Cast & Crew
At Christmas time, the Salvation Army distributes hot soup to the indigent population of a small town and then announces the opening of its new refuge for the homeless, an act of philanthropy made possible by the devotion of the young and pious Sister Edith. Later, Georges, a student, tells his friends, a group of vagabonds and drunks, about the legend of the "Charrette Fantôme," or phantom hearse, that conveys dead souls to their afterlife and whose creaking wheels are heard by those just about to leave this world. Furthermore, Georges says that he who dies on the final stroke of midnight on St. Sylvester's Day, December 31, is doomed to drive the ghostly carriage for one year. Later, at a hospital, Georges, who has been stabbed in a fight at a cabaret, begs the doctors to let him die before the last day of the year. At five minutes to midnight on New Year's Eve, he desperately flees the hospital, hoping to escape death, but he expires in the snow as the church bells strike twelve o'clock. Meanwhile, Georges' friend, David Holm, an incorrigible, tubercular, out-of-work glass blower, arrives drunk at the Salvation Army shelter and wakes up on New Year's Day to find that Edith has mended his torn clothes. She encourages David to improve himself by going back to work and then to return the following New Year's Day with news of his progress. In the spring, Edith, in love with David, seeks him out, but discovers instead his wife Anna, who informs her that he has taken to drink again and has disappeared. As Edith leaves the Holm hovel, she encounters David and convinces him to attend a religious revival meeting at the shelter that night. Angered by the display of one of his drinking buddies finding the Lord, David storms out, then tries to abuse his wife and eventually ends up in jail. Edith, who shows signs of having caught David's tuberculosis from the needle she used to sew his clothes, meets him upon his release from prison and informs him that the Salvation Army has given his wife a job and the family a shelter. As Edith leads David down a country road to find his family, he becomes angry because she is walking too slowly and because she has helped his family to escape him. When he hears the wheels of the Charrette Fantôme, an omen sent by his old friend Georges, the driver, he leaves Edith coughing and prostrate on the road. Later, on New Year's Eve, at a hoboes' camp, David receives a mortal blow from Le Père Etérnel, another vagabond, for his cruelty to Edith. Georges' ghost then appears to inform him that he is the new driver. However, after David pays a visit to his family, which prevents Anna from poisoning her children, and one to the death bed of Edith, who can now die peacefully after she has seen David one last time, Georges agrees to allow David to live and repent his sins. David arrives home in tears, thereby convincing Anna that he is a changed man. Edith's ghost appears, and as she watches them, she utters thanks to God.
[robert] Le Vigan
Marie Hélène Dasté
Orchestre De La Ste. Des Concerts Du Conservatoire Et Les Ondes Martenot
Onscreen credits state that Marie Bell was a member of the Comédie Française. The Variety review states that the ancient legend of "The Phantom Cart" originated in Scandinavia, and that Columbia Pictures underwrote the film. Two Swedish films have been produced which were based on the same source and entitled Körkarlen: a 1921 film produced by Svensk Filmindustri and directed by and starring Victor Sjöström; and a 1958 film produced by Norsk Tonefilm and directed by Arne Mattsson.