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In late 18th century Italy, a beautiful young woman finds herself married to a rich but cruel older man. However, she is in love with another, younger man. When the husband finds out, he kills the lover in a swordfight, and takes his wife on a long trip throughout Europe. Months later, she dies giving birth to a son. The husband leaves the child at a convent, where he is raised until the age of 10; then he is apprenticed to a local merchant, who gives him the name "Anthony Adverse" because of the adversity in his life. But his adversity has only begun, as fate takes him to Cuba, Africa, and Paris. Written by
John Oswalt <email@example.com>
I just watched the Warner Archive DVD-R of this movie last night. I want to say that it is a good movie and much underrated by the IMDb score of 6.6. It deserves at least a 7.6; I give it an 8.
It is beautifully filmed, the sets are gorgeous, and the cast of actors is stellar and does a good job with the material. Even the players with smaller roles are well-known actors, and they deliver their short moments with just the right emphasis. If you're an old film fan, you can't watch the movie without seeing a score of faces that you know and love.
The two main complaints I see here are that Fredric March is too old to play a convincing lover for De Havilland, and that the movie is somewhat pedestrian and dragging.
On the first point, yes, in some scenes the age difference in visible, but in others, March is made up to look younger than his biological age, and is convincing as a younger man. But the key thing is that March is *good* in the role. If you overlook the physical signs of his age, and concentrate on his characterization, delivery, etc., you can see he is acting thoughtfully, trying to do justice to his complex character. I think it's an excellent performance.
Pedestrian and dragged-out? Well, the film is long, as these epic-type films tend to be. Yet I did not find that my interest flagged. The film deals with years of the lives of these characters, and it needs to be long to get in all the complex background of European history and the changes in the lives of the characters (not to mention the important back-story of Anthony's birth).
One more thing: some commenters thought that Gale Sondergaard did little to earn her Oscar for this one. I thought she was very good. Normally she plays the sinister villainess in a very broad manner that telegraphs how evil and sinister she is; in fact, she was often hired because she was so good at that kind of thing (see her many Universal horror and mystery films). Here, she shows a bit of that sinister character, but underplays it greatly, to very good effect. She would never have earned an Oscar had she played the role in her heavy Universal style. I think it's the subtlest performance I've seen her give.
The sound on the Archives DVD-R is at first a tiny bit harsh, especially the booming orchestra with the grand Korngold score; this I noticed especially near the beginning of the film, and was worried it would spoil the film for me. However, the sound seemed to become a bit gentler about 10 or 15 minutes into the movie -- or maybe I just got used to it. But the volume of characters's speeches was definitely a bit uneven in the first few minutes. That happens, with movies this old. Perfect prints are rare, and DVDs reflect the imperfections. Overall, however, the DVD was quite watchable and the audio was clear and adequate.
I recommend this as a historical epic. Not one the greatest epics, to be sure, but quite a good one, and admirably executed. Maybe not a must-see, but certainly nothing you will regret seeing. I will watch it more than once, I think.
3 of 4 people found this review helpful.
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