1937 Radio Program (US)
Running time: 3½ hours (seven half-hour episodes)
Valjean: Orson Welles — Javert: Martin Gable — Fantine: Alice Frost
Special Guest Stars: Agnes Moorehead, Ray Collins, William Johnstone, Virginia Welles, Hiram Sherman, Peggy Allen, Everett Sloane, and others
Written, Produced, and Directed by Orson Welles
M. Gillenormand: no
Both Mlle. Baptistine and Mme. Magloire: yes
Thénardiers, after the inn: no
Sister Simplice: no
Gavroche's brothers: no
Mme. Victurnien: no
Petit Gervais: yes
M. Mabeuf: no
Hugo's original preface used
Bishop Myriel remains asleep during the robbery
Fantine and Felix
Fantine sells her teeth
Fantine becomes a prostitute
Fight at Fantine's Deathbed (no, he goes quietly)
Valjean meets Cosette at the well
The first incident at Gorbeau House
Javert chases Valjean and Cosette:
* through Paris
* on foot
Story continues after Javert's suicide
Correct number (both 9430 and 24601)
The factory makes glass beads
The doll, Catherine
The garden at Rue Plumet (mentioned)
Correct address (7 Rue de l'Homme Armée is mentioned, but not Rue Plumet)
The Luxembourg Garden (mentioned)
The town's name is Montreuil-sur-mer (well, kinda. See below)
The man Valjean saves in Arras is named Champmathieu
Valjean's name becomes Fauchelevant ..
P R O D U C T I O N N O T E S
Two years after the 20th Century Fox movie was released, Orson Welles created a seven episode (3.5 hour) version of Hugo's classic work. Best
known for his movie Citizen Kane (made ten years later) and his 1938 radio broadcast of War of the Worlds (a year after this production), Orson Welles's name has
become synonymous with "classics". What is astonishing is that at the time this production was mounted, which he wrote, directed, and produced, Orson Welles was
22 years old.
Welles was given by the CBS network an unusual lattitude in his productions, and he used it to the full in this one—he described this production as "projected", meaning that it would not be an adaption; the dialog would be Hugo's, and the action taken from the book, and much of it would be narrated from passages lifted entirely from the text. Where it is necessary that we know interior dialogue or thoughts, either narration is used (for Valjean, which is simple, as Orson Welles does the voice of Jean Valjean as well as that of the narrator), or, for the case of Javert, we hear excerpts from "Javert's notebook". The sound effects in here are truly imaginative, as well as in some cases the lack of sound effects: when Madeleine is lifting the cart all crowd noises stop, the mikes are dead for a moment, and then, all you can hear is the sound of wood creaking, a sound that gets louder as the cart is lifted from Fauchelevant. The argument at Fantine's deathbed is remarkable, too, that three people can talk together and still be understood by an audience, rather than having it turn to babble (something hard to do, outside of opera). Also, this is the only version I am aware of that even touches on the problem of Valjean having to leave the convent in a coffin so he can come in as Fauchelevant's brother—and Valjean is very nearly buried alive for it. By this time there are only two episodes left, so the student uprising is only barely glanced over, and Marius and Cosette's courtship spoken of as having taken place between episodes, as it were. The entire matter of the barricade is dealt with in a half-hour, and the final episode covers the hundred pages usually left out of the movie versions, that cover the time following Javert's suicide and leading up to Valjean's own death.
C A S T N O T E S
T H E B E S T T H I N G S A B O U T T H I S V E R S I O N
Orson Welles! Radio! ‘Nuff said!
This is the only (movie) version to include one of the neatest bits of "almost" from the original book—where, outside a church, Valjean gives money to a beggar who looks up at him momentarily… and it's Javert! But Javert doesn't get a good enough look at him to be sure it's Valjean, and Valjean doesn't get a good enough look at him to be sure it's Javert....
The jacket art is really beautiful—the main page to this website has the same background, the red and gold bread-and-chains wallpaper. That's where I got it from. I wish I knew who designed that art so I could properly credit him/her on the main page, rather than the note I inserted in the HTML code.
T H E W O R S T T H I N G S A B O U T T H I S V E R S I O N
As with many radio shows, there is too much expository dialog, such as (not from the show, obviously): "What are you looking at?" "There, in the distance, behind the mossy rock, do you see it?" "What, the elephant?"
The last episode, one-seventh of the production, is almost entirely a recap of the previous six!
No one can pronounce anything French in this production. Montreuil is pronounced as Montroo, and Montfermeil is pronounced Mont-fur-mail.
T H E S I L V E R C A N D L E S T I C K A W A R D S ( " STICKIES® " )
And the awards go to....
W H E R E T O F I N D T H I S V E R S I O N
I found this at Waldenbooks. It is available on 3 cassettes or 3 CDs. It is produced under the banner of Smithsonian Historical Performances. I do not offhand remember the exact price I paid for it but I believe I got the CD set for around $30.