Monsieur Verdoux

Monsieur Verdoux

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Cast: Ada-May, Marjorie Bennett, Isobel Elsom

     
 

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"Von Clausewitz said that war is the logical extension of diplomacy; Monsieur Verdoux feels that murder is the logical extension of business." With his controversial "comedy of murders" Monsieur Verdoux, Charles Chaplin makes his final, definitive break with the Little Tramp character that had brought him fame and fortune.See more details below

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Overview

"Von Clausewitz said that war is the logical extension of diplomacy; Monsieur Verdoux feels that murder is the logical extension of business." With his controversial "comedy of murders" Monsieur Verdoux, Charles Chaplin makes his final, definitive break with the Little Tramp character that had brought him fame and fortune. Verdoux (Chaplin), a mild-mannered family man of pre-war France, has hit upon a novel method of supporting his loved ones. He periodically heads out of town, assumes an alias, marries a foolish, wealthy woman, then murders her for the insurance money. He does this thirteen times with success, but wife #14, brassy Martha Raye, proves impossible to kill (nor does she ever suspect what Verdoux has in mind for her). A subplot develops when Verdoux, planning to test a new poison, chooses streetwalker Marilyn Nash as his guinea pig. She tells him so sad a life story that Verdoux takes pity on her, gives her some money, and sends her on her way. Years later, the widowed and impoverished Verdoux meets Nash once more; now she is the mistress of a munitions magnate. This ironic twist sets the stage for the finale, when Verdoux, finally arrested for his crimes and on trial for his life, gently argues in his own defense that he is an "amateur" by comparison to those profiteers who build weapons for war. "It's all business. One murder makes a villain. Millions, a hero. Numbers sanctify..." Sentenced to death, Verdoux remains calmly philosophical to the end. As the condemned man walks to the guillotine, a priest prays for God to have mercy on Verdoux's soul. "Why not?" replies Verdoux jauntily. "After all, it belongs to him." The original idea of Monsieur Verdoux originated with Orson Welles, who'd wanted to make a picture about notorious modern "Bluebeard" Landru. Welles wanted to cast Chaplin in the lead; Chaplin liked the idea, but preferred to direct himself, as he'd been doing since 1914. It is possible that Chaplin might have gotten away with the audacious notion of presenting a cold-blood murderer as a sympathetic, almost lovable figure. Alas, Monsieur Verdoux was released at a time when Chaplin was under a political cloud for his allegedly Communistic philosophy; too, it came out shortly after a well-publicized paternity suit involving Chaplin and Joan Barry. Picketed in several communities, banned outright in others, Monsieur Verdoux was Chaplin's first financial flop. Today, it can be seen to be years ahead of its time in terms of concept, even though the execution is old-fashioned and occasionally wearisome. Monsieur Verdoux doesn't always hit the bull's-eye, but it remains one of Charles Chaplin's most fascinating projects.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Richard Gilliam
Monsieur Verdoux was a box-office failure on its release in 1947. Conventional wisdom has it that writer/director/star Charles Chaplin was in disfavor from paternity suits and alleged Communist sympathies. However, it is difficult to find any film like Monsieur Verdoux in or near 1947 that was a box-office success; most likely the film would have flopped commercially no matter what Chaplin's personal situation. The story is a darkly disturbing allegory that contrasts the horrific acts of an individual with the horrific acts of society at large. In his own mind, the title character feels that his acts of murder are justified: they are simply a matter of business. As Chaplin's story challenges the conventional view of war as valiant and necessary, there was little chance that American audiences of 1947, still celebrating U.S. victories in World War II, would flock to see the movie. Similarly, Chaplin's visual style here is reminiscent of his fixed location work in the silent era, a style that seemed outmoded and dull to 1947 audiences. While current-day viewers may enjoy Monsieur Verdoux for its trenchant audacity, the film was largely unloved in its own time and a significant setback to Chaplin's career.

Product Details

Release Date:
03/26/2013
UPC:
0715515103817
Original Release:
1947
Source:
Criterion
Region Code:
A
Presentation:
[B&W]
Time:
2:04:00
Sales rank:
221

Special Features

Chaplin Today: "Monsieur Verdoux," a 2003 documentary featuring filmmaker Claude Chabrol and actor Norman Lloyd; Charlie Chaplin And The American Press, a new documentary featuring the director of the Chaplin company Roy Export, Kate Guyonvarch, and author Charles Maland; Illustrated audio interview with actor Marilyn Nash; Radio advertisements and trailers

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Charles Chaplin Henri Verdoux
Ada-May Annette
Marjorie Bennett Marie's Maid
Isobel Elsom Marie Grosnay
Audrey Betz Mme. Bottelto
Marilyn Nash The Girl
Virginia Brissac Carlotta Couvais
Mady Correll Mona Verdoux, His Wife
William Frawley Jean La Salle
Irving Bacon Pierre Couvais
Charles Evans Detective Morrow
John Harmon Joe Darwin
Helene Heigh Yvonne
Margaret Hoffman Lydia Floray
Arthur Hohl Real Estate Agent
Fritz Leiber Priest
Robert Lewis Maurice Bottello
Vera Marshe Mrs. Darwin
Eddie Mills Jean Couvais
Eula Morgan Phoebe
Bernard Nedell Prefect of Police
Martha Raye Annabella Bonheur
Allison Roddan Peter Verdoux
Almira Sessions Lena Couvais
Barbara Slater Florist
Wheaton Chambers Druggist
James Craven Annabella's Friend
Joseph Crehan Broker
Cyril Delevanti Postman
Franklin Farnum Victim of the Crash
Boyd Irwin Prison Official
Fred Karno Mr. Karno
Paul Newlan Wedding Guest
Barry Norton Wedding Guest
Edna Purviance Extra at Wedding Party
Frank Reicher Doctor
Addison Richards Bank Manager
Herb Vigran Reporter
Charles Wagenheim Friend
Pierre Watkin Prison Official
Warren Ashe Actor

Technical Credits
Charles Chaplin Director,Score Composer,Editor,Producer,Screenwriter
John Beckman Art Director
Curt Courant Cinematographer
Willard Nico Editor
Rudy Schrager Musical Direction/Supervision
Roland H. "Rollie" Totheroh Cinematographer

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