AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Les Miserables
Alternate Title: Jean Valjean
Director: Lewis Milestone (Dir)
Release Date:   Aug 1952
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 14 Aug 1952
Production Date:   26 Dec 1951--mid-Feb 1952
Duration (in mins):   104-105
Duration (in feet):   9,496
Duration (in reels):   11
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Cast:   Michael Rennie (Jean Valjean, also known as Monsieur Madeleine/Champmathieu)  
    Debra Paget (Cosette)  
    Robert Newton (Etienne Javert)  
    Edmund Gwenn (Bishop Courbet)  
    Sylvia Sidney (Fantine)  
    Cameron Mitchell (Marius)  
    Elsa Lanchester (Madame Magloire)  
    James Robertson Justice (Robert)  
    Joseph Wiseman (Genflou)  
    Rhys Williams (Brevet)  
    Florence Bates (Madame Bonnet)  
    Guy Miali (Pottery worker)  
    Jack Reitzen (Henri)  
    James Craven (Vero)  
    Herbert Deans (French officer)  
    Alfred Linder (Genet)  
    Merry Anders (Cicely)  
    John Rogers (Bonnet)  
    Charles Keane (Corporal)  
    John Dierkes (Bosun)  
    John Costello (Cochepaille)  
    Norma Varden (Mademoiselle Courbet)  
    William Cottrell (Dupuy)  
    Queenie Leonard (Valjean's maid)  
    Bobby Hyatt (Gavroche)  
    Sanders Clark (Lieutenant)  
    Lewis L. Russell (Waiter)  
    Sean McClory (Bamatabois)  
    John O'Malley (Worker)  
    Leslie Denison (Mounted policeman)  
    Alex Frazer (Silversmith)  
    June Hillman (Mother Superior)  
    Jack Raine (Captain)  
    John Sherman (Town corporal)  
    Dayton Lummis (Defense lawyer)  
    Lester Matthews (Mentou, Sr.)  
    Jimmie Moss (Jacques Mentou)  
    Ian Wolfe (Presiding judge)  
    Victor Wood (Prosecutor)  
    Robert Adler (Valjean's coachman)  
    Olaf Hytton (Judge)  
    Stanley Logan (Judge)  
    Frank Baker (Judge)  
    Michael Granger (Policeman)  
    Jerry Miley (Policeman)  
    Jack Baston (Policeman)  
    Mary Forbes (Nun)  
    Jean Vachon (Nun)  
    Moyna MacGill (Nun)  
    A. Cameron Grant (Baker)  
    Tudor Owen (Citizen)  
    Leonard Carey (Citizen)  
    William Dalzell (Citizen)  
    Trevor Ward (Clerk)  
    Benita Booth (Mother)  
    George Cooper (Student)  
    Charlotte Austin (Student)  
    Charles FitzSimons (Student)  
    Roger Anderson (Revolutionary)  
    Victor Rimito    

