Les Miserables (1935) starring Fredric March, Charles Laughton
Les Miserables stars screen legends Fredric March and Charles Laughton in this beloved classic based on Victor Hugo’s novel as an ex-convict and the police inspector who relentlessly pursues him.
Review of Les Miserables
In short, 1935’s Les Miserables is an excellent adaptation of the famous novel by Victor Hugo. Possibly the best adaptation ever. No, there’s no singing — just great acting, cinematography, etc. Some of the greatest actors of all time perform here, and it’s well worth watching.
Cast of characters in Les Miserables
Fredric March (Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde 1931) as Jean Valjean/Champmathieu.
An excellent performance as the poor man, driven to steal a loaf of bread, to feed his sister’s starving children. Guilty unless he can prove his innocence. And serves ten years at hard labor because of it. He eventually leaves prison a bitter, hardened man.
Charles Laughton (Island of Lost Souls) as Inspector Émile Javert.
Javert is the son of criminals, he’s been driven to embrace the law — without mercy or exception. An excellent performance. A human bulldog, who never gives up. Javert is cruel, uncompromising … and yet uncertain. He lives in the fear that he, himself, will fall. And toward the end of the film, his entire worldview is shattered.
Cedric Hardwicke (Invisible Agent) as Bishop Myriel.
A minor character who provides a pivotal moment. The bishop shows mercy, and kindness, and generosity to Jean. He “gives” his silverware to Jean, as well as two silver candlesticks. They become both the opportunity to fund a new life. The candlesticks are visual reminders throughout the movie that Jean’s been redeemed twice. Once by God, and again by the bishop.
Marilyn Knowlden as Young Cosette, Rochelle Hudson as Cosette.
Jean’s adopted daughter. He’s willing to risk all to keep her safe.
As a young girl, Cosette’s working virtually as a slave for the Thénardiers. Her mother can’t pay her back wages to redeem her child … but Jean can, and does. He reunites the family, and acts as the child’s benefactor, and later father.
Florence Eldridge as Fantine.
The young lady, whom the movie only hints at as a prostitute. She’s the mother of Cosette. Jean Valjean takes them both under his wing. After Fantine’s death, he raises Cosette as his own daughter.
John Beal as Marius.
The idealistic young law student, who wants to reform France’s cruel justice system. Unfortunately, the group he’s with becomes violent. He gets caught up in it.
Frances Drake as Éponine.
Cosette’s rival for Marius’ affections. Despite her character flaws, she truly loves him … and proves it.
Ferdinand Gottschalk and Jane Kerr as the Thénardiers
The nasty, money-grubbing couple that are working young Cosette to the bone.
Ian Maclaren as Head Gardener.
The man who teaches Jean (in disguise) how to be a gardener at the convent where Cosette is being raised in Paris. In the novel, this is the same man that Jean rescues from being crushed in the mud. Sadly, that’s not the case in the movie.
John Carradine (Five Came Back) as Enjolras.
The leader of the movement, who has no issues with turning the student’s rebellion into a violent revolution. He’s willing to die for his ideals … and does so.
Editorial review of Les Miserables (1935) courtesy of Amazon.com
Victor Hugo’s most acclaimed novel comes brilliantly to life in this impeccably performed, magnificently filmed screen adaptation. Frederic March stars as Valjean, the ex-convict who rises against all odds from galley slave to mayor. Charles Laughton is Javert, the fanatical police inspector who dedicates his life to recapturing Valjean. A vivid depiction of the appalling poverty and social strife of 19th-century France, this version of Les Misérables does splendid justice to the original novel.