cold-blood murderer as a sympathetic, almost lovable figure. Alas, Monsieur Verdoux was released at a time when Chaplin was under a political cloud for his allegedly Communistic philosophy; too, it came out shortly after a well-publicized paternity suit involving Chaplin and Joan Barry. Picketed in several communities, banned outright in others, Monsieur Verdoux was Chaplin's first financial flop. Today, it can be seen to be years ahead of its time in terms of concept, even though the execution is old-fashioned and occasionally wearisome. Monsieur Verdoux doesn't always hit the bull's-eye, but it remains one of Charles Chaplin's most fascinating projects.more
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama, Classics, Comedy, Special Interest
Directed By:
Written By: Orson Welles, Charles Chaplin
In Theaters:
On DVD: May 16, 2000
Criterion Collection


Charles Chaplin
as Henri Verdoux
Martha Raye
as Annabella Bonheur
Isobel Elsom
as Marie Grosnay
Mady Correll
as Mona Verdoux
Allison Roddan
as Peter Verdoux, Thei...
Robert Lewis
as Maurice Bottello
Audrey Betz
as Martha Bottello
Ada May
as Annette
Marjorie Bennett
as Marie's Maid
Margaret Hoffman
as Lydia Floray
Irving Bacon
as Pierre Couvais
Edwin Mills
as Jean Couvais
Almira Sessions
as Lena Couvais
Virginia Brissac
as Carlotta Couvais
Bernard Nedell
as Prefect of Police
Charles Evans
as Detective Morrow
Arthur Hohl
as Real Estate Agent
Eddie Mills
as Jean Couvais
John Harmon
as Joe Darwin
Vera Marshe
as Mrs. Darwin
William Frawley
as Jean La Salle
Fred Karno
as Mr. Karno
Barry Norton
as Wedding Guest
Edna Purviance
as Extra at Wedding Par...
Pierre Watkin
as Prison Official
Franklin Farnum
as Victim of the Crash
Addison Richards
as Bank Manager
James Craven
as Annabella's Friend
Franklyn Farnum
as Victim of the Crash
Herb Vigran
as Reporter
Boyd Irwin
as Prison Official
Paul Newlan
as Wedding Guest
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Monsieur Verdoux

Critic Reviews for Monsieur Verdoux

All Critics (32) | Top Critics (9)

Perfection? Arguably not; Verdoux has clunky moments and some flat casting, but with an able assist from the great comedian Martha Raye, Chaplin's latter-day greatness is readily apparent.

Full Review… | July 11, 2008
Seattle Times
Top Critic

In its uncanny depiction of a weakling whose crimes pale against those of the war-mad society around him, it's a near masterpiece.

Full Review… | June 9, 2008
New York Magazine/Vulture
Top Critic

Chaplin generates little sympathy. His broad-mannered antics, as a many-aliased fop on the make for impressionable matrons.

Full Review… | May 13, 2008
Top Critic

Shapes up as Chaplin's most startling, most invigorating movie: its icy temperature is positively bracing after the hot syrup of his earlier work.

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

An engrossingly wry and paradoxical film, screamingly funny in places, sentimental in others, sometimes slow and devoted to an unusually serious and sobering argument.

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

The film's cynical vision is as lucid as it is unrelenting.

Full Review… | May 22, 2013
Movie Metropolis

Audience Reviews for Monsieur Verdoux

Except for one touching moment and a hilarious poisoning scene, this uneven "comedy of murders" is of extreme bad taste and has a serious problem in structure and tone - placing a putrid character in such a sloppy attempt at a commentary.

Carlos Magalh„es

Super Reviewer

The greatest comedian of all time finally leaves behind 'The Tramp' the character that made him famous, and here plays a serial killer, a very affable and charming one, though.
A gem of black comedy, in which Chaplin showed a little wickedness, without abandoning his social commentary nor his sentimentality.
He easily proves why murder can be also a laughing matter.

Pierluigi Puccini

Super Reviewer

This reminded me a lot of Kind Hearts and Coronets, where the murder attempts are just so hilariously wicked you overlook the immorality of it all (seriously, that boat scene between Chaplin and Raye was PRICELESS) and the killer is seemingly unremorseful all the way to the end. But of course between Alec Guinness and Charlie Chaplin, I vastly prefer the latter. I'm sorry, Alec, but you don't hold a candle to Chaplin's supreme wit. Chaplin takes what could've been a very macabre and depressing subject (ok, seriously, it's Orson Welles) and turns it into a riot. Monsieur Verdoux, you are my hero.

Jennifer Xu

Super Reviewer

Monsieur Verdoux Quotes

– Submitted by Ariel U (3 years ago)

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