Summary: In the mid-1800s, French peasant Jean Valjean is sentenced to ten years aboard a prison ship for stealing a loaf of bread. During his torturous imprisonment, Valjean is taught to read by fellow inmate Genflou, who encourages him to develop his mind. One day, the ship nearly founders during a storm, and the immensely strong Valjean frees a prisoner trapped beneath a beam. Valjean's act of mercy is noticed by guard Etienne Javert, who is so dedicated to the law that he enforces all regulations without question. Soon after, Valjean is paroled, although he is upset to receive a yellow passport, which brands him as a convict. Unable to obtain shelter, Valjean walks for miles before finally stopping at the home of Bishop Courbet and his sister. The gentle bishop assures Valjean that he is a good man despite his past, and that he should not be so fearful and cynical. Despite the generous treatment he receives, Valjean steals the bishop's silver plates before disappearing the next morning. Valjean is captured by the police, however, and is stunned when the bishop claims to have given the plates to him as a gift. Bishop Courbet also gives Valjean his silver candlesticks and instructs him to always act with similar kindness. Valjean then pawns the plates in the village of Morvin, where he stops a runaway wagon and saves the life of a small boy. Valjean is amazed by the acclaim he receives, and while talking with the boy's grandfather, learns that a small pottery shop is for sale. Although he knows that he will be violating his parole by not going to Orleans, where he is to report to the police, Valjean buys the shop and settles in Morvin. During the next six years, Valjean, who keeps his past a secret and goes by the name Monsieur Madeleine, becomes a successful and well-loved businessman. Robert, the foreman of Valjean's pottery factory, is aware of his friend's history but nonetheless urges him to comply with the townspeople's request that he become Morvin's mayor. Valjean agrees and soon after, the newly chartered city is sent a police inspector. Valjean is horrified to see that his new underling is Javert, but Javert does not seem to recognize the former convict. Shortly after his arrival, Javert arrests a prostitute named Fantine and will not listen to her pleas that she must provide for her small daughter, who is being cared for by an innkeeper. Valjean, who witnessed Fantine's arrest, arrives at the jail and orders her released when she accuses him of being responsible for her misfortune, as she was fired from his factory after it was discovered that she had an illegitimate child. Valjean brings Cosette, Fantine's daughter, to Morvin to visit her gravely ill mother, but his attention is diverted when Javert announces that he is testifying in the case of a parole violator named Jean Valjean. Stunned, Valjean goes to the courtroom, where a simple-minded old man named Champmathieu is identified as Valjean by several of his former comrades. Unable to see an innocent man suffer, Valjean reveals his identity to the court, and Javert, who had recognized his old prisoner, smiles in triumph. Valjean returns to Morvin to settle his affairs, and promises Fantine that Cosette will always be protected. Javert interrupts his tender proclamation, however, and when the inspector's revelation about Valjean's identity causes Fantine to die from shock, the infuriated Valjean throttles him until he loses consciousness. With Robert's help, Valjean and Cosette escape to a convent on the outskirts of Paris. There, Valjean enrolls Cosette in school and spends the next few years as the convent's gardener. Cosette excels at her studies and grows up to be a lovely young woman who is devoted to Valjean. One day, Marius, a law student embroiled in the revolution, is injured during a demonstration and evades his pursuers by leaping over the convent walls. Valjean briefly hides Marius, and the young man and Cosette are instantly attracted to each other. Fearing that Marius might draw the police's attention to him, Valjean withdraws Cosette from school and takes her to Paris, where Robert, who has guarded Valjean's fortune, helps them to buy a home. Although she is thrilled to be in Paris, Cosette longs for Marius and soon begins seeing him. Cosette, who is aware of Valjean's past, forbids Marius to seek his permission for them to marry, while Valjean decides that he must go to England to avoid the police spies following Marius. Cosette pledges to accompany Valjean, and when Marius confronts them, she tells him that she is leaving the country. Marius accuses Valjean of being in love with Cosette himself, then returns to the barricade erected by the revolutionaries in a town square. Meanwhile, Javert, who has been promoted to a position in Paris, prepares to accompany the king's militia in an assault on the barricade. That night, Valjean intercepts a note from Marius to Cosette, begging her not to sacrifice herself to Valjean's selfishness, and Valjean hurries to the barricade. There, Valjean assures Marius that he loves Cosette only as a father and gives his blessing to their marriage, but Marius refuses to leave his comrades. Just then, Javert, who has been captured, is brought before Marius, and Valjean persuades him to let him deal with the police inspector himself. Although Javert threatens to continue hunting Valjean, Valjean sets him free. Valjean then rescues the wounded Marius, and in order to avoid the battle, carries him through the sewers. Javert follows them to Valjean's house, however, and there places Marius and Valjean under arrest. Javert refuses Valjean's pleas to send for a doctor, but is still strongly moved by Valjean's bitter declaration that Bishop Courbet was wrong when he said that even the most despicable of men have good in them. Javert then accepts Valjean's word that he will surrender peacefully if a doctor is called, and Robert taunts the policeman about accepting the word of honor of a convict. Deeply disturbed, Javert leaves the house, and Valjean follows but cannot stop him from committing suicide by throwing himself into the river. Valjean then returns home, where a doctor and Cosette tend to the recovering Marius. 

Production Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Distribution Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Director: Lewis Milestone (Dir)
  Gerd Oswald (Asst dir)
  Stanley Hough (Asst dir)
  Serge Bertensson (Dial dir)
Producer: Fred Kohlmar (Prod)
Writer: Richard Murphy (Scr)
Photography: Joseph LaShelle (Dir of photog)
  James Mitchell (Stills)
Art Direction: Lyle Wheeler (Art dir)
  J. Russell Spencer (Art dir)
Film Editor: Hugh Fowler (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Thomas Little (Set dec)
  Walter M. Scott (Set dec)
  Don Greenwood (Props)
Costumes: Charles LeMaire (Ward dir)
  Dorothy Jeakins (Cost des)
  Morris Harmell (Men's ward)
  Margaret Warren (Women's ward)
Music: Alfred Newman (Mus dir)
  Alex North (Mus)
  Edward Powell (Orch)
Sound: Arthur L. Kirbach (Sd)
  Roger Heman (Sd)
Special Effects: Ray Kellogg (Spec photog eff)
Make Up: Ben Nye (Makeup artist)
Production Misc: R. L. Hough (Unit prod mgr)
  W. G. Eckhardt (Asst prod mgr)
  Stanley Scheuer (Scr supv)
  Walter Whaley (Unit casting dir)
  Noel Howard (Tech adv)
  Father John Devlin (Tech adv)
  Glen Lukens (Tech adv)
Country: United States
Language: English

