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Anthony Adverse is a 1936 American epic historical drama film directed by Mervyn LeRoy and starring Fredric March and Olivia de Havilland. Based on the first part of the novel Anthony Adverse by Hervey Allen, with a screenplay by Sheridan Gibney, the film is about an orphan whose debt to the man who raised him threatens to separate him forever from the woman he loves. The film received four Academy Awards.

Anthony Adverse
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMervyn LeRoy
Produced byHal B. Wallis
Jack L. Warner
Screenplay bySheridan Gibney
Milton Krims
Based onAnthony Adverse
1933 novel
by Hervey Allen
StarringFredric March
Olivia de Havilland
Gale Sondergaard
Music byErich Wolfgang Korngold
CinematographyTony Gaudio
Edited byRalph Dawson
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • July 29, 1936 (1936-07-29)
(Los Angeles)[1]
  • August 29, 1936 (1936-08-29) (USA)
Running time
141 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$2,750,000[2]

Among the four Academy Awards that Anthony Adverse won, Gale Sondergaard was awarded the inaugural Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance as Faith Paleologus.



In 1773, young English beauty Maria Bonnyfeather (Anita Louise) is the new bride of the cruel and devious middle-aged Spanish nobleman Marquis Don Luis (Claude Rains). However, she is pregnant by Denis Moore (Louis Hayward), the man she loved before being forced to marry Don Luis. After the marquis learns of his wife's affair, Don Luis takes her across Europe but Denis tracks them down at an inn, where Don Luis treacherously kills him in a sword duel.

Months later, Maria dies giving birth to her son at a chalet in the Alps in northern Italy. Don Luis leaves the infant in the foundling wheel of a convent near the port city of Leghorn (Livorno), Italy, where the nuns christen him Anthony because he was found on January 17, the feast day of St. Anthony the Great. Don Luis lies to Maria's father, wealthy Leghorn-based merchant John Bonnyfeather (Edmund Gwenn), telling him that the infant is also dead. Ten years later, completely by coincidence, Anthony (Billy Mauch) is apprenticed to Bonnyfeather, his real grandfather, who discovers his relationship to the boy but keeps it a secret from him. He gives the boy the surname Adverse in acknowledgement of the difficult life he has led.

As an adult, Anthony (Fredric March) falls in love with Angela Giuseppe (Olivia de Havilland), the cook's daughter, and the couple wed. Soon after the ceremony, Anthony is asked by Bonnyfeather to depart for Havana to save Bonnyfeather's fortune from a laggard debtor, the merchant trading firm Gallego & Sons. On the day his ship is supposed to set sail, he and Angela are supposed to meet at the convent before departing together, but she arrives first while he is late. Unable to wait any longer, she leaves a note outside the convent to inform him that she is leaving for Rome with her opera company. But the note Angela leaves Anthony is blown away, and he is unaware that she has gone to Rome. Confused and upset, he departs on the ship without her. Meanwhile, assuming he has abandoned her, she departs and continues her career as an opera singer.

Learning that Gallego has quit Havana, Anthony leaves to take control of Gallego & Sons' only remaining asset—a slave trading post on the Pongo River in Africa. Three years in the slave trade (so he can recover Bonnyfeather's debt) corrupts him, and he takes slave girl Neleta into his bed. Anthony eventually is redeemed by his friendship with Brother François (Pedro de Córdoba). After the monk is crucified and killed by the natives, Anthony returns to Italy to find Bonnyfeather has died. His housekeeper, Faith Paleologus (Gale Sondergaard) (Don Luis' longtime co-conspirator and now wife), has inherited Bonnyfeather's fortune. Anthony reaches Paris to rectify the situation and claim his inheritance.

In Paris, Anthony is reunited with his friend, prominent banker Vincent Nolte (Donald Woods), whom he saves from bankruptcy by giving him his fortune, having learned from Brother François that "there's something besides money and power". Through the intercession of impresario Debrulle (Ralph Morgan), Anthony finds Angela and discovers she bore him a son. His wife fails to reveal she is now Mademoiselle Georges, a famous opera star and the mistress of Napoleon Bonaparte.[3] When Anthony learns her secret, she sends him their son, stating that he is better suited to raise the boy. Anthony departs for America with his son, Anthony Jr. (Scotty Beckett), in search of a better life.



Original choices for the lead role include Robert Donat, Leslie Howard and George Brent.[4]

Errol Flynn was meant to support Fredric March, but Flynn became so popular with moviegoers after his performance in Captain Blood in 1935 that he was instead given the lead the following year in The Charge of the Light Brigade.[5]

Billy Mauch plays the young Anthony Adverse in the earlier scenes. Warner Bros. discovered Mauch had a twin, and it put them both under contract. They were given a starring vehicle in The Prince and the Pauper.[6][circular reference]


The film holds a 13% "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes with an average rating of 4.31/10. This is the lowest score of any Best Picture Oscar-nominated film on the website; yet, Rotten Tomatoes lists just eight reviews, so the cited score reflects only a relatively small sampling of critics.[7][8]

In his 1936 review, The New York Times critic Frank S. Nugent strongly disliked "Warner's gargantuan film":

Speaking for our-selves, we found it a bulky, rambling and indecisive photoplay which has not merely taken liberties with the letter of the original but with its spirit...For all its sprawling length, [the novel] was cohesive and well rounded. Most of its picaresque quality has been lost in the screen version; its philosophy is vague, its characterization blurred and its story so loosely knit and episodic that its telling seems interminable. A few years back we devoted the better part of a British week-end to the reading of Mr. Allen's little pamphlet and we enjoyed it. Yesterday we spent only a fraction more than two hours watching its progress on the screen and we squirmed like a small boy in Sunday school.[9]

