Les Misérables (1934)





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Les Miserables is perhaps the most frequently filmed novel in screen history. This 1933 French version of the Victor Hugo classic is the most epic in proportion, though the human elements of the story are kept in sharp focus by director Raymond Bernard and star Harry Baur. Baur plays Jean Valjean, an essentially decent man imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread and transformed into a dehumanized outlaw. His faith in humanity restored by the kindliness of a bishop (Henry Krauss), Valjean goes to a small village to start life anew, but is pursued throughout his life for breaking parole by relentless police officer Javert (Charles Vanel). The various stages of Valjean's life--from convict to businessman to elderly martyr--were bounded by the film's original three-part structure. Part one, Tempete sous un Crane, ran two hours; part two, Les Thenardiers, was 90 minutes; and part three, Liberte, Liberté Cherie clocked in at 95. The American version of Les Miserables was spliced down to 165 minutes, with all three parts combined into one, then was withdrawn to avoid competition with 20th Century Pictures' 1935 Les Miserables. Years later, director Bernard himself pared down his film to two parts: Jean Valjean (109 minutes), and Cosette (100 minutes, with Josseline Gael in the title role). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Art House & International , Classics , Drama
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Harry Baur
as Jean Valjean
Charles Vanel
as Javert
Charles Dullin
as Thenardier
Marguerite Moreno
as Mme. Thenardier
Jean Servais
as Marius
Josseline Gaël
as Cosette as an Adult
Emile Genevois
as Gavroche
Henry Krauss
as Bishop Myriel
Max Dearly
as Gillenormand
Robert Vidalin
as Enjolras
Orane Demazis
as Eponine
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Critic Reviews for Les Misérables

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Audience Reviews for Les Misérables

"Les Miserables" starts with Jean Valjean(Henry Baur) being released from prison after 19 years of hard labor for stealing a loaf of bread, resisting arrest and four escape attempts. The catch is his yellow passport which means he has to check in with every locality he passes through and guarantees he will be shunned by every inn along the way. The exception is Monseigneur Myriel(Henry Krauss) who even forgives Valjean for his attempted theft, throwing in a couple of silver candlesticks in the bargain. In response, Valjean decides to turn his life around, becoming a civic leader and owner of a factory where Fantine(Florelle), a single mother, works. I have only previously seen the 1998 adaptation of Victor Hugo's classic novel, so I am not really an expert on the material. At the very least, this early French language version is different than I was expecting, not least because Baur actually looks like somebody who might have been in prison, not a Hollywood casting call. Some things are familiar, like the singing in this non-musical version. However, in making an epic movie, it takes the idea of sprawling storytelling too far, leaving its main character off the screen for long periods of time, and only giving sporadic glimpses of Inspector Javert(Charles Vanel), making me wonder what the big deal was all about in the first place. A spectacular running battle which takes up most of the third part is only symptomatic in general of scenes that go on too long. And as much history is here, there is just as much melodrama. Sadly, poverty and the suffering of those just released from prison are still very much endemic to society.

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

That is my wish. A head stone. No name. In 19th century France the top is about to burst for the people and the revolution is about to occur. Les Mierables tells the tale of one convict who breaks parole to start a new life for his people. He ultimately adopts a young girl and tries raising her the best way he knows how; unfortunately, a dedicated police officer will stop at nothing to bring him in for breaking parole. "How do you know I'm not a murderer?" "That's the lord's concern." Raymond Bernard, director of Wooden Crosses, The Chess Player, Seventh Heaven, Fruits of Summer, Maya, Judgment of God, and The Cape of Hope, delivers Les Miserables. The storyline for this picture is very good and each character is delivered and developed perfectly. The cast delivers awesome performances and includes Harry Bauer, Charles Vanel, Paul Azais, and Charles Dullin. "You're free. Your shoulders earned that." Turner Classic Movies (TCM) aired the 1934, 1935, and 1956 versions of this film in honor of the recent released picture. I have seen this year's (2012) and 1935 version of this picture and would say this is my least favorite so far (and the 1935 version is my favorite). Overall, this version of the film has the best character development (and longest run time, 4 hours and 45 minutes) but was a bit too methodical and detailed. I loved the film but would rank it just a notch below this year's version. "So even monkeys catch colds." Grade: B+ (8.25)

Kevin Robbins
Kevin Robbins

Fantastically faithful adaptation. (The above running time is incorrect; this version actually runs 4 hr. 42 min.)

Michael Troudt
Michael Troudt

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