Source Text: Based on the novel Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (Paris, 1865).
Authors: Victor Hugo

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. 14/8/1952 dd/mm/yyyy LP1903

PCA NO: 15804
Physical Properties: Sd: Western Electric Recording
  b&w:

 
Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Historical
 
Subjects (Major): Ex-convicts
  France--History--Revolution, 1789-1799
  Justice
  Law and order
  Police inspectors
  Transformation
  Wards and guardians
 
Subjects (Minor): Bishops
  Candlesticks
  Charity
  Convents
  Factories
  Feats of strength
  Friendship
  Gardeners
  Law students
  Mayors
  Mistaken identity
  Orphans
  Paris (France)
  Passports
  Pottery
  Prostitution
  Romance
  Romeo and Juliet (Play)
  Sewers
  Ships
  Suicide
  Trials
  Wealth

Note: The title card of this film reads: "Twentieth Century-Fox presents Victor Hugo's Les Miserables ." The working title of the film was Jean Valjean . On 20 Jul 1951, LAEx reported that Jeff Chandler would be starring as "Jean Valjean" and James Mason would play "Javert." According to Aug 1951 conference notes contained in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection, located at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library, Mason refused the role, and producer Darryl F. Zanuck suggested Orson Welles for Javert. Zanuck also suggested that along with Lewis Milestone, Henry King and Roy Baker be considered to direct the picture.
       Although contemporary reviews include Patsy Weil as "Cosette at age seven" in the cast, her part was cut from the finished film. HR news items include the following actors in the cast, although their appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed: Max Wagner, John Raven, Howard Davis, Emmett "Kid" Wagner, Michael Tellegen, Harry Mayo, Kit Carson and Nick Thompson.
       On 22 Dec 1952, Robert Newton and Debra Paget reprised their roles for a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast of the story, which starred Ronald Colman as Valjean. There have been many film versions of Victor Hugo's Les Miserables , including a four-part series produced by Vitagraph in 1909; a 1917 Fox Film Corp. production directed by Frank Lloyd and starring William Farnum (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20 ); a 1934 French production starring Harry Baur and Charles Vanel and directed by Raymond Bernard; a 1935 20th Century Pictures production directed by Richard Boleslawski and starring Fredric March and Charles Laughton (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ); a 1944 Mexican production directed by Fernando Rivero and starring Dominugo Soler and Antonio Bravo; a 1978 television film starring Richard Jordan and Anthony Perkins; a 1995 French production directed by Claude Lelouch and starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Philippe Khorsand; and a 1998 TriStar production starring Liam Neeson and Geoffrey Rush and directed by Bille August.
       In 1941, Twentieth Century-Fox announced that it would produce a version of the story starring Laird Cregar and Linda Darnell and directed by John Brahm, but that production was never completed. A musical based on the novel, with French text by Alain Boubil and Jean-Marc Natel, additional material by James Fenton and music by Claude-Michel Schönberg, opened in Paris in 1980. The popular English-language version of the musical, with lyrics by Boubil, Natel, Herbert Kretzmer, Trevor Nunn and John Caird, had its U.S. premiere in Washington, D.C. on 20 Dec 1986. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   26 Jul 1952.   
Daily Variety   22 Jul 52   p. 3.
Film Daily   28 Jul 52   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Oct 1944.   
Hollywood Reporter   28 Nov 51   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Dec 51   p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Dec 51   p. 3, 5.
Hollywood Reporter   28 Dec 51   p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter   31 Dec 51   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Jan 52   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Jan 52   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   23 Jan 52   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Feb 52   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Feb 52   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Jul 52   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   4 Aug 52   p. 3.
International Photographer   Sep 1952.   
Los Angeles Examiner   21 Nov 1941.   
Los Angeles Examiner   20 Jul 1951.   
Los Angeles Times   6 Sep 1952.   
Motion Picture Daily   24 Jul 1952.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   26 Jul 52   p. 1462.
New York Times   15 Aug 52   p. 11.
Newsweek   18 Aug 1952.   
Time   25 Aug 1952.   
Variety   23 Jul 52   p. 6.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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