Variety described it as "a bit choppy" and "a bit long-winded" as well; but the popular trade magazine praised Fredric March's performance, adding that he was "an ace choice, playing the role to the hilt."[10] Film Daily wrote that Anthony Adverse "easily ranks among the leading pictures of the talking screen" and called the production's acting "flawless".[11] "I don't think Mr. March has done any better piece of work than this", noted John Mosher in his positive review for The New Yorker.[12]

The film was named one of the National Board of Review's Top Ten pictures of the year and ranked eighth in the Film Daily annual critics' poll.[13] In a much later review, however, Reverend Austin Spencer also found the film adaptation—when compared to the novel—inadequate, especially in its portrayal of the personal challenges that confronted the story's protagonist:

In the book as written and published, Anthony Adverse's far-ranging life was clearly intended to be a spiritual journey at least as much as a physical one. Befitting with his name, he goes through great adversity to emerge a better man - renouncing material possessions in general and the owning of slaves in particular, and aspiring with increasing success to emulate the saintly, martyred Brother François. In the film, all this was chopped off and amputated by cutting off the book's plotline in the middle. The film's Anthony Adverse is in effect denied the spiritual redemption which his literary creator intended for him. Possibly this was simply due to the fact that a normal length film could not accommodate so many adventures and changes of fortune over three continents. But I have a sneaking suspicion that some of the film-makers considered 'too much Christianity' as endangering a film's box office success. Anyway, I strongly recommend to anyone seeing the film to also read the book and find for themselves what they missed.[14]

The film critic Leonard Maltin gave the film a positive review of 3.5/4 stars and praised the movie's "rousing musical score".[15]

Box OfficeEdit

The film was Warner Bros most popular of the year although also its most expensive. According to studio records it earned $1,783,000 domestically and $967,000 foreign.[2]

Academy AwardsEdit

In cultureEdit

The initial theme of the second movement of Erich Wolfgang Korngold's violin concerto was drawn from the music he composed for this film. English singer Julia Gilbert adopted the name of the film's main character when recording for the London-based él record label in the late 1980s.

Screen legend Tony Curtis (1925–2010), who was born Bernard Schwartz, named himself for the titular character; the novel from which this film was adapted was the actor's favorite. Curtis, who soared to fame with his role in Houdini as the legendary illusionist, was buried with a Stetson hat, an Armani scarf, driving gloves, an iPhone and a copy of his favorite novel Anthony Adverse.

Jack Benny parodied Anthony Adverse on the October 11 and 18 episodes of his "Jell-O Show" in 1936.[17]

In the 1934 short comedy What, No Men!, when their plane lands in "Indian Country" and Gus (El Brendel) is told to throw out the anchor, he tosses out a rope attached to a huge book titled Anthony Adverse.

The novel Anthony Adverse by Hervey Allan was included in Life Magazine's list of the 100 outstanding books from 1924 to 1944.[18]


  1. ^ Hanson, Patricia King, ed. (1993). The American Film Institute Catalog of Motion Pictures Produced in the United States: Feature Films, 1931–1940. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. p. 70. ISBN 0-520-07908-6.
  2. ^ a b c Warner Bros financial information in The William Shaefer Ledger. See Appendix 1, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, (1995) 15:sup1, 1-31 p 16 DOI: 10.1080/01439689508604551
  3. ^ The historical character Marguerite Georges (nicknamed "Mademoiselle Georges") was indeed a famous actress and Napoleon's mistress in the years in which the plot of Anthony Adverse is set. She was, however, French and not Italian; and the documented facts about her life are very different from those of Angela in the novel and in this film adaptation.
  4. ^ Scheuer, Philip K (4 Oct 1934). "Walter Connolly Selected to Play Title Role in "Father Brown, Detective": Long Search for Correct Type Ends "Vampire of Prague" Lead Scheduled for Fay Webb". Los Angeles Times. p. 13.
  5. ^ "Chaplin's Big Business: Goldwyn's Leading Lady: A New Romantic Hero" Bain, Greville. The Times of India [New Delhi] 7 Mar 1936: 9.
  6. ^ Billy and Bobby Mauch
  7. ^ "The 10 Worst-Reviewed Best Picture Nominees". Retrieved 2017-06-16.
  8. ^ "Anthony Adverse". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved April 8, 2018.
  9. ^ Nugent, Frank (1936). "The Film Version of 'Anthony Adverse' Opens at the Strand -- 'To Mary -- With Love,' at the Paramount", film review, The New York Times, August 27, 1936; retrieved November 17, 2017.
  10. ^ "Kauf." (1936). "Anthony Adverse", film review, Variety, New York, N.Y., September 2, 1936, page 18. Internet Archive, San Francisco, California; retrieved November 17, 2017.
  11. ^ "'Anthony Adverse'", "Reviews of the New Films", The Daily Film, New York, N.Y., May 12, 1936, page 12. Internet Archive; retrieved November 17, 2017.
  12. ^ Mosher, John (August 29, 1936). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker. p. 54.
  13. ^ Anthony Adverse at Turner Classic Movies
  14. ^ Rev. Austin James Spencer, "Christianity and Twentieth Century American Culture", p. 125, Spiritual Guidance Press, Kansas City, 1983
  15. ^
  16. ^ "The 9th Academy Awards (1937) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2013-02-14.
  17. ^ Jack Benny's "Jell-O Show" "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-08-11. Retrieved 2014-07-16.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  18. ^ Canby, Henry Seidel. '"The 100 Outstanding Books of 1924–1944". Life Magazine, 14 August 1944. Chosen in collaboration with the magazine's editors.

External linksEdit