Tag Archives: Claude Rains

The 1943 PotO Plot Twist That Almost Happened

As the title should make you realize, we’ve got anotherĀ Phantom of the Opera post on our hands. Strap yourselves in.

I’ve mentioned before that one of my favoriteĀ Phantom adaptations is the 1943 movie with Claude Rains–despite its numerous departures from the book, it still manages to tell a good story (and Claude Rains gave a good performance to boot). But there was one change it almost made that would have drastically altered the story.

To be honest, I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m going to talk about it again. When Universal was first working on this movie, they had the idea to make Erique the long-lost father of Christine. The backstory here was that Erique had abandoned his wife and daughter in order to pursue his dream career as a violinist at the Paris Opera House. Part of him, however, always felt guilty for abandoning his family, and when Christine came to the opera house as a singer, Erique recognized his daughter and sought to help her pursue her dream as a roundabout way of making up for abandoning her as a child. Of course, he had to do this secretly since he couldn’t just go up to her and say, “Hi, I’m the dad who abandoned you and your mother to go off and pursue my selfish desires; sorry about that.” The studio censors ultimately put the nix on that angle because they felt the Phantom’s growing obsession with Christine would start to make the relationship seem more incestuous than paternal.

Here’s the thing, though–if you watch the movie with the view that Erique is Christine’s father, there isn’t anything that really jumps out as incestuous. In fact, there are a few suggestions during the course of the movie that what the Phantom feels for Christine is not romantic at all. He denies to Christine’s tutor that he is secretly paying for her lessons because he is in love with her, and when he’s leading her to the underground lair, he’s speaking as if to soothe a frightened child. When people figured out that Erique was the Phantom, they all assumed that his interest in Christine was due to being obsessively in love with her, but imagine the shock and surprise that would have been on their faces had they learned the Phantom was terrorizing the opera house in order to make his daughter the star he knew she could be.

I think one of the biggest clues they were going to use for this reveal is that Erique knew the lullaby Christine had heard in her childhood. They way they eventually explained it in the movie was that Erique had come from the same area in France as Christine, and lots of people there probably knew that lullaby. I always thought this was a lame explanation, but the writers probably had to come up with something at the last minute after the “I am your father” storyline was retconned.

All in all, I think it was a shame they ultimately didn’t go this route–it definitely would have made for an interesting twist that you don’t see in otherĀ Phantom adaptations. And, frankly, they had already deviated so wildly from the book that it wouldn’t have made any difference.

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Looking for Something to Write About, Decided to Compare Versions of “The Phantom of the Opera”

I think the post title is pretty self-explanatory, don’t you? The Phantom of the Opera has long been one of my favorite novels, and I’ve wound up seeing about four different film versions of it (although there have been plenty more)–the original silent version with Lon Chaney, Sr., the 1940’s version with Claude Rains, the 2004 based-off-the-Broadway-play version with Gerard Butler (oh, gosh, I wish I hadn’t seen this one so very, very badly), and the 2011 commemoration-of-the-25th-anniversary-of-the-Broadway-play version with Ramin Karimloo (technically it was an official performance at the Royal Albert Hall, but I’m counting it anyway because Ramin Karimloo sings loads better than Gerard Butler. Sorry, but it’s true). Each version brought something a little different to the table, so I decided to write about it. Having a blog is so much fun!

1925: Lon Chaney, Sr., Mary Philbin, and Norman Kerry

This is the very first film adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera, and in many ways it is responsible for putting Universal Studios on the map as a leader in horror movies, so Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Dracula, and a host of others owe something to The Phantom of the Opera. This is a remarkable adaptation for several reasons.

  1. It is the closest I have ever seen any adaptation stick to the movie. Yes, it still took an awful lot of liberties, but most of the story remained the same.
  2. It’s got the Persian, a character who somehow got left out of all the other movies. I’ve never been happy about that because of how important he is. Perhaps the importance of his presence would be a good topic for another post.
  3. For not utilizing sound, Lon Chaney does a remarkable version of conveying emotion. One minute he’s got you cowering, and the next you’re pitying him because he is something of a pitiable character. Like in the book, this pitiable state makes it difficult to completely despise Erik (the Phantom). I can see why Chaney is considered a master of the silent film era; he’s good. There are no other words to describe his masterful portrayal of the tortured genius dwelling five levels below ground.

1943: Claude Rains, Susannah Foster, and Nelson Eddy

This is a more…quirky version of the book. It’s waaayyy off from the book; all of the French people sound either American or British, and someone please get Nelson Eddy to stop singing! However, I like this version because Claude Rains was an interesting Phantom to watch. Unlike the book and silent film, Erik was disfigured in an accident. Originally he was a mild-mannered violinist at the Paris Opera, but when he thought his concerto had been plagiarized, he snapped. Like a twig. It’s always the quiet ones you have to watch out for…

2004: Gerard Butler, Emmy Rossum, and Patrick Wilson

This is different from the previous two films in that it is based on the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, which was based on the original novel. The musical is the longest-running play on Broadway, yet after watching this, I wondered why. Oh, my, my list of complaints against this are too numerous to list here. Another post, perhaps…in the meantime, just watch. I apologize to your eardrums.

2011: Ramin Karimloo, Sierra Boggess, and Hadley Fraser

And this is where I learned to love the musical. Better singing and acting than the 2004 movie made this incredible to watch. Another plus for this version: Hadley Fraser’s performance as Raoul. In all the versions I have seen, Raoul has never been a very strong character; consequently, I have not liked him much. However, Hadley Fraser really stepped up to the plate in this version; it was easy to see why Erik felt threatened by Raoul. And Fraser wasn’t the only one to give a stellar performance. Sierra Boggess made those superhuman notes seem absurdly easy to hit, and as for Ramin Karimloo…he *was* the Phantom of the Opera.

That’s all for now–and I even got ideas for other posts later…the importance of the Persian and why I really don’t like the 2004 movie. Will I ever get around to writing them? Time will tell.

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