Pit violinist Claudin hopelessly loves rising operatic soprano Christine Dubois (as do baritone Anatole and police inspector Raoul) and secretly aids her career. But Claudin loses both his touch and his job, murders a rascally music publisher in a fit of madness, and has his face etched with acid. Soon, mysterious crimes plague the Paris Opera House, blamed on a legendary "phantom" whom none can find in the mazes and catacombs. But both of Christine's lovers have plans to ferret him out.
Nelson Eddy ... Anatole Garron
Susanna Foster ... Christine Dubois
Claude Rains ... Erique Claudin
Edgar Barrier ... Raoul D'Aubert
Leo Carrillo ... Signor Ferretti
Jane Farrar ... Biancarolli
J. Edward Bromberg ... Amiot
Fritz Feld ... Lecours
Frank Puglia ... Villeneuve
Steven Geray ... Vereheres
Director: Arthur Lubin
Nominated for 3 Oscars. Won 2 Oscars for Best Art Direction-Interior Decoration (Color), Best Cinematography (Color)
Codecs: DivX 5 / AC3
When Universal decided to remake Lon Chaney's classic silent version of the opera, sound opened up a rather obvious vista for the film. We can make it as much about opera as the phantom haunting the Paris Opera.
A task rendered considerably easier by the presence of Nelson Eddy and Susanne Foster. Unlike his screen partner at MGM, Jeanette MacDonald, Nelson Eddy came from the opera to the cinema. He always viewed himself as a singer first, films were something he did to get publicity for his concert tours. But Eddy always loved the grand opera, it could easily been his career path. Consequently The Phantom of the Opera and the arias he sings here always had a special place in his affections. We see a lot of the real Nelson here.
Another one of his interests was sculpture. The bust of Susanna Foster that Claude Rains stole from Eddy's dressing room is something that Nelson Eddy actually did. Sculpting was a hobby of his and as you can see he was quite good at it. Might have made a living doing that as well.
Susanna Foster who had a lovely soprano voice gave up her career soon after this most acclaimed of her films. A pity too, it was a real loss to the screen.
This Phantom of the Opera has a bit of comedy in it as well. Baritone Nelson Eddy and Inspector of the Surete Edgar Barrier have an uneasy rivalry going for the affections of Foster. The scenes involving this are nicely staged by director Arthur Lubin, more known for doing Abbott and Costello comedies.
This may have been Edgar Barrier's best film role. He was a more than competent player, his career probably suffering because he was a bit too much like Warren William who was himself a poor man's John Barrymore. Barrier played equally well as villains or as a good guy as he is here. Another fine role for him even though he only has one scene is in Cyrano de Bergerac where he plays the very sly and all knowing and discerning Cardinal Richelieu.
Of course Phantom of the Opera is really made by the performance of Claude Rains as the mild mannered, inoffensive Eric Claudin, a violinist in the Paris Opera who is crushing out big time on Susanna Foster. We see him first being told after 20 years he's being given the sack by the company. What they describe sounds an awful lot like Carpel Tunnel Syndrome that he's developed which is affecting his playing the violin. Bad news for Susanna Foster also because he's been her secret benefactor in paying for voice lessons.
There isn't any middle aged man who doesn't identify with Rains. Tossed out of his job, the rent due, crushing out big time on a young girl, a lot of us have been there. Then when he thinks an unscrupulous music publisher is stealing a concerto he's written, he loses it completely and kills him. And when acid is thrown in his face disfiguring him, it's a short journey to madness.
Rains really makes us feel for Claudin. In that sense the film is not a horror picture in that we're dealing with monsters or unworldly creatures that Universal so specialized in. The man who becomes the Phantom is all too real, too human, and if we're pushed right, could be any one of us.
Can you do better than opera arias by Nelson Eddy and a classic performance by Claude Rains? I think not.
* Because the war in Europe made it so difficult to track down who had who had the rights to most operas (coupled with the studios reluctance to pay the required royalties) all the operas performed in the film were either in the public domain (i.e., no-one owned the rights to them) or were based on classical music that was in the public domain. The film makers were able to slip in a reference to the opera Faust (which featured heavily in the original novel) by having Christine appear in the Marguerite costume as she comes off stage at the end of the film.
* The auditorium and stage of the Paris Opera House seen here was the same set built for the 1925 version. It still stands at Universal Studios today, and has been used for countless other productions, including Thoroughly Modern Millie and The Sting. It is the oldest remaining film set in the world.
* The original script revealed Claudin to be Christine's father, who abandoned her and her mother in order to pursue a musical career. When this was excised from the final film, it left Claudin's obsession with Christine unexplained.
* The music for the overture/opening chorus for the opera "Amore et Gloire" (in which Christine makes her debut as lead soprano, standing in for the drugged Biancarlotti) is actually Frédéric Chopin's "Military Polonaise." The music for Christine's aria/duet with Anatole (in the same opera) is actually Chopin's famous Nocturne in E Flat Major.
* The bronze sculpture of Christine Dubois (Susanna Foster) was actually made by co-star Nelson Eddy, who was an accomplished sculptor.
* The role of Christine Dubois was originally intended for Deanna Durbin, who turned it down.
* Universal Studio originally planned to rewrite Phantom of the Opera as a comedy for the team of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. They also considered casting Lon Chaney Jr. as "The Phantom," a role made famous by his father, and actor Jon Hall as the romantic lead.
* The budget was approximately $1,750,000, which included $100,000 to soundproof the still-existing opera stage from Universal's The Phantom of the Opera (1925) silent film version
* On 21 May 1943, the finished film was rejected by the Hays Office because of a "number of unacceptable breast shots of Christine" in her dressing room. It has not been determined if the offending scenes were deleted or re-shot, but the film was released in Aug 1943 with Production Code Administration approval.