Cast & Crew
Rowland V. Lee
In 1815, after Napoleon has been exiled to Elba by Louis XVIII, Captain Leclere, a supporter of the former emperor, lies stricken with fever on his storm-rocked ship. Just before dying, Leclere entrusts Edmond Dantes, his first mate, with a letter from Napoleon, which is to be delivered to a messenger in Marseilles. While Edmond accepts his orders, second mate Danglers listens at the captain's door. In Marseilles, Edmond, who has been promoted to captain, is greeted passionately by his beautiful, devoted admirer, Mercedes De Rosas. Mercedes' mother, however, disdains Edmond and prefers the aristocratic Fernande de Mondego for her daughter. To assure his marriage to Mercedes, Mondego helps Raymond De Villefort, Jr., an ambitious Marseilles magistrate, and Danglers to catch Edmond as he passes Leclere's letter. Unknown to De Villefort, the man to whom Edmond is to give the letter is his own father. Consequently, when the police arrest Edmond and the elder De Villefort, De Villefort chooses to release his father and send Edmond without trial to an island prison. De Villefort then has Edmond declared dead, and Mercedes reluctantly marries Mondego. Eight years later, a morose Edmond hears a tapping noise on his prison wall and discovers that Abbe Faria, a fellow prisoner, has tunneled to his cell. The elderly Faria leads Edmond to his cell, which is decorated with the learned friar's writings and drawings, and tells him about a buried treasure, the location of which only he knows. Together Edmond and Faria continue to dig toward the sea, and after five years, near freedom. However, just before they break through the final barrier, Faria is crushed fatally by an avalanche of rocks. While the guards prepare for Faria's disposal, Edmond switches places with the dead man and is tossed into the ocean. Eventually Edmond is picked up by a Spanish smuggling ship and lands on Monte Cristo, the island where Fario's treasure is buried. Edmond unearths the extravagent treasure and, with the help of sailors Ali and Jacopo, initiates a complex scheme of revenge, in which he transforms himself into the Count of Monte Cristo and has Albert Mondego, Mercedes' son, kidnapped. By pretending to rescue Albert, Edmond ingratiates himself with the young man and obtains an invitation to meet the Mondegos in Paris. Although Mercedes recognizes Edmond, Mondego, now a count, and his longtime associates, De Villefort, now the king's attorney, and Danglers, whose illicit banking practices have earned him the title of baron, fail to recollect their former enemy. With great patience, Edmond weaves his plot around the treacherous trio, carefully playing into their weaknesses. First social climber Mondego is publicly exposed as an cowardly assassin and, after a humiliating sword duel with Edmond, commits suicide. Greedy Danglers is then lured by Edmond into a devastating stock investment, which causes him to go insane. Finally, after Albert has proven his manhood by challenging Edmond to a duel, which they both deliberately lose, De Villefort is tricked into discovering Edmond's identity and arresting him. With permission from De Villefort's daughter Valentine, who is engaged to Albert, Edmond exposes the conniving lawyer at his own trial. His revenge complete, Edmond reunites with his ever faithful Mercedes.
Rowland V. Lee
O. P. Heggie
Edward P. Lambert
Rowland V. Lee
Peverell J. Marley
John Ducasse Schulze
United Costumers Inc.
Louis Van Den Ecker
The Count of Monte Cristo (1934)
Donat's early stage work brought him to the attention of British film mogul Alexander Korda, who signed him for a three-year contract leading to a notable role in The Private Life of Henry VIII (1934). Hollywood quickly came calling, and Donat went stateside for The Count of Monte Cristo. The picture was a critical and commercial success, named one of the Ten Best of the year, and big offers quickly came to the 29-year-old actor. Yet Donat's distaste for the Hollywood scene and the debilitating asthma that plagued him all his life led him to turn down the highly touted lead in the seafaring adventure story Captain Blood (1935) - a lucky break for minor Warner Brothers contract player Errol Flynn, who became a star in that role. Donat returned to England immediately after The Count of Monte Cristo to work with Alfred Hitchcock in The 39 Steps (1935). He would do future productions for Hollywood studios-The Citadel (1938), his Academy Award-winning role in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939), and his final film, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958), opposite Ingrid Bergman, but he required they all be filmed on his native soil.
Because his illness and preference for stage work led him to make a relatively small number of films, and due in part to his refusal to work in America, Donat is not as famous today as he might have been, considering his talent and appeal. He was also not the typical star and was genuinely modest, even lacking in self-confidence (which was most likely the result or cause of a terrible stammer in his youth); he once confessed his long feeling of insecurity and the slight boost he received from what he called "the false security of stardom." He was known to be critical of his own work, particularly as a young actor, and later remarked that he thought he spent a great deal of time trying to appear dashing: "I distinctly remember in The Count of Monte Cristo pulling my shoulders back and trying to look handsome." It must have worked - after seeing this film, the young Judy Garland wrote him a fan letter and confessed he was her favorite actor throughout her life. He was also a favorite of and an influence on Peter Sellers, who said he thought of Donat as "a god."
Contrary to his own opinions, Donat's work in The Count of Monte Cristo was judged very favorably by the New York Times as "lean, intelligent and quietly overwhelming...unmarked by hysteria or the grand ham manner which the part invites." The production, guided by director Rowland V. Lee and producer Edward Small, was also given raves for being "passionate and grand" and called "a walloping melodrama of revenge."
