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Jean Valjean, a Frenchman of good character and great strength, is convicted of stealing a loaf of bread, an act that sets in motion a lifetime of misery for Valjean, as he is pursued by the uncompromising and brutal lawman Javert.
In 1800, in Favorelles, France, Jean Valjean is sentenced to ten years as a galley slave. Jean's crime was that while he was hungry and out of work, he stole a loaf of bread to feed his sister and her babies. Elsewhere in France, Officer Emile Javert, who has sworn to rise above the class of his father, who died as a prisoner on the galleys, is promoted after he emotionally confides that the book of regulations is his bible and that his creed is that the law must be strictly obeyed. Sometime later, when a galley slave is trapped under a heavy board, Javert witnesses Jean lift it with his back. After years of imprisonment, Jean, now with long, unkempt hair and beard, is freed and told he must carry a yellow passport and report to police headquarters on a regular basis. He is refused lodging and food by all but Bishop Bienvenue, who, during a rain storm, offers him shelter. Jean steals the bishop's silver plates, but when officers return with him, the bishop states that the plates were a gift. After he also presents Jean with two silver candlesticks and tells him that life is to give, not to take, Jean leaves with new confidence. Years later, Jean has changed his name to M. Madeleine and, as the owner of a thriving glass factory, is elected mayor. Javert is appointed inspector of police for the district in which Jean lives. Fantine, a former worker at the glass factory, is discharged because of rumors that she had a child out of wedlock. Although she threatens to kill Jean, he prevents Javert from arresting her and goes to bring back her daughter Cosette from the inn in another town where she had been sent to work. On the way, Jean rescues a man caught under a cart by lifting it with his back. Javert witnesses the rescue and, his suspicions aroused, sends messengers to inquire about Jean. When Javert learns that a man known as Champmathieu has been arrested for not reporting for parole as "Jean Valjean," he confesses his actions to Jean and demands that Jean dismiss him and press charges against him. Jean's refusal greatly disturbs Javert. After Jean goes to Champmathieu's trial and proves that he himself is Jean Valjean, he attempts to give Fantine 20,000 francs to provide for Cosette, but Javert confiscates the money. When Fantine, who has been seriously ill, dies, Jean throws Javert down and leaves with Cosette for Paris. After changing his identity to M. Duval, Jean puts Cosette into a convent and gets work there as a gardener. Years later, after Cosette's confirmation, she meets Marius, a law student who is protesting for reforms, and they secretly fall in love. Javert, investigating Marius' group, follows Cosette home, and when Jean spies Javert watching them, he starts to pack. As the students' protests escalate into street violence, Jean plans to go with Cosette to England, but when she reveals her love for Marius, Jean responds with anger, jealousy and dismay, for he loves Cosette himself. To please Jean, for whom she feels undying gratitude, Cosette agrees to go with him. However, when Eponine, who also loves Marius, arrives with a message for Cosette from Marius, who is fighting amid the barricades, Jean sees her selfless love for the boy. Remembering the bishop's words on giving, he goes to help Marius. After the students capture Javert, Jean cannot bring himself to kill him. However, Javert is outraged to be freed by Jean. Followed by Javert, Jean carries the beaten Marius through the sewers of Paris and escapes. He brings Marius to Cosette and begs Javert, who is waiting in the antechamber, for a moment to say goodbye to her. Although the law does not allow this, Javert complies. After Jean repeats the bishop's creed to Cosette and Marius, Jean says a prayer which Javert overhears. When Jean returns outside, he finds that Javert has dropped his handcuffs and is jumping into the river. Jean then looks up to God.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||New York premiere: 20 Apr 1935|
|Release Date:||1935||Production Date:||
A Darryl Zanuck Production
|Color/B&W:||Black and White||Distributions Co:||United Artists Corp.|
|Sound:||Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)||Production Co:||20th Century Pictures, Inc.|
|Duration(mins):||105 or 108-109||Country:||United States|
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