This last aspect was greatly aided by Dumas père's book, ready-made for a film scenario with the major change being a happy ending to the thwarted central romance. The plot involves the arrest and imprisonment of an innocent sailor for alleged Bonapartist scheming. Languishing in the infamous island prison of Chateau d'If, Edmond Dantes barely clings to life but holds on to hope, driven by his thirst to get even with those who set him up. One day, hearing a tapping on his cell wall, he begins to dig with a spoon until he breaks through and discovers another prisoner, a saintly cleric who imparts to Dantes information about a hidden treasure on the island of Monte Cristo. The two begin to dig a tunnel together, and when the other prisoner dies, Dantes takes his place in the body bag. Struggling free after being thrown into the sea, he makes his escape and sets about to find the treasure and execute his elaborate revenge plot.
Dumas thoroughly researched his tale on a visit to Marseilles in 1844. The writer hired a boatman to guide him around nearby islands, inspecting Elba, site of Napoleon's first exile, and the mosquito-infested malarial island of Monte Cristo itself, long rumored to harbor decades-old buried pirate treasure. The novel was published a year later, further adding to Dumas's laurels and financial success, which arrived fast on the heels of his most famous work, The Three Musketeers.
The Count of Monte Cristo was filmed several times in the silent era, including a 1913 production featuring stage star James O'Neill, father of playwright Eugene O'Neill, and a 1922 version with John Gilbert. This 1934 production spawned a sequel, The Son of Monte Cristo (1940), also directed by Lee and starred Louis Hayward as Dantes's son and Joan Bennett as his lady, and another, The Return of Monte Cristo (1946), with Hayward again, but as Dantes Sr. this time (a situation that must have been slightly confusing for audiences). The original story was also filmed in Mexico (1942) and France (1943 and 1954, the latter starring Jean Marais), a number of times on television (including a 1975 version starring Richard Chamberlain), and most recently (2002) starring James Caviezel as Dantes, Guy Pearce as his nemesis Mondego, and Richard Harris as the aged fellow prisoner Abbè Faria. In V for Vendetta (2005), the title character claims it as his favorite movie, proving the enduring appeal not only of Dumas's story but of the revenge motive as a driving force in literature...and life.
Director: Rowland V. Lee
Producer: Edward Small
Screenplay: Philip Dunne, Dan Totheroh, Rowland V. Lee, based on the novel Le comte de Monte-Cristo by Alexandre Dumas père
Cinematography: Peverell J. Marley
Editing: Grant Whytock
Art Direction: John Ducasse Schulze
Original Music: Alfred Newman
Cast: Robert Donat (Edmond Dantes), Elissa Landi (Mercedes), Louis Calhern (De Villefort), Sidney Blackmer (Mondego), O.P. Heggie (Abbè Faria).
by Rob Nixon
The Count of Monte Cristo (1934)
The opening frame of the viewed print read: "Alexander Dumas' Immortal Story." According to a January 1934 Daily Variety news item, producer Edward Small delayed production on this picture while he protested Universal's use of the title The Countess of Monte Cristo. Small told the Hays Office that Universal's title would take "all the edge off his 'Count' and result in confusing the public." Despite Small's protest, Universal released The Countess of Monte Cristo in March 1934. This film, which was named one of the ten best pictures of 1934 by the Film Daily "poll of critics," marked the American screen debut of Robert Donat. Although his performance in this film was highly touted, Donat, who was plagued by severe asthma, returned to England after the production and never made a career for himself in Hollywood. According to Hollywood Reporter production charts, Harvey Thew and Harry Hervey wrote the film's adaptation, but no other source confirms their contribution. Hollywood Reporter production charts add Helen Freeman and Stanley Fields to the cast, but their participation in the final film has not been confirmed. Although an ad for the film credited United Artists Studios as the production studio, Hollywood Reporter production charts and news items list RKO-Pathé as the production studio. In May 1938, United Artists re-issued the picture.
Many versions of Dumas' story have been filmed, including a 1913 Famous Players version, directed by Edwin Porter and starring James O'Neill (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20; F1.0810) and a 1922 Fox version called Monte Cristo, directed by Emmett J. Flynn and starring John Gilbert (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30; F2.3687). A sequel to The Count of Monte Cristo, called The Son of Monte Cristo, was produced by United Artists in 1941. Rowland V. Lee directed and Louis Hayward and Joan Bennett starred in the sequel. In 1954, Robert Vernay directed Jean Marais and Lia Amanda in a French-Italian version of the Dumas story. Another French-Italian version was made in 1961, directed by Claude Autant-Lara and starring Louis Jourdan. In 1956, a syndicated television series starring George Dolenz as the count was first broadcast. In January 1975, NBC broadcast a "made-for-television" adaptation of the novel, directed by David Greene and starring Richard Chamberlain, Tony Curtis and Trevor Howard. Josée Dayan directed Gérard Depardieu and Ornella Muti in a 1998 French television mini-series of the story, and in 2002, Buena Vista released a version directed by Kevin Reynolds and starring Jim Caviezel and Guy Pearce.